City Council unanimously passed a package of bills sponsored by City Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Alan Maisel yesterday, protecting homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy from fines levied against them by the Department of Buildings (DOB) or the Department of Sanitation (DSNY).
Treyger’s bill prevents property owners, lessees, or occupants from receiving civil or criminal fines and penalties violations from these two city agencies while city-operated natural disaster recovery programs are evaluating or have already scheduled their properties for repair or remediation.
The legislation would also give residents an extended period of time to clean their properties or make necessary repairs, while also creating a reimbursement program for anyone who has already been forced to pay a penalty.
“People should not be penalized when a building or sanitation violation is caused by something outside of their control, like a disaster or a recovery program,” said Treyger. “Nobody should be left worse off by the recovery process than if they never participated in it at all, and the onus should be on the city and contractors to abide by rules and regulations related to Sandy Recovery work, not residents.”
Owners, lessees, or occupants will be protected from receiving fines or penalties on violations for work performed by City employees or third-parties contracted by the City as a result of Maisel’s bill. This legislation also includes a method of reimbursement for those already forced to pay.
When the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency first heard testimony on the legislation, Treyger and Maisel brought several such violations to the attention of the DOB, violations which seemingly contradicted the agency’s unwritten protocol against violating homes enrolled in the Build It Back Program. In the case of at least one such example, the agency has already admitted that the violation should not have been issued, and that the homeowner would receive a refund. This law will ensure that such violations will not be erroneously issued again.
“In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, in my district alone, we saw hundreds of property owners struggle to find licensed professionals for needed recovery work,” said Maisel. “Rapid Repairs and Build It Back programs were formed and while the intention was good, some of the recovery efforts may have resulted in property owners receiving fines for that same work which was completed by the City recovery programs’ designated contractors. In these cases, it is critical that the city not penalize property owners for joining a program that elected officials and city agencies directed them to join.”
Treyger and Maisel have also received numerous complaints from constituents whose homes are being either elevated or rebuilt. Violations from the DOB appear taped to the Build It Back fences surrounding the properties, but addressed to the homeowners rather than the contractors doing the work.