GOP county exec candidate calls for new court to get tough on property owners
BY BILL DEMAREST
NEW CITY – Rockland County Executive candidate Ed Day, R-New City, has called for a countywide effort targeting what he calls “irresponsible overdevelopment” that would include giving the county government authority to enforce building, fire and safety codes.
Day, who is running against David Fried, D-Spring Valley, in the Nov. 5 election to succeed C. Scott Vanderhoef, R-Orangetown, as Rockland’s county executive, called for standardizing fines for violations and for creating a new county court that would handle such cases.
“In the end, the key to ensuring that we all play by the rules here in Rockland, and that this county is preserved as a safe, green, open, and pleasant place to live, is to create systems that are less likely to be corrupted by bad actors both within and outside of government,” said Day. “By implementing this plan … no group or individual would be able to easily flout the conventions and laws of our county, nor will one area be able to have such a disproportionate impact on all of our tax bills, resources, and services. We can preserve Rockland for our grandchildren. We just need to take action as a whole, unified, and inclusive community – and the time for that action is now.”
Day called for the county-level effort to crackdown on building and zoning violations with representatives of community groups in Ramapo, New City and Congers backing him up. They gathered on Buena Vista Road in western New City, along the border between the town of Clarkstown and the town of Ramapo, a location that Day said is one of many examples of how problems with a development in one town can negatively affect residents of a neighboring community.
Day and supporters of his proposals gathered just outside the Estates at Sky View development, where the Hershkowitz family is building 20 single family homes on a site that is just east of the Palisades Interstate Parkway in the town of Ramapo and the East Ramapo school district. The entrance to the development, however, is in the town of Clarkstown.
State environmental officials have blamed the development for failure to take steps to prevent dirt from the construction site from pouring into a local stream, creating pollution that ran all the way to northern New City. Day contends that new steps need to be taken to ensure developments in one town do not create environmental headaches in the next town.
For Donna Sagona of Phillips Hill Road in New City, the pollution in the stream has left a lasting impact.
“I used to be able to go to Crum Creek and I could see plenty of fish,” Sagona said of the stream in her backyard. “The fish are all gone now. I want to think that we can all live in peace and harmony. But this experience has been very frustrating for me.”
Bill Terribile of New City, a resident of the Lake Lucille community, said one day the water in the late turned a chocolate brown because of silt that made its way into local waterways as a result of problems at the Buena Vista Road development. Terribile said the pollution undid $2 million worth of clean up work that had been performed on Lake Lucille.
Day said that as county executive, if elected, he would push for a 10-point plan focusing on enforcement of building and zoning regulations. While pushing for better enforcement efforts, Day contends his plan would not usurp the powers of local municipalities.
The plan includes:
– A review of all parcels of land claimed as tax-exempt.
– Add Rockland County to the list of county governments in New York State authorized to enforce building and safety codes; this would require state legislation.
– Have the county government assert control and oversight over waterways within Rockland County.
– Create a database that cross-references utility records – including power and water – with property tax and zoning maps.
– Set a standard find for zoning violations in Rockland County, making the penalty $7,500 per day.
– Create a new County Code Court to hear cases of building and zoning code violations.
– Establish a $1,000 per day administrative fine for disregarding an order to appear in court for a hearing.
– Countywide rental inspections and code enforcement conducted by a re-activated county Heath Department housing unit.
– Amend the General Municipal Law to require developers to set aside space that can be used for parkland in each municipality.
– Require “Resource Impact Statements” that will detail the full impact of a development on all resources and services.
Day said the new enforcement efforts and court programs would be funded through fines and penalties against violators.
“We have to create a new revenue stream and direct that revenue to the proper places,” Day said. “We would also be taking away the profit incentive that some developers think they have by ignoring the rules.”
Day said he wants to make sure fines for violations of building and zoning laws are significant enough to that developers and property owners could no longer ignore the rules because of penalties that are very low or can be avoided for lengthy periods.
“We have seen too many times where it takes a death for something to happen,” Day said. “We don’t want to wait until someone has died to take action.”
Day, a former police officer, is a member of the Rockland County Legislature, representing part of New City and Pomona. His opponent, Fried, is a former member of the county Legislature and is a former Spring Valley village judge.
County Legislature member Joseph Meyers, D-Airmont, said he is supporting Day’s bid for election because of his proposals, saying that in his opinion this is the first time a county executive candidate has taken on the issue of overdevelopment.