Saturday, March 9, 2019

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Skoufis investigates slumlords statewide

Skoufis, center, with Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, left, and interim City Manager Joseph Donat.

NEWBURGH – State Senator James Skoufis (D, Woodbury) announced on Friday that his Senate Investigations Committee has been investigating building code violations and substandard rental housing statewide. Specifically, he has been looking at the cities of Newburgh, Mount Vernon and Albany and the Town of Ramapo.

The senator made the announcement while standing on the steps of 197 First Street, a boarded up house that is most recently owned by the Newburgh Land Bank, which hopes to rehabilitate and sell it.

Over the years though, it has been run down like so many other buildings in the four targeted municipalities.

Cities like Newburgh are cash strapped and have difficulty keeping up with the volume of code inspections and Skoufis wants to know what the state might be able to do to assist communities tackle the problem.

“It is our hope that we will be able to compel better behavior and we will be able to compel new laws and new state code to make sure that tenants are safe and that landlords are held accountable,” Skoufis said.

He will hold at least one public hearing to hear testimony from residents, local governments and slumlords.

The senator made it clear he is not looking to persecute landlords.

“The fundamental point here is that no one should be living in dangerous conditions,” Skoufis said. “People have literally died because of building code violations in this city and throughout the state. That is the kind of stuff that needs to stop. That’s what we are investigating. This isn’t a persecution of landlords.”  

Assistant Newburgh Fire Chief William Horton, the city’s code enforcement officer, said with 30 percent poverty, buildings that are nearly 70 percent non-owner occupied, housing stock that is over 120 years old, and a lack of resources at the local government level, it makes the city’s effort to crack down very difficult. “We alone can’t do it,” Horton said.

 


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