The Clarkstown Town Attorney’s Office and Building Department are reviewing the existing town code and preparing recommendations for changes to the current penalties and fines for violations. Deputy Town Attorney Jeffrey Millman told the town board at its Tuesday workshop that the current penalties give little incentive for habitual violators to change. He said the fines and punishment are often minimal and the property owners write it off as a cost of doing business.
Millman and Building Inspector Peter Beary are working on a three-strike system. For each new code violation or strike, the penalties would be increased.
“We want them to correct their behavior,” said Millman.
He said habitual violators are often absentee landlords or those who convert single-family homes into illegal multifamily dwellings. He said they do not care about violating zoning, fire or property maintenance codes.
Beary said they are going through the town code chapter by chapter to review each offense and the current penalties.
The discussion turned to the Teaberry Port House when Councilmember Shirley Lasker asked if the town could go after a utility for violations. She wanted to know if United Water was in violation of any codes that the town could enforce. The historic structure owned by United Water has been deteriorating over the past several years. Recently, one of its walls buckled.
Beary said he met with United Water engineers at the West Nyack property recently.
“The building is in deplorable condition,” he explained. “The roof is ancient. It’s sad but that building has not seen any real maintenance for 30 years.”
Beary said the building has a severe termite infestation and a water infiltration problem. He said United Water is having an expert prepare a report on the building, which may be submitted next week, but that he expects the utility will apply for a permit to demolish the building.
“I think that they’re deliberately getting that building into disrepair because they want to demolish it,” said Lasker.
Clarkstown Code and Zoning Enforcement Code Officer Joel Epstein said United Water secured the property by putting a fence around it to prevent trespassers and vandalism.
Beary said they were rewriting the code to specifically state buildings cannot be allowed to deteriorate.
Councilmember Stephanie Hausner said the West Nyack community is angry at United Water about Teaberry Port’s condition.
“It’s just a shame to let it sit there and fall apart,” she said.
West Nyack resident Maddy Muller said if the town had fined United Water two and half years ago, the building would not be in the condition it is in now.
“I think the town should enforce the code that’s on the books,” Muller said