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Rockland County Says It's Winning The War Against Unsafe Housing

L. to r.: Catherine Johnson-Southren, RCI coordinator; Ed Day, Rockland county executive; and Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert announce in Haverstraw Monday that the county's year-old health code crackdown on landlords has been a success.
L. to r.: Catherine Johnson-Southren, RCI coordinator; Ed Day, Rockland county executive; and Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert announce in Haverstraw Monday that the county's year-old health code crackdown on landlords has been a success. Photo Credit: Provided

NEW CITY, N.Y. -- Rockland has been cracking down on slumlords and it shows, says County Executive Ed Day.

"We are getting compliance," he said. "The landlords know we are not kidding. We are coming after them. And when they realize that, they make the repairs they need to make."

The year-old initiative uses the broad powers of the county Health Department’s sanitary code to target unsafe and illegal housing, Day said.

Accompanied by the county’s health commissioner, Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, and RCI coordinator, Catherine Johnson-Southren, Day used a once-dilapidated home in Haverstraw as an example of the initiative’s success.

According to Day, the multi-family house on South Street had had broken windows, no second exit, no smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, inoperable plumbing, and leaky ceilings.

It also was infested with mice and cockroaches, he said.

The landlord had been brought up against the Board of Health twice, but didn’t correct the violations until hit with a fine of $41,000, the county executive said.

Since the program started last May, the number of complaints filed with the Health Department have risen to 1,238 from 836 in 2014. About 400 of those came through the county’s confidential, web-based reporting system.

Inspections have nearly doubled from 3,191 to 5,802.

A total of 7,812 violations – 2,272 of which were “critical” and “life-threatening” – were issued.

Fines soared to a total of $453,166.25 from $53,637 the year before.

Day emphasized that “no one has been put out on the street” as a result of the inspections.

Just as importantly, he said, people are living in safer homes and first responders aren’t going blind into “death traps.”

The county is still working on starting a program that will require landlords with three or more units in their buildings to register with the county.

County staff coordinates the initiative with the Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services, the Sheriff’s Department, and the Office of Fire and Emergency Services.

Day credited the initiative with making "everyone in Rockland is safer.”

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