Dyker Heights

Golden wants felony charges against owners of illegal housing

February 18, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State Sen. Marty Golden, pictured at a Bay Ridge press conference last year, says the state should go after property owners of illegally converted houses with “all the force we can.” Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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A week before Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge community leaders are planning to hold a town hall forum to put together a battle plan against illegal home conversions, state Sen. Marty Golden is redoubling his efforts to pass legislation to crack down on property owners.

Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn) recently introduced a bill under which the owner of an illegally converted dwelling would be charged with a Class D Felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison, when a person suffers physical injury in or around a property that has been converted illegally.

Under the bill, owners would be charged with a more serious felony and get more jail time in cases where a person is seriously injured.

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The legislation also seeks to add more teeth to the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law by holding accountable each individual who violates, or assists in a violation, with a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment up to 30 days.

“We want to make sure we close down all of the avenues. We have to go after them in every way possible,” Golden told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday.

Two organizations, the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance and the Dyker Heights Civic Association, are co-sponsoring a town hall on illegal home conversions on Thursday, Feb. 26, at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 7 p.m.

Illegal home conversion is a mild term for a controversial practice. It takes place when a developer purchases a one-family or a two-family home and subdivides the house to create a multi-unit apartment building without applying for the proper permits from the New York City Department of Buildings.

The practice violates the city’s zoning laws.

Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) is also attacking the problem from a legislative front.

He introduced legislation that would make it easier for inspectors from the Dept. of Buildings to issues summonses to property owners suspected of illegally converting housing units. Under his bill, inspectors would be able to use circumstantial evidence, like the presence of multiple mailboxes at a home zoned for a single family, to assess whether to issue violations.

Illegal home conversions are dangerous, according to Golden, who said the practice leads to large numbers of tenants living crammed together in tight spaces meant to house far fewer people.

In certain instances, the renovation work is so shoddy it leads to a dangerous situation, Golden said.

“We’ve seen fires where people have been killed because the building wasn’t properly renovated and the tenants had no way to escape,” Golden said, pointing to a recent fire in Flatbush and another fire that took place on 86th Street in Bensonhurst five years ago in which tenants were killed. “The issue of illegal conversions has been part of the conversation in our neighborhood for many years, but over the past couple of years, this problem has escalated at a pace never seen before.  These illegal conversions are endangering those living in these conditions, our emergency service workers and destroying our quality of life.”

Illegal home conversions also have a domino effect that can bring down entire communities, Golden said. “Our schools are significantly above capacity and these illegal conversions have put a burden on our city resources,” he said.

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