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Romaine Pledges More Enforcement Against Illegal Housing

Hot-button issue has many in Three Village concerned; town supervisor responds.

Newly elected town supervisor Ed Romaine on Monday said he will devote more town resources to fighting illegal housing, a hot-button topic in Three Village.

His pledge, given at the monthly meeting of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook Monday night, was met with applause.

"I’m not a fan of illegal housing because it allows some people who don’t want to live by the rules to enrich themselves at their neighbors’ expense," Romaine said. "... We will be starting a far more vigorous enforcement effort. This is something that I don’t think the town has done enough of."

He said not only will the effort improve quality-of-life for residents, but it will also bring in revenue from fines to the cash-strapped town. He said the town's new chief-of-staff, Garrett Swensen, will be tasked with finding ways to handle more resident complaints by either using overtime or part-time help on the evenings and weekends.

"We want to make sure that there is a response," Romaine said.

According to David J. Moran, deputy town attorney, in 2008 the town took in about $328,000 in fines related to housing code violations. He said that number grew to $800,000 in 2010 and surpassed $1,100,000 in 2012.

"If you blow up their business model, the business model has to change," Moran told the Civics crowd, referring to some landlords' illegal practices. "Every time we find something new, we seek a code amendment … to change our weapons."

One such code amendment, Moran said, was a measure introduced in 2012 by Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld that altered the town's formal definition of 'family' in the town housing code and put the burden of proof on the landlord. Fiore-Rosenfeld said cases brought forward under that new law are "percolating through the district court right now."

However, when asked if the process of enforcement could be made more transparent by putting more information online, Moran said it would likely not be possible.

"It’s tough putting this kind of thing on the internet," he said. "One thing we never want to do is tip our cards."

At least one resident praised the work the Town of Brookhaven has been doing regarding illegal housing as of late. Anthony DeRosa attended a hearing last week related to a landlord who had acted unlawfully and said he was impressed with what he saw.

"I was glad to hear the town is fining them and continuing to follow up," he said.

Romaine also suggested housing may be a possible topic of discussion when he meets with Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. next week for the first time, as the town's Law Department has already identified a number of homes being illegally rented out to college students in the Three Village area.

Zachary Baum January 09, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Will the Supervisor put the onus on the University to aggressively recruit commercial developers for the construction of apartment buildings that comply by town code and are respectful of the quality of life in Three Village?
Tc January 09, 2013 at 02:38 PM
Very good question Zachary!!
Richard Rocchio January 09, 2013 at 08:23 PM
Newsday endorses the "College Town" proposal. Could it be that two of Newsday's former editors are employed at SBU? Do they know something that Three Village Citizens don't know. I am not for or against "IT" because I don't know What "IT" is.
LivingSmall January 10, 2013 at 02:11 AM
Many of us bought here because it was a residential community adjacent to a university. Where would you propose apartment buildings be built? What would have to be purchased by developers or worse yet, seized via Eminent Domain? Why is it that the permanent residents who've invested their savings into their homes have to be set aside for the university's transient population? Have you seen student ghettos in other college areas -- SUNY Albany, for example -- build a few apartment buildings and watch what happens to the houses nearby. Like dominoes, they will gradually become student rentals. Has ANYONE looked into the history behind the community and cottage homes north of 25A behind the Stony Brook School? The Chautauqua Movement, founded upstate NY in 1874 landed in Stony Brook at the turn of the 20th Century. SBU's library holds books on the subject. The NY Times even featured a piece on the Stony Brook Chautauqua on July 4, 1910: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F60D13FC395D11738DDDAD0894DF405B808DF1D3 Ironic that the representatives for an institute of higher learning can not appreciate, or have failed to research the history of this particular area of Stony Brook.
Judith Albano January 11, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Take a ride around the area surrounding the university - those houses in need of repair or that are neglected are mostly rentals to students by absentee landlords who could care less about the neighborhoods as long as they collect their rents.
C. Bery January 12, 2013 at 03:28 AM
Let's shut down 150 Christian Ave. as soon as possible with the new zoning regulations!!! This place is a disgrace to the neighborhood - who is this landlord anyway - anyone have a NAME???
Landlord Rights March 19, 2013 at 01:57 AM
The town violates the New York Court of Appeals' 1989 decision on the same case that Town of Brookhaven illegally changing the zoning by discriminating rental houses. The town will loose again on this issue! Period! Everyone is protected by the State Constitution. I support rental permits but not discrimination! Check this out: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/03/24/nyregion/court-upsets-li-zoning-law-on-unrelated-people-in-home.html.
Common Sense March 21, 2013 at 07:02 PM
''This doesn't affect rooming houses that have transients, and it doesn't affect houses where college students board and where there is a frequent and constant turnover,'' said Mr. Rice of the Planning Federation. ''It doesn't affect the summer types of houses where people crowd in on the weekend. In all those arrangements there is no stability.'' Mr. Li, you seemed to have misread the decision as the Town does in fact have to ability to act on those houses with transient occupiers.
lolo March 23, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Landlord Rights, this has nothing to do with discrimination. Your homes are illegal. DON'T could you chickens before they hatch. The fight has only begun. Laws can be changed. More, and more of the community in on board with this problem. We CAN VOTE for politicians that can make descions. Don't be so smug, you're out numbered!!!!
lolo March 23, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Landlord Rights DON'T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH!!!
lolo March 23, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Landlord Rights, One quick question, Are you reporting your income from these boarding houses that you own to the IRS????? Let me know.
lolo March 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM
Landlord Rights....haven't heard from you yet, ARE YOU REPORTING THE INCOME YOU GET FROM YOUR RENTALS TO THE IRS ?????? You said your homes are legal, and you will win this battle. So let us know if the IRS knows about your home rental income. Waiting to hear from you.
Ei R March 28, 2013 at 12:55 AM
This is not a discrimination issue. I attended the University as an undergraduate and a graduate student. I commuted to the University from my hometown, since I chose not to live on campus. I would never have lived in a boarding house to pad the pocket of a landlord. I support quality of life for people. In this situation, we must consider those who pay taxes and are actually living and raising families in the town. You would not know of our quality of life because you do not live here. You only come to collect the rent. Period.

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