Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Suozzi calls for Illegal Housing Crackdown and Support of Levinson’s Plan

Mineola, NY – Democratic candidate for Town of Hempstead Supervisor Harvey Levinson today announced a ten point “Illegal Housing Enforcement Plan” to address a host of illegal housing issues that plague the Town of Hempstead. Decades of neglect and the failure of the Town Supervisor to seriously address illegal housing have resulted in a backlog of 3,900 pending cases, approximately 700 of which are in the Elmont community.

Levinson said, “The machine politicians in the Town of Hempstead have completely failed to take illegal housing seriously. The Town of Hempstead is the largest township in the country with over 750,000 residents and they have only 8 building inspectors who deal with illegal housing. Many of these houses are deathtraps for those who live there, a menace to firefighters and other emergency responders, and the landlords aren’t paying their fair share of the taxes. They are unscrupulous and they’re taking advantage of the housing shortage we face here on Long Island. It’s wrong and as Hempstead Supervisor, I will proactively fight to end illegal housing in the Town.”

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi joined Levinson at the event to show his support for Levinson’s “Ten Point Plan.” As Mayor of Glen Cove, Suozzi increased enforcement of City building codes by deputizing local attorneys, who worked pro bono, to assist with the prosecution of landlords who owned illegal housing, as well as hiring more building code inspectors.

Suozzi said, “Over the last three years, I have held 35 economic development zone meetings throughout the county. One of the number one issues mentioned in these meetings was illegal housing. The lack of leadership by Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead in addressing this problem has put an undue burden on law-abiding, honest taxpayers. Harvey Levinson’s plan addresses the major problems with illegal housing in the Town of Hempstead. I look forward to partnering with Harvey as Hempstead Town Supervisor.

Levinson’s ten point plan addresses a multitude of issues currently ignored by the Town of Hempstead. Major provisions of the plan include significantly increasing the number of building code enforcement officers. Currently the Town has only 8 building code enforcement officers to serve a population of over 750,000, which happens to be the nation’s largest township. These positions will be funded by increasing the fines levied against illegal housing landlords and eliminating political patronage that has plagued the Town for decades under the rule of the machine politicians.

Levinson also plans to deputize local attorney’s, who will work pro bono, to reduce the current backlog of 3,900 pending cases. A Commissioner of Housing will be appointed to work with local developers and business leaders to create starter and workforce housing. In addition, the Commissioner will liaison with the Nassau County Homeless Task Force to ensure Nassau County residents who are displaced from illegal housing will find temporary emergency shelter, if necessary.

Also attending the press conference was Laura Mallay, candidate for Commissioner of Hempstead Sanitary District #2, serving Ballwin, South Hempstead, and Roosevelt. This is a special taxing district, which is one of approximately 400 invisible governments. Levinson has criticized Hempstead Sanitary District #2 for having the second highest trash collection fees in Nassau County, with residents paying twice the amount many other Hempstead residents pay. Levinson said the Town of Hempstead’s failure to eliminate illegal housing has increased the cost of garbage services for all Town of Hempstead residents because honest residents are paying for the garbage service of those living in illegal apartments. The Sanitary District #2 Election will be held on Thursday, July 28th.

The election for Town of Hempstead Supervisor will be Tuesday, November 8, 2005.
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Levinson’s 10 Point Illegal Housing Enforcement Plan

As Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead, Harvey Levinson will:

1. Hire 20 additional building code enforcement officers

Currently there are only 8 officers who serve a Town of 750,000 residents, which happens to be the largest township in the country. In addition to adding more code enforcement officers, the officers will be “on-call” 24 hours a day in order to inspect homes during late night and early morning hours when police, fire, and first responders may be entering homes.

2. Pass the “New Hyde Park Double the Rent Fine”

The Village of New Hyde Park recently instituted fines that double the amount of money illegal landlords charge in rent. For example, an illegal housing landlord who charges $1,000 dollars in rent will be fined $2,000 for each month of rent charged the tenant. In egregious cases, the Hempstead Town Attorney, under Levinson’s administration, will request the court to impose jail time for landlords. The additional building code enforcement officers will be financed in part through expansion of these fines.

3. Completely restructure the Hempstead Town Attorney’s office

The Hempstead Town Attorney’s office has the responsibility to prosecute illegal housing cases. The Hempstead Town Attorney’s Office is a patronage mill. The top town attorney, who is the highest paid public official in the town, is paid for full time work, but also serves as General Counsel for Hempstead Sanitary District #6. Under Levinson’s leadership, the town attorneys will not be allowed to hold employment outside the Town. In appropriate cases, the Town Attorney’s office will notify the Internal Revenue Service of the landlord’s activities.

4. Request Additional Days On Nassau County Court Docket

Request the Nassau County District Court open additional days on their docket to address cases involving illegal housing. In addition, the Town Attorney’s office will invite neighbors who live near illegal houses to attend court hearings and participate in judicial proceedings to ensure judges are fully aware of the impact illegal housing has on neighbors.

5. Deputize Local Attorney’s to Reduce Illegal Housing Case Backlog

Reach out to local attorneys and ask them to assist the Hempstead Town Attorney’s office in prosecuting illegal housing cases. They will be deputized to assist the Town Attorney in prosecuting a particular case and they will perform that service pro bono, or without compensation. As Mayor of Glen Cove, Tom Suozzi increased prosecution of illegal housing cases by working with local attorneys to serve as deputized attorneys for the city. They performed this service pro bono, or without compensation.

6. Coordinate with First Responders and Garbage Collectors to Gather Information

Coordinate with police, fire, emergency responders and garbage collectors to gather information on the presence of illegal houses. The Town of Hempstead will design a universal form where police, fire and emergency responders can record evidence of illegal houses. First responders often see evidence of illegal housing, but have no way to transfer that information to the Town. The town will actively interview garbage collectors. Often they are the first to identify specific houses and neighborhoods with consistently large amounts of garbage.

7. Create An Illegal Housing Hotline

Create an Illegal Housing Hotline for the Town of Hempstead. The hotline will encourage callers to identify themselves, but will also accept anonymous calls. The hotline will identify possible illegal houses in the same way Crime Stopper hotlines help identify possible crimes in progress.

8. Create an Illegal Housing Advisory Board To Work with Civic Leaders

Create an Illegal Housing Advisory Board composed of civic organization leaders to work with neighborhoods and communities in rooting out illegal housing. Civic organizations are the first line of defense against illegal housing and they have, to date, not been effectively engage by the Town of Hempstead.

9. Landlord Certification In Collecting Back Rent

Change the law to require landlords to certify their property was compliant with all municipal codes when they file petitions with the court to collect back rent. Currently, landlords who run illegal houses are allowed to legally collect back rent because the court documents do not require they certify their property was compliant with municipal codes. Landlords who lie could be prosecuted for Perjury.

10. Appoint a Commissioner of Housing

Appoint a Commissioner of Housing, who will be responsible for working with developers and business leaders to create starter and workforce housing in the Town of Hempstead. The illegal housing industry is driven by the lack of housing in Nassau County. As Hempstead Supervisor, Levinson will work with community leaders to work with zoning requirements to encourage housing opportunities.

In addition, the Commissioner of Housing will liaison with the Nassau County Homeless Task Force to ensure that Nassau County residents who are displaced from illegal housing will find temporary emergency shelter, if necessary.


  1. Excellent ideas. At least someone is suggesting a proactive approach. Better than the "talk the issue to death" we now get from the Town of Hempstead.

  2. SUGGESTION: How about setting up a Community Court (ala the proposal in the Town of Babylon) to deal exclusively with quality of life offenses?

    The Town of Hempstead has been holding this idea "up to the light" for several years now, with nothing more than a "something to think about" response.

  3. All of these are excellent ideas. A couple points. Let's take 'em one by one:

    1) Hiring 20 additional inspectors would be great but sounds rather ambitious, considering the proposal to fund the additional personnel with increased fines. Assuming, for the moment, they're paid $70K/year, that would require $1.4 million/ year in additional revenue. I wonder whether that's realistic.

    2) New Hyde Park Double the Rent Fine sounds good but it seems that such a plan would really slow down the processing of illegal rental claims. Sounds like such a plan would require chasing down lease agreements, testimony of tenants, etc. Why not just impose an across the board increase for illegal landlords, rather than creating a new mechanism that landlords can use in court to wiggle themselves out of trouble?

    3) Great idea - town attorney has no business accepting other work, particularly with the backlog that exists at the town.

    4) Again, great idea. One question - why can't Levinson suggest this idea right now, even before he assumes his coveted position at the town? He has commendably done other things in his position at the County to help tackle the illegal housing issue (i.e. reassess multiple family dwellings), so why can't he do this one in his current capacity?

    5) Terrific idea! Any proposal that would procure pro bono work from the law profession is a good one.

    6) Good idea, but one that our first responders claim is already happening. I spoke personally, for example, with Inspector Atkins of the NCPD 5th precinct, and he told me that his officers do indeed forward any reports of illegal housing to the town buildings dept. Ditto for the fire dept chief I spoke to. Good idea to involve garbage collectors. It would be a great idea to also interview LIPA/ Keyspan fieldmen, and also postal workers, because they're the ones wo would really know about the illegal rentals, but I doubt there would be any sort of cooperation from them.

    7) Great idea. 489-5000 as it's currently set up is not very efficient in handling illegal rental cases. Often the inspector to whom the call is directed is "out in the field" or otherwise unavailable. But hiring dedicated pesonnel who would just handle receiving illegal rental cases would require addtional funds. (see #1)

    8) Very good idea!

    9) Good idea. I'm appalled that the law in its current form allows illegal landlords to file such petitions.

    10) Very needed. Nice to see someone's thinking about the bigger picture. I'd like to see some coordination not just with the County Homeless Task Force but also with the County Planning Commission, which would increase our chances of getting HUD money, Empire Zone status, etc. for such housing projects.

    Overall, some good ideas. I'd like to hear more details from Levinson.