Monday, February 06, 2006

Mending Fences?

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors ~ Neighbors With Illegal Rental Apartments Make Trouble

Patrick Nicolosi, President of the Elmont East End Civic Club and a frequent contributor to this blog, climbs the fence and, lo and behold, sees an illegal apartment. What the Town of Hempstead sees -- or, should we say, overlooks -- is a different story entirely. Read on. . .

Recently, a Town of Hempstead building inspector was called to my home by way of complaint from an angry neighbor who assumes I called the building Department on her (by reason of a suspected illegal apartment or two). Unfortunately, this neighbor of mine is well known throughout the Town from her letters (to the local papers), so who knows who turned her in, but that is not the case or the point.

I welcomed the building inspector in with open arms and even found out I had an open permit from the previous owner. The only thing the building inspector found was that a fence, which runs the property line, needed a permit, but just for one section because the gates on my property are in compliance with the code since they are only 3 foot high.

When I asked the inspector how he can assume this is my fence, he said, "good question" since the gate on my neighbor's property is six foot and is not on my property. The fence is both of ours, and I told the inspector not to worry, I will call my neighbor and inform him of what had happened and I will get the necessary permit.

The only other thing I needed a permit for was to maintain a shed, and again, I had no idea since it's one of those prefabs from Home Depot. So the permits are in the mail, no apartments were found, and everything done on my home has permits -- in fact, I have an extra permit for future use.

The question I have for you is this -- with all the hard cases of illegal housing reported and pending, how did I get to the head of the list for a fence which isn't all mine and a for shed? Did we fix all of those other problems?

The Town's building inspector did tell me there are still over 1000 cases related to illegal apartments just in Elmont.

The other question, and it really dawned on me, is this -- If everyone needs a permit for sheds, fences, tree removal and many other things related to the home, why does the Town need to raise taxes?

Could you imagine if enforcement of codes was strict and fees and fines were collected? It would be enough to offset any tax increases plus give the Town needed revenue to do other work.

But I know businesses who sell fences and lie about codes and tree removal and shed companies and many other companies would have it hard, plus not to mention all the homeowners who don't really know all the codes. Shouldn't Kate Murray and the Town send out a list of codes for homeowners to follow? Why hasn't the Town updated its codes?

Since times have changed, maybe it's time to look into new ideas making it easier for building inspectors to do their job. How about that home with the six meters whose owner also put up a six foot fence to cover those meters? Now he also has a zoning issue.

Glad to see the Town is cracking down and I am always happy to comply, but really, a fence and a shed?

Here is an idea -- how about school and property taxes which are affected by the illegal housing issue? Why not come up with a better plan and even reduce the age so that people can rent their upstairs legally. The Town could even raise money from those fees plus charge them more in taxes. We are open to new ideas and solutions. Where are these new ideas and how much longer do we need to wait?

Oh, by the way, the Town in it's foolishness told that homeowner who complained to "blame Pat," so that's why this feud started. Instead of telling that homeowner -- who happens to have 2 or more apartments in her house -- she is wrong, they tell her it's me.

Go figure this Town, and if you do let me know. They can say whatever they like. All I know is that we are paying too much in taxes to look like Queens. There are those who have tried to shut me up and have failed, I will never stop until we see some proper action.

--Patrick Nicolosi
The writer is a resident of Elmont (pending deportation proceedings, initiated by the Town of Hempstead). This article first appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Elmont Herald, and has been modified for the web.
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In defense of the Town of Hempstead (yes, you heard that correctly), code provisions are updated regularly (albeit not necessarily enforced), and, back in June of 2004, the Town did send a mailer (pre-Murraygram) under the heading of Quality of Life Initiative, glibly informing homeowners of their responsibilities under the law.

At the time, community leaders were told that this mailing would be "the first of many" on quality of life concerns. Alas, it was the first and the last, and, unlike many Town missives, repeated ad nauseum, it's advices have not been heard again since -- by post, online, or otherwise.

The Town needs to educate homeowners and owners of commercial properties as to their obligations under the law, and, once forewarned, to hold them accountable by strictly (and regularly) enforcing the codes.

Requiring homeowners to secure permits for fences, sheds and other appurtenances (and to pay applicable fees for same) is a good thing. When facing an avalanche (the metaphor we will use here for the proliferation of illegal rentals) that threatens to bury and destroy the village below, however, you don't send the building inspector out to see if homeowners have shoveled their sidewalks!


  1. Pat, now you've gone too far. You expect Town Building Inspectors to investigate legitimate complaints when we can simply go after law-abiding citizens who open their mouths in protest?

    We are doing what we do best - the knee-jerk reaction.

    You have a problem with that?

    Now we'll have to watch you even more closely. The Town Attorney has been instructed to monitor your phone calls. Your mail will be read - just as soon as we can find someone at Town Hall who knows how to read. Your every move will be followed - by a Sanitary District Supervisor on company time.

    You brought this on yourself, Pat. The Town doesn't want people who do good. They want people who do nothing. Shame on you for giving a damn about where taxpayers' money is spent and how our government allocates its time, energy and resources. That's nobody's business but ours at Town Hall! :-)

  2. DON'T GET ME WRONG,I DON'T MIND AND I HAVE ALWAYS OBEYED THE LAW.But since I am not a handy guy and depend on contractors or home depot to do any work on my home, shouldn't they be responsible for all permits? Now I know there are many contractors who come to your home and tell you they will do work such as doomers and extensions without permits, but when you buy a shed or a fence and they tell you that a permit is not needed what should a homeowner do? The permit process is not an easy one and I called the building inspector and thank god they have been very helpful. I want to get this done ASAP, BUT THATS JUST ME. I just wonder why I feel this way and when the inspector goes after someone with many apartments that home owner isn't worried? Oh and I did call the town before the fence went up and was told as long as it is 15 feet past the neighbors rear door then it's OK. No big deal and just to show you something else when the county did the assessment process the shed was in the picture and on the plan. So go figure but as always I will obey the law. They use to say crime doesn't pay, Then why do law abiding citizens pay more for obeying laws and codes. I am not after any one or any ones job I just want to be able to survive and pay for what I believed I was buying into and that was Nassau County not Queens.