The Town of Clarkstown has a well-deserved reputation for fair but strict code enforcement. Under my administration, the Town has taken a number of proactive steps to strengthen the town’s ability to detect, cure, and prosecute violations when necessary. Clarkstown has quadrupled the number of full time Code Enforcement Officers, who report to the Town’s Building Inspector. The 2023 budget includes funding for the hiring of an additional officer. Even prior to this hiring, the Town had the largest Code Enforcement team of any town in Rockland.
The types of code violations can vary greatly. Many residents find themselves having committed honest mistakes such as having a shed placed too close to the property line. The overall goal of code enforcement is to bring the property into compliance, which means that many violations are resolved without any need to drag a homeowner into court. However, violations that present
a danger to neighbors, first responders, and the community at large are a different story. The Town of Clarkstown makes every effort to pursue these aggressively until the violation is cured and the property owner is held accountable. Unfortunately, the migrant housing crisis issue has moved up from New York City and has begun to have serious ramifications in Rockland. Here
in Clarkstown the number of homes being used illegally has been on the rise.
Year to date through September of 2023, the Town has issued 568 violations. This pace puts the Town on track to exceed the total number of 741 violations issued in 2022. But again, it’s not so much the actual number of violations that are issued that matters, as much as making sure that those with violations that jeopardize lives are caught, prosecuted, and cured. With that in mind, I’d like to highlight some of our efforts.
In addition to authorizing the hiring of an additional officer, Clarkstown has been a leader in staying on top of code enforcement through local laws and resolutions. In 2016, we created a rental registry database in part to combat issues with short-term rentals. After a series of incidents directly related to these short-term rentals, the Town took this even further in March of 2022 by banning short-term rentals of residential properties. Just last month, the Town passed a new LLC Transparency Law, which requires that any LLC buying residential property in the Town to register its stakeholders with 5% or greater ownership in the LLC, including direct contact information for each individual. This is designed to eliminate an increasingly common issue where the entity responsible for a violation is identifiable, but the Town still has no individual to take to court. We are currently working on similar legislation for commercial properties. The Town will also be formally requiring the same disclosure of individual names and contacts for any LLC applying to the Town’s land use boards.
Finally, the most significant thing we have utilized in our code enforcement efforts is search warrants. Several search warrants have been issued and executed for serious violations wherethe property owner was not cooperative. Rather than let these issues drag on endlessly, Clarkstown pursues and obtains search warrants where the Police Department and our Code Enforcement Officers are able to enter premises and confirm suspected violations. Remarkably, Clarkstown is the only town that utilizes this critical tool, and it has proven to be highly effective.
Just this year, an illegally operated school was shut down on South Mountain Road in New City. In addition, a single family home housing up to 34 migrants was vacated after court ordered search warrants were issued and executed.
We expect the migrant housing crisis to continue and therefore we can also expect the number of violations related to overcrowding and unsafe conditions in illegal rentals to rise. I can assure you that the Town is pursuing each and every case with every tool we have at our disposal, and that we will continue to explore new and innovative ways to combat this crisis. Everyone deserves to live in a safe and secure environment and we will accept nothing less than that for anyone in the Town of Clarkstown.
If you see something, say something. To report a suspected violation you can contact the Town Building Department at 845-639-2100, Supervisor’s Office at 845-639-2050, or use the Town of Clarkstown 311 app.