Coney Island

Pols say Sandy victims hit with building code violations

January 29, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Mark Treyger. Photo courtesy of Councilmember Treyger’s Office
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More than three years after Superstorm Sandy swept into New York City, homeowners are still suffering, this time in the pocketbook, according to two Brooklyn lawmakers who said that property owners are being hit with violations as they struggle to rebuild.

Homeowners have been hit twice, first by the storm itself and then by unfair fines for building code violations, according to Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Alan Maisel.

Treyger and Maisel, both of whom represent districts that sustained heavy damage in the storm, have introduced bills aimed at protecting property owners from the fines.

Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst), who serves as chairman of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, sponsored a bill that would prevent property owners, lessees or occupants from receiving civil or criminal fines on Department of Buildings (DOB) violations while city-operated recovery programs are evaluating or have already scheduled their properties for repairs.

Treyger’s proposed legislation would also create a reimbursement program for anyone who has already been forced to pay a penalty.

Maisel (D-Canarsie-Mill Basin-Marine Park) has introduced a bill that seeks to prevent owners, lessees or occupants from receiving fines or penalties on violations for work performed by city employees or by third-parties contracted by the city.

“Councilmember Treyger’s bill and the bill I introduced are common sense measures to ensure that property owners, lessees or occupants are not unfairly penalized with violations while in the process of repairing or rebuilding after a natural disaster. It is unconscionable that the city would put violations on a property for work that is being done by the city-operated Build It Back program,” Maisel said.

Superstorm Sandy hit New York Cit on Oct. 29, 2012, destroying and damaging thousands of buildings.

New Yorkers are being hit with fines while waiting to receive government assistance, according to Treyger, who cited a 2014 case in which a Brooklyn resident received a violation for failure to repair his Sandy-damaged property, despite the fact that the homeowner was advised not to make any repairs until he received financial assistance from the Build It Back program.

The Environmental Control Board upheld the violation and assessed a $500 penalty, Treyger said.

The Warbasse Houses, a Coney Island co-op, was also a victim of the city’s doubletalk, according to board President Michael J. Silverman. “It wasn’t even a week after Sandy that the DOB issued our co-op several violations. We were also told that we should not begin repairs until Build it Back investigated. So, on one hand we were told to wait and on the other the DOB was issuing violations,” he said.

“People waiting for assistance from the City’s Build It Back program should not be issued a violation by the Department of Buildings and forced to pay a fine simply because the program had not yet repaired their property. Nobody should be left worse off by the recovery process than if they never participated in it at all, and the onus should be on the city and contractors to comply with rules and regulations related to Sandy Recovery work, not residents,” Treyger said.

Assemblymember Pamela Harris (D-Coney Island-Bay Ridge) likened issuing fines to homeowners awaiting relief to “pouring salt on an open wound” and said the proposed legislation would help her constituents.

 


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