“Embroiled in a competitive contest for Rockland County district attorney, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski unveiled a plan Thursday to defend tenants and prosecute landlords whose violation-ridden buildings and schools endanger lives.
Zebrowski said as district attorney he would break with the tradition of deputizing all municipalities to prosecute building and fire code violations that jeopardize the safety of tenants, students, responding firefighters and police.
He said he also would establish a task force to protect the rights of tenants from what he called “predatory landlords” who exploit poor people and potentially illegal residents.
“Building and fire code violations that jeopardize the safety of residents, first-responders and neighborhoods, will no longer be ignored,” Zebrowski said, citing local and state laws that empower the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute those cases.
“We have seen illegal rooms in basements and attics without exits, faulty electrical connections, a lack of clean water, and generators in basements,” he said, adding he’d make the plan work with the office’s staff.
He said housing and school building violations are part of the public corruption that needs to be attacked.
Zebrowski unveiled his plan during a news conference at the Spring Valley Hook and Ladder Firehouse on Furman Place. He surrounded himself with members of the Illegal Housing and Non-Public School Task Force, which reports substandard housing and illegal schools to local building departments and the county health department.
The members complained about the lack of enforcement, passive prosecution by villages and towns, and, even more so, the lack of penalties from judges.
Bob Burton, a volunteer firefighter with the Tallman Fire Department, said judges can fine up to $5,000 per violation for every day, but most times he’s seen penalties of a few hundred dollars.
“The violations continue and the penalties doesn’t deter anyone,” he said, with task force colleagues agreeing. Standing with Zebrowski were task force chairman Justin Schwartz, former Rockland Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. and CUPON-Hillcrest leader Micheal Miller.”
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