Skoufis reforms pass full Assembly, Schmitt calls them inadequate

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Two bills aimed at protecting neighborhoods from predatory real estate practices and sponsored by Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) passed the full Assembly this week.

One of the bills was specifically aimed to resist the attempted annexation of land by the Village of Kiryas Joel in the Town of Monroe. “The annexation issue has not gone away and, as long as I’m a state representative, my bill will not go away, no matter how much special interests may want it to,” said Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) as he announced Assembly passage of his legislation to address inadequacies in the current annexation process (A.10210).

Skoufis’ legislation would allow county planning departments to review annexation petitions pursuant to General Municipal Law 239 – a process that already exists for many municipal planning and zoning actions. Following a complete review of the petition, the county would send a recommendation of approval or disapproval to municipalities. Should a municipality wish to override the recommendation, a four out of five vote by each affected planning board would be required.    

The Assembly also took up and passed Skoufis’ bill that requires disclosure of owners and members of limited liability companies (LLCs) that buy or sell real estate. Shell LLCs have proliferated in recent years, oftentimes to purposefully hide the true owners in a shroud of secrecy. Skoufis argues people have the right to know who is really behind real estate transactions involving LLCs; his bill will unmask these shell companies.

Skoufis’ competitor in this year’s Assembly race called the actions inadequate.

GOP candidate Colin Schmitt said, “Orange and Rockland County homeowners are dealing with a growing scourge of blockbusting. Window dressing legislation will not cut it when dealing with this problem. That is why I released a comprehensive anti-blockbusting strategy in March that deals with and stops the actual problem in its tracks.  This strategy has won praise from local elected officials and includes three parts: Following the lead of other municipalities, including most recently the Village of South Blooming Grove, NY and Toms River, NJ, I urge all local towns and villages facing or with the potential to deal with a rash of blockbusting to impose a multi-year ban on all direct solicitations by real estate agents. 

“In the State Assembly I would work to ensure the entirety of Orange and Rockland Counties are designated “cease and desist” areas under existing state law. Once designated as such, homeowners in designated areas would be protected from blockbusting activities. In the State Assembly I would support increased civil financial penalties and fines for those engaging in blockbusting activities. Those guilty of such behavior should face double the federal penalty on the state level and at least a five year ban from engaging in any real estate related activity in the entire state.

“Homeowners in the 99th Assembly District want real results.  Unlike other approaches that only tangentially deal with the problem, my anti-blockbusting plan provides a real solution to this burgeoning problem.”

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