HOMETOWN HAPPENINGS: Clarkstown Will Never Be Ramapo

BY SUPERVISOR GEORGE HOEHMANN

One of my first priorities as supervisor was to step up the enforcement of our town code to protect our quality of life in Clarkstown and protect our first responders. Last year, I created a new code compliance unit, which consists of Deputy Town Attorney, Leslie Kahn, a veteran prosecutor, and I brought in additional code enforcement officers and fire inspectors. I was sure to make the resources available to them to crack down on illegal housing and code violations across our town.

In addition to the code compliance unit, we created the 311 app, which gives residents the opportunity to submit work orders, questions or concerns, which are then forwarded to the appropriate town department. Residents can track the progress of the request on the app as well.  We also created the rental registry to ensure safe and legal apartments and were among the first in the county to implement a No Knock law to prevent aggressive solicitation and peddling.

And we are getting results!

In 2015, there were 717 code violations. In 2016, we saw a 59 percent increase with 1,140 violations. And so far this year, we have 1,184 violations with another quarter to go. By the end of this year we expect to more than double the amount of violations in just two years.

Recently, we started to take a closer look at properties in town that receive religious exemptions.  We found a house on West Burda Place in New City owned with the CSI Congregation of Hudson Vally Inc., a church located in Westchester. The pastor was living there and once the pastor moved out, the church listed the house for rent and was still receiving the religious tax exemption for county, school and town taxes. We quickly took action and the Board of Assessment Review revoked the exemption. The church has said they’re willing to pay back the $15,000 in taxes they owe for the last two years, in addition to fines. Over the next few months, we will continue to look at all 521 religious tax exempt properties in Clarkstown.

I’m proud of our team and what we’re accomplishing here in Clarkstown. We’re leaders in our work to crack down on illegal housing and code violations—and others are starting to take notice. Clarkstown officials have been invited to conduct a seminar on the town’s increased code enforcement efforts. Over 40 officials from across the county will be in attendance later this week at the Rockland County Fire Training Center. We’ll review techniques that will enable other municipalities to develop strategies and tools to address illegal housing and various code violations in their communities too.

As long as I’m supervisor, we will do all we can to protect the safety of our residents and the integrity of our town. Together we will preserve the character of our neighborhoods and keep Clarkstown the best place to live, work and raise a family!