City of New York Divorce Records

Document Sample
City of New York Divorce Records Powered By Docstoc
					 PHILIP A. AMICONE                                                           CITY HALL
       MAYOR                                                        YONKERS, NEW YORK 10701-3883



  PHILIP A. ZISMAN                                                         Ph: 914-377-7000
INSPECTOR GENERAL                                                          Fax: 914-377-6990


                                       DEPARTMENT OF
                                     INSPECTOR GENERAL
                                       CITY OF YONKERS

      TO:            Philip A. Amicone, Mayor
                     Chuck Lesnick City Council President
                     Sandy Annabi, City Council Member
                     All City Council Members

      FROM:          Philip A. Zisman, Inspector General

      SUBJECT: Code Enforcement Investigation

      DATE:          June 28, 2006


            The Inspector General’s Office has conducted a review of allegations and
      concerns set forth in a May 1, 2006 letter of City Council Member Sandy Annabi.
      This memorandum sets forth our findings.

      Council Member Annabi’s Letter

              In a May 1, 2006 letter, Council Member Sandy Annabi asked the
      Inspector General’s Office to investigate whether certain residents of Southwest
      Yonkers in the Nodine Hill and South Broadway/Riverdale Avenue
      neighborhoods were “being victimized by unfair and excessive ticketing for minor
      code violations.” Specifically, Ms. Annabi stated that one particular City Code
      Enforcement Officer had targeted a few select property owners by issuing
      excessive and harassing tickets for failure to keep their properties and sidewalks
      free of litter and debris.

             Council Member Annabi believed that the tickets represented a “pattern of
      possible discrimination – unfairly targeting minorities…” including minority owned
      homes, buildings and houses of worship. The letter stated that the complaints
      came from residents who, in most cases, live in the cited properties, were not
      slumlords, and tended to their properties on a daily basis, but were unable to
      control what happened during the day because they were at work. In one
      instance, one person allegedly received more than 44 infractions and warrants


                                                                                       1
for arrest. According to the letter, a meeting to address the problem with the
Bureau of Code Enforcement (“Bureau”) proved to be fruitless. A copy of the May
1, 2006 letter is attached.

        In a follow up meeting to review the allegations in the lette r, Council
Member Annabi provided the Inspector General’s Office with the names and
addresses of thirteen property owners who had complained to her office. At that
time, Ms. Annabi asked that the Inspector Ge neral try to answer two questions:
1) For the purposes of code enforcement, how do you define “litter” so that
responsible property owners can meet their obligations to keep the outside of
their properties clean and i n compliance with the City Code? And 2) How do you
protect responsible property owners, who are trying to keep their properties
clean, from receiving excessive ticketing for litter on their properties and
sidewalks?

       Council Member Annabi has proposed legislation that requests the City’s
Law Department to develop recommendations to help protect victims of illegal
dumping, and to provide for the use of warnings, and the establishment of
specific guidelines pertaining to litter, which would clarify a property owner’s
responsibilities.

Scope and Methodology

       In conducting a preliminary review into the allegations in Council Member
Annabi’s letter, we quickly discovered that the problems related to litter and
dumping in the Nodine Hill and South Broadway/Riverdale Avenue corridor were
complex and did not immediately lend themselves to easy solutions. In order to
address the specific allegations, and offer meaningful suggestions as to how
conditions could be improved, we believed that it was necessary to first describe
the nature of the litter and dumping problem, and then set forth the structural
framework under which the City government provides sanitation services and
code enforcement.

       In our investigation we conducted extensive interviews with City officials
and employees, property owners who received the allegedly harassing tickets,
and for background and comparison purposes, officials from the City of New York
and the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials. We also
reviewed thousands of pages of documents provided to us from the Bureau of
Code Enforcement and Council Member Annabi.

        On May 17, 2006 the Inspector General and staff were taken on two tours
of the neighborhoods where the tickets that are the subject of the complaints
were issued. The morning tour was conducted by Council Member Annabi. The
afternoon tour was conducted by Code Enforcement Officer (“CEO”) Stella
Schofield and Code Enforcement Supervisor Albert De Pierro. The tours were
purposely scheduled for the same day, because conditions relating to the



                                                                                   2
accumulation of litter and debris can quickly change. The Inspector General and
staff also toured the area with the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of
Public Works (“DPW”) on May 22, 2006, and on June 6, 2006 visited specific
properties owned by complainants who spoke with the Inspector General’s
Office.

Summary of the Findings

        Based on our review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the
allegations and concerns in Council Member Annabi’s May 1, 2006 letter, we
determined the following:

   1. The Allegations of Discrimination were not Substantiated

       The allegations that the Code Enforcement Bureau and a specific CEO
   engaged in discrimination in the issuance of sanitation related summonses
   are unsubstantiated. There is no evidence to support the allegation that there
   is a pattern of possible discrimination unfairly targeting minorities. We found
   that there were well documented, non-discriminatory reasons for the
   summonses that were issued.

       As a general matter, property owners did not allege discrimination, but
   instead blamed litter and debris problems on a combination of factors
   including irresponsible tenants, poor garbage collection, windy conditions,
   and people engaging in illegal dumping. They believed that they should not
   be given tickets for conditions they could not control or, at a minimum, should
   be given warnings when violations occurred. We were not persuaded by
   these arguments.

      The applicable law pertaining to the obligations of property owners makes
   clear that property owners are responsible for the litter and other unsanitary
   conditions on their properties regardless of who or what created the condition.
   Landlords – who brought the majority of the complaints we reviewed – receive
   economic benefits from their ownership of income producing, residential
   property, and must, therefore meet the minimum requirements of the law,
   regardless of the associated costs or inconvenience. The City should not
   have to give a property owner a warning every time his or her property fails to
   meet minimum sanitation code standards.

   2. There is a Need for Clarity in Enforcement Policy and Procedure

       We agreed with Council Member Annabi’s assessment that policies and
   procedures with respect to the enforcement of litter violations need to be
   clarified. We recommend that the City publish a pamphlet that clearly sets
   forth the rights and obligations of property owners with respect to the City’s
   enforcement of the sanitation codes.



                                                                                    3
     Our recommendation is modeled on information found in a New York City
publication. After reviewing the New York City policy and procedure and
considering it in light of the conditions that exist in Yonkers, we found that
Yonkers code enforcement efforts could specifically benefit from: 1)
establishing an “enforcement routing” policy which limits the time when
littering tickets can be issued; 2) publishing photographs of examples of
typical conditions that constitute sanitation violations; and 3) increasing fines
to create a greater incentive for owners to keep their properties clean.

   Other than for the purposes of increasing fines, we do not believe that it is
necessary for the City to adopt new legislation related to the enforcement of
sanitation violations. All that is needed is a better understanding of a property
owner’s legal obligations and how the City will enforce the existing laws.

3. There is a Need for Additional Enforcement Strategies

    We found that despite the City’s best enforcement efforts, some property
owners are simply scofflaws who are unwilling to live up to their obligations
with respect to meeting the standards o f the City Code. We believe that the
Law Department should implement new legal strategies to address issues
surrounding scofflaws.

    Specifically, 1) In appropriate circumstances, the Corporation Counsel
should request that the Police Department enforce arrest warrants; 2)
Nuisance abatement actions should be commenced against property owners
to address large scale dumping and other chronic sanitation problems; and 3)
Civil actions seeking large civil penalties should be commenced against
property owners who demonstrate a continuing unwillingness to meet their
obligations of keeping their properties clean.

4. Three Additional Recommendations

    In conducting our interviews with complaining property owners, we asked
each what they believed could be done better to control litter and illegal
dumping. Some of their suggestions were simple and would be relatively easy
to implement. We believe that the suggestions should be collected, perhaps
by Council Member Annabi’s Office, and forwarded to the Mayor’s Office for
review and consideration by the appropriate City agencies.

   DPW should study whether its policy of not accepting construction debris
and bulk items at the City dump from residents who live in buildings with more
than six units is contributing to the illega l dumping problems in the City.

   Finally, the Code Enforcement Bureau should change its policy of
permanently assigning CEOs to patrol a particular quadrant of the City, and
implement a policy of rotating CEOs on at least an annual basis. Such a



                                                                                    4
    policy will lead to the CEOs having a better familiarity with the entire City,
    promote uniformity in CEO enforcement practices, and provide a necessary
    internal control to help ensure the integrity of enforcement operations.

Findings of Fact

The Dumping and Litter Problem

       Our tours of the Nodine Hill and South Broadway/Riverdale Avenue
        neighborhoods revealed that there is a significant dumping and litter
        problem in these areas of the City. The problem is most acute on Nodine
        Hill. According to DPW officials, Nodine Hill has some of the worst
        dumping and litter problems in the City.
       The problem appears to have three root causes. First, there is substantial
        illegal dumping occurring throughout these neighborhoods. Materials that
        are being dumped in vacant lots and sidewalks abutting private property
        include construction debris, household bulk items and household trash.
        Second, throughout these densely populated areas, and especially on
        Nodine Hill, many property owners of wood frame buildings with
        approximately 3-8 dwelling units appear not to be providing their tenants
        with secure and adequate places to dispose of their household trash. 1
        Third, some tenants are not properly disposing of their garbage even if
        adequate places for disposal are provided by their landlords. Some
        tenants leave their garbage in front of or on the side of their buildings in an
        unsecured manner. Also, pedestrians and people in vehicles regularly
        litter in these neighborhoods.
       As a result of improper garbage disposal, household garbage, often
        contained in flimsy supermarket plastic bags or garbage cans without
        secure lids, is being left in front and side yards before being placed at the
        curb for scheduled collection. This unsecured and improperly stored
        garbage is vulnerable to people and animals scavenging, and otherwise
        being disturbed so that the shopping bags are opened or break, or the
        garbage cans overflow or are knocked over. This causes garbage and
        litter to spread onto the streets and sidewalks.
       Some property owners make an effort to keep their properties clean.
        However, others are not properly cleaning the sidewalks and gutters that
        abut their properties when debris and litter are present.
       Windy conditions frequently contribute to the spread of litter and debris on
        the streets and sidewalks.
       We saw two dumping grounds in the Nodine Hill area that presented
        serious public health and safety concerns. DPW identified two particular
        vacant lots located off of the “Elm Street Steps” as the worst dumping
        condition in the City and described it as an illegal landfill. (Since the
1
  See Yonkers City Code §§91-16 and 17 (requiring property owners to provide receptacles wit h
lids to properly secure litter, garbage and debris) Larger apartment buildings appear to be doing
a better job at providing adequate facilities for their tenants to properly dispose of their garbage.


                                                                                                        5
        Inspector General’s Office reported the dumping conditions to the Mayor’s
        Office, the City has been successful in persuading the property owners at
        the Elm Street Steps location to clean up their properties. 2 The other dump
        site, located in the backyard of a boarded up property on Oak Street,
        remains unabated.)

The City’s Garbage Collection and Clean-up Programs

       The City collects curbside garbage twice a week and collects recyclables
        including glass, plastic bottles and newspapers once a week. Street
        sweepers clean area streets once a week. In addition, the City also
        regularly cleans City-owned lots and rights-of-way3 and privately owned
        lots as necessary, subject to limited resources. 4
       DPW has also sponsored special programs in Nodine Hill and other areas
        of the City, including assigning Senior Rangers and Pride-In-Work workers
        to conduct litter patrols, installing cameras to catch and deter illegal
        dumping, working with community based organizations such as
        Groundworks Yonkers 5 and Habitat for Humanity to clean lots and
        transform them into community gardens, conducting an annual Spring
        clean up day, and placing dumpsters in the community on certain dates to
        encourage the proper disposal of bulk items.
       Even with the City’s ongoing efforts, the vacant lots and other City rights-
        of-way, quickly become overgrown and subject to dumping between
        cleanings.
       Garbage collection in these areas is often made difficult because of the
        condition of and type of garbage that the City’s Environmental
        Maintenance Workers (“EMWs”) find while on their collection routes.
       Construction debris is not subject to pick up on collection day. Thus, if
        such debris is put out for collection, it is not picked up by the City, and, if
        not removed by the property owner, can remain on the street and or
        sidewalk indefinitely. 6


2
  It is our understanding that the property owners were threatened with arrest and/or other legal
action.
3
  City rights-of-way include certain alleys and connecting stairways.
4
  According to DPW there are 30 full time workers responsible for cleaning weeds and debris
from vac ant lots and City-owned rights-of-way.
5
  The City and Groundwork Yonkers have joined together to form a partnership to use COMNE T
(comput erized neighborhood environmental tracking) to survey neighborhoods and doc ument
problems on a handheld computer. Senior citizens and high school students will canvass a target
area and input any conditions needing attention int o the computer. The data will then be
downloaded and sent to DPW for action or appropriate referral. Phase I of this project will target
the Nodine Hill area.
6
  According to DPW policy, residents in 1-6 family buildings are authorized to bring construction
debris and bulk items to the City dump on Saw Mill River Road. However, residents of buildings
of more than 6 units are forbidden to use the dump. The larger properties are considered
commercial properties, which are required to use private, commercial carters for the removal of
construction debris and bulk items.


                                                                                                 6
       According to DPW officials, the policy of the Department is that EMWs
        must pick up all garbage, other than construction debris, that is placed at
        the curb on the night before collection even if not properly stored in
        garbage cans or sealed trash bags. 7 This directive is difficult to comply
        with when garbage containers break, overflow, or are otherwise left
        opened by people or animals. Sometimes not all loose garbage gets
        picked up on collection days.
       DPW works closely with the City’s Bureau of Code Enforcement in trying
        to address sanitation issues. DPW employees who run the City’s Help
        Line and Action Center, as well as senior DPW management, regularly
        report illegal dumping and other garbage related conditions to the Bureau
        to commence enforcement activity. Also, the Bureau regularly calls DPW
        to address unsanitary conditions in neighborhoods throughout the City.
        The Inspector General’s Office reviewed detailed records of these
        exchanges that are maintained by Code Enforcement.
       The City is making efforts to combat illegal dumping. On Nodine Hill and
        other neighborhoods, surveillance cameras have been installed in certain
        areas where dumping has been common. The City also adopted
        legislation imposing more severe fines, including vehicle forfeiture, for
        those who are convicted of engaging in illegal dumping. These anti-
        dumping efforts are having a positive effect on curtailing dumping at the
        locations monitored by the cameras.

The City’s Enforcement Authority and Legal Precedent

       One of the primary functions of local government is to enforce State and
        local laws which establish standards to ensure that buildings and
        properties are maintained in healthful and sanitary conditions.
       Under applicable State law and the City of Yonkers’ Administrative Code,
        it is the primary responsibility of the property owner to ensure that they
        meet minimum sanitary standards for their properties.
       With respect to litter, garbage, dumping, graffiti and other sanitation
        related issues, the Yonkers City Code provides a comprehensive statutory
        scheme of the standards that property owners must meet in order to avoid
        being cited for violations of applicable Code provisions. Under the City
        Charter, the sanitation provisions of the various Codes are enforced by the
        City’s Bureau of Code Enforcement.
       With respect to keeping sidewalks and gutters clean, §91-34 of the City
        Code is the provision that establishes the requirements for property
        owners to maintain their sidewalks, yards and alleys “free from garbage,
        refuse, litter, debris, and other offensive material.” The duty to keep the
        sidewalk clean extends one and one-half feet from the curbstone into the
        street.

7
  Under the City Code garbage to be picked up by the City must be in recept acles that weigh less
than 50 pounds.


                                                                                                7
         New York State courts have consistently ruled that property o wners are
          required to maintain clean premises, regardless of who or what caused
          the condition. See e.g. Papts Food Corp v. City of New York, 107 A.D.2d
          643 (1st Dept. 1985); People v. Eisen, (77 Misc. 2d 1044(Sup. Ct. New
          York, 1974).
         The City Code provides that the City can enforce code violations by
          seeking both criminal and civil penalties from property owners who fail to
          meet applicable standards. See, Yonkers City Code Article III, §§ 1-21-34.

The Bureau of Code Enforcement Operations

         The Code Enforcement Bureau was created in 1997 during Mayor John
          Spencer’s administration. Mayor Spencer wanted to increase enforcement
          throughout the City to better control graffiti, litter and other unsanitary
          conditions. Prior to the creation of the Bureau, sanitation summonses
          were issued by enforcement officers assigned to DPW.
         According to the City’s website, the main objective of the Bureau is “to
          educate, monitor and enforce the City Code to insure the health, safety
          and cleanliness of our City.”
         The Department is managed by Deputy Director of Code Enforcement
          Nora Knopf, who reports to the Deputy Commissioner of Finance and
          Executive Director of Enforcement Frank McGovern. 8 There are three
          Code Enforcement Officers, who patrol the City streets and issue
          summonses and warnings; one CEO supervisor; and three operations
          support staff. The Bureau’s budget for fiscal year 2007 is $578,143.
         In 2005, the Bureau issued a total of 6,086 tickets, 4,319 written warnings
          and 2,293 verbal warnings to property owners for failing to meet their
          obligations under the City Code. Of the tickets that were issued, according
          to Deputy Director Knopf approximately 60% were paid. This generated
          approximately $130,000 in City revenue. 9
         In explaining the philosophy of the Bureau of Code E nforcement, Mr.
          McGovern stated that the objective of the Bureau is to promote the
          cleanliness of the City. The Code Enforcement Bureau is not an income
          producing department, and CEOs are not under pressure to issue tickets.
          Instead, verbal and written warnings and tickets are the tools available to
          CEOs to help achieve the goal of keeping the City clean and holding
          property owners accountable for meeting the minimum standards in the
          City Code. The CEOs that we interviewed echoed Mr. McGovern’s
          sentiments, and stated that the number of tickets that they issue each day
          is not a factor in determining whether they are properly performing their
          duties.
         For enforcement purposes the City is divided into quadrants. Each of the
          CEOs, including the supervisor, is responsible for enforcement in a

8
    Mr. McGovern also manages the City’s Parking Violations and Consumer Protection Bureaus.
9
    The Bureau projects that revenues for fiscal year 2006 will be approximately $200,000.


                                                                                               8
         permanently assigned quadrant, which they patrol on a daily basis. When
         absences occur, the other CEOs cover the quadrant of the absent CEO on
         an as needed basis. In addition to patrol, the CEOs also respond to
         specific complaints and calls for enforcement that the Bureau receives.
        The three members of the Bureau’s operational support staff respond to
         inquiries and complaints from the public and other City Departments , and
         perform a wide-variety of office operations. 10 We reviewed the Bureau’s
         records which showed that 1,262 complaints and inquiries were received
         from December 2005 through May 12, 2006. 11
        Of the four CEOs currently working for the Bureau, two – CEO Stella
         Schofield, the CEO assigned to the quadrant that includes Nodine Hill and
         the South Broadway/Riverdale Avenue corridor, and CEO Supervisor
         Albert De Pierro – have served as CEOs since the inception of the Bureau
         in 1997. Brian Burke has been a CEO for approximately four years, and
         the newest CEO is Theresa Santana who has been on the job for nine
         months.
        The typical daily routine of a CEO includes patrolling their quadrant of the
         City looking for violations, and responding to complaints and other calls for
         code enforcement. Decisions about issuing a ticket and other information
         regarding each particular stop or activity are recorded on the CEO’s Daily
         Activity Report, which becomes a permanent Bureau record. Near the end
         of each workday, the CEOs return to the office and research the name
         and address of property owners who are designated to receive written
         warnings or summonses.
        In addition to patrolling his quadrant, Supervising CEO De Pierro reviews
         the Daily Activity Reports, prepares weekly status reports for the Deputy
         Director, prepares the CEOs’ payroll, and gives out special assignments
         resulting from complaints received. The Supervising CEO also responds
         to residents’ requests to speak to a supervisor and will lend back up
         support to the other CEOs as required.

The Legal Process

        Sanitation summonses are sent to the property owners through the mail. 12
         The tickets notify the recipient of a court date at which time the stated
         violations are scheduled to be adjudicated. To avoid making a court
         appearance, property owners can plead guilty through the mail and pa y a
         fine.
10
   Specific tasks of the operational support staff include: ans wering telephones, creating work
orders, performing data entry of daily tickets and warnings, sending out warrant and corporate
default judgment letters for non-appearance in court, and res earc hing ownership of cited
properties.
11
   Typical communications to the Bureau include: requests for information from residents, calls to
report dangerous or unsanitary conditions, calls to report illegal dumping, referrals from the DPW
Action Center and Help Line, and calls from residents who want to pay their tickets without
making court appearanc es.
12
   Official warnings are also mailed; CEOs also give verbal warnings when on patrol.


                                                                                                 9
        With respect to summonses that are not resolved ahead of time, the City’s
         Law Department prosecutes them in Yonkers City Court. 13 Court
         appearance dates, as provided on the summonses, are approximately 4 or
         6 weeks after the date of the violation. According to Senior Associate
         Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari, the City attorney who prosecutes
         the tickets, on a typical court calendar there are approximately 200 City
         Code Enforcement tickets. 14
        Mr. Porcari stated that on the initial return date in court, defendants
         appear on only 25% to 33% of the tickets that are scheduled for any given
         day. In almost all cases in which a defendant appears, the matter is
         settled without a trial.
        For matters in which individual defendants do not appear in court, the
         Code Enforcement Bureau identifies the matters as subject to a warrant to
         be issued for the defendants’ arrest. Thereafter, the Code Enforcement
         Bureau sends letters informing the defendants that there are pending
         warrants that could be issued for their arrest, and the defendants are
         given a second opportunity to appear in court. Approximately 50% of
         those receiving the warrant warning letters appear in court to resolve their
         tickets.
        For those who do not appear, their names are added to a warrant
         database. People whose names appear in this database are subject to
         arrest for failing to appear in court. The Law Department has not
         requested that the Police Department execute warrants against those
         property owners who have failed to appear in court on sanitation related
         citations.
        With respect to defendant corporations that fail to appear in court, a notice
         of a corporate default judgment is sent to the corporation, and corporation
         is given a second opportunity to appear. Thereafter, if the corporation
         again fails to appear, the corporate default judgments are entered into the
         Bureau’s database, but no further action is taken.
        Although the City Code authorizes the City to commence civil actions ,
         which can lead to the imposition of large fines against property owners
         who are found liable, the Law Department has not brought such
         proceedings in sanitation related matters.



13
   In order to streamline enforcement and eliminate the need to prosec ute tickets in City Court, the
City has proposed that the State Legislature authorize the City to create an administrative
adjudication bureau. This would allow the City to pros ecute code enforcement tickets in a City
created administrative tribunal. The adjudication bureau would process code enforcement tickets
in the same manner in which parking tickets are currently processed. New York City and Buffalo
currently have adjudication bureaus. The State Legislature, however, has not yet approved the
required legislation for Yonkers.
14
    According to Deputy Director Knopf, of the 200 matters on the weekly calendar, approximately
100-150 are Code Enforcement Bureau tickets issued by CEOs. The remaining tickets have been
issued by police offic ers for various criminal violations.


                                                                                                  10
Review of Complaints made to Council Member Annabi

        Council Member Annabi provided us with a list of thirteen property owners
in her District who had complaints about tickets they had received on their
properties. Seven agreed to speak to the Inspector General. 15 Set forth below is
a summary of the ticket history, testimony of the property owners and CEOs
before the Inspector General regarding the tickets, and a summary of the
Inspector General’s site visits to a sample of the complainants’ properties. All
interviews of complainants and CEOs were tape recorded and conducted under
oath.

 Albert Fakhoury

     Ticket Status

         From January 23, 2003, through May 5, 2006, City records indicate that
          the City issued 80 sanitation related summonses and 5 warnings for 15
          properties owned by Mr. Fakhoury. Eight tickets were paid; 2 were
          withdrawn; 4 are pending; and 66 have been designated as “warrant” for
          non-appearance in court. 16

     Testimony of Albert Fakhoury

         Owns 15 properties on Nodine Hill: most between 4 and 8 units, several
          are unimproved lots.
         Believes that in the last two years he has received an increase in tickets.
         He used to pay them, but has stopped.
         He has only spoken to CEO Schofield one time three or four years ago,
          when in court.
         Has no direct knowledge of discrimination in the issuance of tickets, but
          heard from someone whose name he did not want to disclose, that CEO
          Schofield was targeting the Arab Community for summonses, and that she
          stated that they were rich Arabs and could afford to pay. Mr. Fakhoury
          stated he did not hear the alleged slur and had no proof of whether such a
          comment was ever made.
         Blamed the dirty conditions in the neighborhood on the fact that it is a
          “bad” area.
         Claimed that the garbage collectors are not neat, and then tickets are
          issued for garbage that is not picked up.


15
   Two other alleged complainants declined to meet with the Ins pector General, a third called our
office after our fact finding had been concluded. Informal statements of these property owners
were taken over the telephone. No material questions or new information was raised in the
telephone interviews, which would alter the conclusions of this report.
16
    Summonses listed for all properties date back to 2003, when the Bureau of Code Enforcement
established a comprehensive database for all tickets and warnings issued.


                                                                                                11
     Claimed to have a roving superintendent who keeps his properties clean,
      and that he is also at his buildings six days a week.
     Stated that he works cooperatively with the Building Department
      concerning building code violations, but that the Code Enforcement
      Bureau is unreasonable.
     Stated that if he were given a warning, he would come and clean his
      property.

Testimony of CEOs

     Stella Schofield stated that the condition of the streets and sidewalks
      surrounding Mr. Fakhoury properties clearly warranted the tickets that
      were issued.
     She stated that she never spoke with Mr. Fakhoury, and understood that
      he had never contacted the Code Enforcement Bureau to try to address
      the problems that had led to him being cited so many times.
     She assumed that he just did not care and was a scofflaw.
     The majority of his tickets were for problems with his Linden Street
      properties, in particular 47 Linden Street, which, according to Schofield
      was never kept clean, and garbage was not secured.
     The only time CEO Schofield saw 47 Linden Street clean was after Mr.
      Fakhoury registered his complaint with Council Member Annabi, and the
      story was reported in the media.
     She was aware that many tickets that she issued to Mr. Fakhoury were in
      warrant status. She said that she did not give the Fakhoury properties
      warnings because there was no point to it if he did not respond to the
      summonses.
     CEO Supervisor Albert De Pierro stated that he gave Mr. Fakhoury a
      written warning on a day that he was covering CEO Schofield’s quadrant.
      He said that if he had been aware of the history of the owner’s
      noncompliance, he would have issued a summons instead of a warning.

Conditions on Inspector General’s Site Visit

     The Inspector General conducted a site visit to Mr. Fakhoury’s properties
      located at 44, 46, 47, 48 and 50 Linden Street on May 17, 2006 in both the
      morning and afternoon.
     At 47 Linden, we saw one overflowing, unsecured garbage can in a low
      fenced area, which abutted the sidewalk. There were also numerous open
      plastic grocery bags full of garbage placed in and around the garbage can.
      This condition was clearly unsanitary and could have easily led to garbage
      being spread onto the street, sidewalk and abutting properties.
     Across the street, at 46 and 48 Linden, two lots which make up a parking
      lot that abuts a multi-family house at 50 Linden, we saw unsecured
      garbage and loose litter to justify a summons.



                                                                             12
        The conditions did not materially change from the morning to the
         afternoon.

Richard Sperandio, President Stable Realty

     Ticket Status

        From March 19, 2003, to March 15, 2006, the City issued 25 summonses
         and 3 warnings to Stable Realty: 12 tickets were paid; 3 were withdrawn; 2
         were given a 1 year condition discharge; 1 was mailed to the incorrect
         address; 4 were designated “corporate default judgment”; 1 was
         designated “warrant”, and 2 tickets were pending.

     Testimony of Richard Sperandio17

        Owns three apartment buildings: with 10, 18 and 15 apartments.
        Believed that CEOs were unreasonable and abusing their power. He did
         not, however, believe that they were discriminating against him.
        Stated that he was a responsible landlord and maintained his properties.
        Has two roving superintendents responsible for garbage disposal and
         keeping property and sidewalk areas clean.
        Supers inspected the buildings everyday and he also made regular
         inspections of his properties.
        Stated that he provided proper places for his tenants to dispose of their
         garbage.
        Stated that some of his tenants did not properly dispose of their household
         garbage, and instead of placing it in receptacles that he provided, they
         would leave it in the front of the b uilding.
        Non-tenants also littered in front of his building, and he has also been the
         victim of illegal dumping.
        Claimed that he could not have someone watching the properties 24 hours
         a day to ensure that they were clean when the CEOs inspected.
        Stated that if he was given a warning he would then clean the property,
         and that there was no need to give him tickets.

     Testimony of CEOs

        CEO Brian Burke issued the tickets to the Stable Realty properties located
         on Celli Place and Woodworth Avenue. CEO Schofield issued the tickets
         to the Elliott Avenue property.

17
    We also reviewed correspondence between Mr. Sperandio and the Code Enforcement Bureau.
                          th              th
In letters dated April 11 and May 25 2006, Mr. Sperandio complained about how he believed
the CEOs to be unprofessional, and criticized the Bureau for not cooperating with him. He stated
that he believed he should be issued a warning when conditions warranted and only given a ticket
if he failed to clean his property aft er the warning was issued.


                                                                                             13
   CEO Burke issued a series of 9 tickets from January 5, 2005 through
    December 5, 2005, on the Woodworth Avenue property. Most of the
    tickets were for putting garbage out early on collection days.
   The problems at the Woodworth Avenue property have stopped. CEO
    Burke attributes this to his enforcement efforts.
   CEO Burke explained that in response to a complaint from the City’s
    Action Center, on February 1, 2006, he responded to Celli Place and
    issued summonses to seven properties for extensive litter, debris, graffiti,
    and high weeds. (CEO Burke provided us with contemporaneous
    photographs taken on February 1, 2006, which sho wed significant
    amounts of litter and debris on the sidewalks and curb abutting 9 Celli
    Place, as well as graffiti on the walls and door.)
   Upon his return to the location on February 22, 2006, the conditions on the
    Stable Realty property at 9 Celli Place had not been corrected, thus, a
    second round of tickets were issued.
   On subsequent visits on March 1, 8, and 15, 2006, conditions on the
    Stable Realty property were improved but violations still existed, additional
    tickets were issued.
   There are currently no problems at 9 Celli Place because a new
    superintendent appears to be taking proper care of the building.
   CEO Burke had several conversations with Mr. Sperandio regarding the
    summonses. Mr. Sperandio requested that he be given a telephone call
    when his properties needed to be cleaned before tickets were issued.
   Mr. Burke stated that he told Mr. Sperandio that it was not feasible to
    issue telephone warnings.
   According to CEO Burke, he could not possibly call all property owners
    and give them verbal warnings, and he would not single out one owner for
    special treatment. He stated that Mr. Sperandio knew what his obligations
    under the sanitation codes were, and therefore, repeated warnings were
    not appropriate. CEO Burke had referred this matter to his supervisor.
   The tickets issued to Stable Realty in 2006, were sent to an old address in
    Elmsford, which had been used when the 2005 tickets were issued. CEO
    Burke recognized that Mr. Sperandio may not have received all the tickets
    that were issued.
   With respect to the tickets issued to the Elliott Avenue property, CEO
    Schofield stated that the two 2006 tickets were for “garbage out early”.
    Both tickets were paid. The prior ticket was from 2003.

    Conditions on Inspector General’s Site Visit

   At 9 Celli Place (aka 205 South Waverly) we noticed a small amount of
    litter on the sidewalk and in the gutter. Construction was taking place on
    South Waverly Street. We also noticed litter and debris on the premises,
    including on the roof of a one story garage.
   At 68-70 Elliott Avenue, we noted litter on the curb and sidewalk, and one
    unsecured plastic garbage can was behind a low fence in front of the


                                                                              14
           building and the can was overflowing with plastic garbage bags and other
           trash.

Betty Cristobal

 Ticket Status

          Received two tickets: one on April 25, 2005, and a second on April 3,
           2006. The first ticket was given a 1 year conditional discharge; the second
           ticket is pending.

  Testimony of Betty Cristobal

           Owns a two-family, owner occupied house with one tenant.
           Claimed to be a responsible property owner who properly disposes of her
            garbage and keeps her property clean. Provided pictures of her property
            that showed it to be well maintained.
           Lives on a street where trash and litter is a problem.
           Recognized that the problem with illegal dumping on her street has
            improved since the City installed a camera in a known dumping area.
           Believes tickets were issued for leftover garbage from garbage collection
            day. She claimed no one was home to clean it up because her family
            was either at work or school.
           She is on dialysis and incapable of cleaning her sidewalk herself.
           Believes that she should be given a warning if there is a problem with
            litter in front of her house.
           Did not believe she was being discriminated against, but thought the
            tickets were unfair.

   Testimony of CEOs

          CEO Schofield stated that with respect to the April 25, 2006 ticket, on that
           day, that block of Victor Street was very dirty and that summonses for the
           same offenses were also issued to 43, 47, 51 and 53 Victor Street.
          She stated that when a whole street is dirty for more than one day it is her
           practice to issue summonses and not warnings.
          As a general matter if streets and sidewalks are left dirty after a garbage
           collection day, she does not give tickets on the collection day in order to
           give owners time to clean. She usually returns the next day and will issue
           summonses for trash that is at least one day old.
          Consistent with her practice she stated that the tickets on Victor Street
           were issued on a Tuesday and that the collection day was Monday.
          With respect to Ms. Cristobal’s complaint, CEO Schofield stated that
           because she did not have a history of tickets, Ms. Cristobal could have
           called the Code Enforcement Bureau and the ticket could have been
           administratively converted to a written warning.


                                                                                     15
Conditions on Inspector General’s Site Visit

      The two family property was well kept. Garbage was secured in covered
       cans in the front yard.

 Frank DeMuro

  Ticket Status

      No tickets issued from 2003 to present.

  Testimony of Frank DeMuro

      Used to own four properties on Nodine Hill. Claims he sold them in 1999
       and 2000 because of excessive code enforcement.
      Claimed to have complained to Mayor Spencer but nothing happened.
      Wanted to speak to the Inspector General based on the recent publicity
       about the problems with code enforcement.
      Had a problem with CEO Schofield. Claims they had an argument and
       then she began to give him excessive tickets.
      Thought that there was selective enforcement because he knew police
       officers who owned buildings that did not get tickets.
      Blamed the garbage problems in the area on the wind, the people who
       lived there, and illegal dumpers.
      Claimed that he kept his properties as clean as possible, but could not be
       present 24 hours a day to see that trash was not improperly placed on his
       property.

Testimony of CEOs

      CEO Schofield recalled that Mr. DeMuro used to be a property owner in
       her quadrant, and still lived in the City. She had no recollection of specific
       problems.

Conditions on Inspector General’s Site Visit

      The Inspector General did not conduct a site visit to Mr. DeMuro’s
       property because he is no longer the owner.

Anna Marchetti

  Ticket Status

      From January 13, 2003, through May 5, 2006, received 31 summonses:
       16 were paid; 4 were withdrawn; 4 are pending; 2 were given conditional



                                                                                   16
         discharges; 4 were returned for improper address; and 1 was designated
         for a warrant.

     Testimony of Anna Marchetti 18

        Owns 6 properties in Yonkers with 6, 18, 13, 31, 26 and 9 units. It is a
         family run business that has owned the properties from 6 to over 20 years.
        Has had a problem with debris and litter on the sidewalk in front of some
         of her properties, even though her husband cleans the sidewalks each
         morning.
        Feels that the City code enforcement efforts are discriminating against
         property owners, because she believes the residents and people in the
         area are responsible for the garbage and litter. She stated that tenants do
         not properly dispose of their garbage and are not being held accountable.
        Stated that she has one superintendent who lives in one of her buildings
         and travels to the other buildings on a daily basis. Her husband also works
         in the buildings full time.
        Stated that she pays her tickets rather than contest them because it was
         easier than going to court.
        Claims that she had difficulty dealing with DPW regarding bulk pick ups.

     Testimony of CEOs

        Tickets to Ms. Marchetti’s properties were issued by both CEO Schofield
         and CEO Supervisor De Pierro.
        CEO Schofield confirmed the validity of the tickets that were issued.
        CEO Schofield remembered an incident at the 111-113 Park Hill Avenue
         property in which rats had infested the garbage for which summonses had
         been issued. (The Inspector General did not have copies of these tickets
         for review because they predated 2003.)
        Ms. Schofield stated that with respect to bulk items, as a matter of policy
         the City did not pick up bulk items from apartment buildings above 6 units,
         and that the Marchetti buildings had tried to nonetheless dispose of bulk
         items.
        On one occasion Ms. Schofield stated that she spoke to Ms. Marc hetti
         about a discarded sofa left on the sidewalk, so that it could be removed
         without a ticket being issued.



18
  Subsequent to our interview, on June 8, 2006, Ms. Marchetti called our office and requested
that her complaint be withdrawn. Ms. Marchetti stated that she appeared in City Court to pay
pending tickets, but was told that she could not pay them because her tickets were being
adjourned pending the conclusion of the Ins pector General’s investigation into allegations against
a specific CEO. Ms. Marchetti stated that her complaint was not against any s pecific CEO, but
about the code enforcement system in general. She stated that she did not want to be part of the
complaint and just wanted to pay her tickets.


                                                                                                17
     A ticket was also issued at the Marchetti’s Hawthorne Street property
      when the owners had unlawfully tried to cordon off an on-the-street
      parking space for their private use.
     CEO Schofield did not consider the Marchetti properties to be problems
      with respect to non-compliance with summonses.
     CEO Supervisor De Pierro issued tickets to the Marchetti’s Park Hill
      Avenue apartment building based on complaints received at the Action
      Center and a verbal complaint he received from people taking their
      children to the school next door. (He provided us with copies of the Action
      Center complaint.)

 Conditions on Inspector General’s Site Visit

     On the day of our site visit to properties owned by Ms. Marchetti at 111-
      113 Park Hill Avenue, and 118-120 Oak Street, the properties were
      basically clean.

Nemer Mufaddi

  Ticket Status

     From January 9, 2003, through May 4, 2006, received 9 summonses and
      2 warnings: 6 tickets were paid; 2 are pending; and 1 was designated for a
      warrant.

  Testimony of Nemer Mufaddi

     Owner of two, three-family houses on Nodine Hill for over twenty years.
     In addition to tenants, his brother’s family lives in one house, and his
      brother-in-law’s family lives in the other house. His relatives are
      responsible for the property and keeping it clean.
     At one of his properties, the wind blows debris on it, which has led to
      tickets.
     Claims that receiving tickets in the mail does not help solve the problem
      because the tickets do not give timely notice of the condition.
     Believes that enforcement has become more aggressive, but does not
      know if he is being discriminated against. He never met the CEO who
      issued the tickets.
     Believes that the pick up of bulk items is a problem. He believes that it is
      unreasonable to have to wait for 2 or 3 weeks before DPW will schedule a
      pick up.
     Recommended that dumpsters be placed in the neighborhood to help
      reduce illegal dumping.




                                                                                  18
Testimony of CEOs

     CEO Schofield defended tickets issued to Mr. Mufaddi, whom she had
      never met.
     Her tickets were issued after previous warnings.
     The tickets detailed specific violations, i.e. recliner left on sidewalk.
     On two occasions the tickets were issued as part of a series of tickets to
      property owners on the block for dirty conditions.
     Code enforcement efforts appear to be working because Mr. Mufaddi
      appropriately repaired his sidewalk after being given a warning notice.

 Conditions on Inspector General’s Site Visit

     The Mufaddi properties were clean on the day of our visit.

St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church

  Ticket Status

     From August 5, 2003, through May 4, 2006, the City issued 12
      summonses and 5 warnings to the Church: 6 tickets were paid, 4 were
      withdrawn; and 2 are pending.

  Testimony of Church Officials

     The St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church is located at 34 Morris Street and
      also fronts on Hamilton and Elliott Avenues. The property includes a
      church and rectory. The property is surrounded by an appro ximately 6 foot
      high wrought iron fence.
     The Church received 5 tickets during a three week period in March of
      2006, which was excessive and inconsistent with the past.
     The Church did not claim that the tickets were issued with a discriminatory
      purpose.
     The Church has been victimized by illegal dumping. Trash and debris is
      left along the fence and sometimes thrown over the fence into the Church
      compound.
     Church does not generate that much garbage itself. All garbage is
      properly contained within the Church property and properly disposed of on
      collection days.
     People from the neighborhood frequently congregate on the corner of
      Elliott Avenue and Morris Street creating a problem with debris and dog
      droppings.
     The Church has a part-time cleaner who comes to the property once or
      twice each week. The Pastor, who lives in the rectory, also cleans the
      property on occasion.


                                                                                   19
    The Church feels that they cannot keep the property clean all the time
     because of the constant and unpredictable illegal dumping.
    The Church suggested that if the City placed garbage cans near the
     corner of Elliott Avenue and Morris Street, residents may be less likely to
     litter.
    The Church also suggested that an increased police presence could help.
    They also recommended the placement of “no dumping” signs in the area.
    The Church stated they always try to work with the City and want to work
     with the City on this problem.

Testimony of CEOs

    The Church had a history of not keeping their sidewalk and curb area
     clean.
    Complaints about conditions at the Church dated back at least to 2003. In
     August 2003, a resident complained about the Church never cleaning its
     sidewalk; on July 11, 2005, Council Member Annabi’s Office reported
     receiving several complaints about dumping and litter on Morris Street in
     general and the Church property in particular. Specifically it was reported
     that “[f]urniture and garbage are dumped on Elliot Place within a few feet
     of the corner of 34 Morris St., is left for weeks without removal.”
    A resident called in a complaint about the Church on February 23, 2006.
    DPW issued complaints about litter on the Church’s sidewalks on March 8
     and 18, 2006.
    Photographs taken on April 18 and May 4, 2006, show litter and debris on
     the Church’s sidewalks.
    CEO Supervisor De Pierro stated that in response to the February 23rd
     complaint he went to the property and saw the litter and debris, and then
     went to the rectory where he spoke with Church representatives and gave
     them a verbal warning to clean up their property in the next day or two.
     According to De Pierro, the Church made promises to clean the sidewalk.
    On March 1, 2006, CEO Schofield, who had been briefed on the Church
     matter by her supervisor, issued a written warning about litter in the gutter
     because the sidewalks and gutters remained dirty.
    CEO Schofield stated that a series of 6 tickets were subsequently issued
     between March 9 and May 4, 2006 because the condition had not been
     abated.
    Supervisor De Pierro stated that the Bureau does not like to cite houses of
     worship, but he felt that it was necessary given the ongoing complaints,
     and the Church’s failure to clean the property.

Conditions on Inspector General’s Site Visit

    On May 17, 2006, we noted that someone had left several plastic
     shopping bags of what appeared to be household trash against the



                                                                               20
       Church’s fence on Morris Street. There was also scattered debris that
       appeared to have been thrown over the fence.
      On June 6, 2006 at 2:30 PM the property appeared clean except for a
       minimal amount of blown litter. When returning to the property at 3:40 PM,
       litter was present on the sidewalks and curb areas. Many children and
       adults were on the sidewalk and school buses where letting children off at
       that time.

Additional Information Regarding CEO Schofield’s Tickets

       Because Council Member Annabi’s letter suggested that one particular
CEO (later identified as Stella Schofield) may have been issuing improper tickets,
we reviewed the tickets and warnings issued by CEO Schofield and questioned
her and the Deputy Director of Code Enforcement about her ticket writing
procedures.

      CEO Schofield is assigned to patrol the southwest quadrant of the City
       which constitutes the area west of the Saw Mill River Parkway to the
       Hudson River and south of Ashburton Avenue.
      For the period of January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2005, CEO
       Schofield issued 2,585 summonses and approximately 900 written and
       verbal warnings. (During this period she was on medical leave for two and
       one half months). For comparison purposes, CEO Burke, assigned to the
       northwest quadrant of the City (north of Ashburton Avenue and west of the
       Saw Mill River Parkway) issued 2,356 tickets and approximately 2,350
       warnings.
      Deputy Director Knopf stated that the largest number of tickets was issued
       in CEO Schofield’s quadrant because that is where the City has the most
       problems with litter, debris and illegal dumping.
      Fewer warnings were given by CEO Schofield because many of the
       property owners were repeat offenders.


New York City’s Department of Sanitation Code Enforcement Policy and
Procedure

       In conducting background research for this investigation, we spoke with
the Director of Enforcement for the New York City Department of Sanitation, and
also compared New York City’s policies and procedures to Yonkers’ operations.
Set forth below is a summary of our findings regarding New York City’s policies
and procedures.




                                                                               21
        New York City publishes a 40 page pamphlet entitled NYC Digest of
         Sanitation Codes19 that provides comprehensive information regarding
         property owner’s obligations to keep their property clean.
        The NYC Digest is much more detailed than the Yonkers annual
         Residential Information Guide, which provides information regarding
         garbage and recycling collection in the City of Yonkers. The New York City
         website also provides more information than the Yonkers site.
        The legal requirements in New York City and Yonkers with respect to
         keeping sidewalk and gutter areas clean are essentially the same.
        The NYC Digest summarizes the applicable provisions of the
         administrative code and clearly sets forth property owners and residents’
         obligations under the code.
        The NYC Digest provides photographs of conditions as to what constitutes
         a typical violation of the city’s sanitation provisions.
        New York City has an “enforcement routing” policy, that provides that
         enforcement agents will patrol areas and write summonses for dirty
         sidewalks and the failure to keep gutters clean at a specific time.
         Residential areas are patrolled only between the hours of 8 -9 AM and
         again from 12-1 PM. The purpose of this policy is to give property owners
         specific notice as to when they will be subject to inspection and the receipt
         of sanitation summonses related to dirty sidewalks and gutters.
         (Summonses unrelated to sidewalk violations, such as illegal dumping,
         can be written at any time.)
        New York City’s fines for sanitation violations are approximately 100%
         larger than Yonkers’ fines. A typical fine in New York City is $100 for a first
         offense and fines increase for second and third offenses. In Yonkers the
         typical fine is $50.

Conclusions and Recommendations

       Based on our analysis of the facts and understanding of the legal
obligations of property owners to keep their properties and sidewalks clean, we
conclude the following:

Allegations of Discrimination are not Substantiated

     1. The allegations that the Code Enforcement Bureau and a specific CEO
        engaged in discrimination in the issuance of sanitation related
        summonses are unsubstantiated. There is no evidence to support the
        allegation that there is a pattern of possible discrimination unfairly
        targeting minorities. To the contrary, with respect to the complaints that
        we investigated, we found that there was well documented, non-
        discriminatory reasons for the summonses that were issued. The CEOs

19
   The publication is available on-line from the New York City Department of Sanitation’s website
at www.nyc.gov/ dsny, (click on the button for Digest of Codes).


                                                                                               22
        testimony explaining the tickets they issued was credible, and their
        actions were consistent with applicable law and Bureau of Enforcement
        policy and procedure.
     2. A closer examination of the complaints against the Bureau revealed that
        the complainants were not really alleging discrimination. In most cases
        the property owners had little if any direct interactions with the CEOs who
        had issued the tickets and all stated that they had no knowledge of actual
        discrimination. 20 Instead, the complaints focused on what was perceived
        to be unfairness directed toward property owners. Property owners
        complained that they should not be held responsible for litter related
        conditions that they had no control over. They felt that the litter and debris
        problems were caused by irresponsible tenants, improper garbage
        collection, windy conditions, and people in the community who engaged in
        illegal dumping. Because of these circumstances, the property owners
        believed that fairness dictated that they should be given warnings before
        summonses were issued. We were not persuaded by these arguments.
     3. The applicable law pertaining to the obligations of property owners makes
        clear that property owners are responsible for the litter and other
        unsanitary conditions on their properties regardless of who or what
        created the condition. The Nodine Hill and South Broadway/Riverdale
        Avenue neighborhoods have litter problems that landlords cannot divorce
        themselves from. Landlords receive economic benefits from their
        ownership of income producing, residential property, and must, therefore
        meet the minimum requirements of the law, regardless of the associated
        costs or inconvenience. The City should not have to give a property
        owner a warning every time their properties fail to meet sanitation code
        standards.
     4. Our investigation also revealed that Council Member Annabi’s letter
        incorrectly characterized the complainants as homeowners living on the
        premises. Generally, the complaining property owners were absentee
        landlords, not resident homeowners. 21

The Need for Clarity in Enforcement Policy and Procedure

     5. Although we find that the City Bureau of Enforcement did not discriminate,
        and that property owners have a legal obligation to keep their properties
        free of litter and debris, we agreed with Council Member Annabi’s
        assessment that policies and procedures with respect to the enforcement
        of litter violations should be clarified.
     6. During our review we learned of several unwritten policies and practices
        regarding when CEOs will issue litter warnings and summonses. For

20
   The one hearsay allegation about targeting “rich Arabs” was unsubstantiated, and thus not
credible.
21
   Of the complainants that we interviewed, Betty Christobal was the only resident owner and the
St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church was a religious organization, otherwise all other complainants
were landlords.


                                                                                              23
         example, litter and debris tickets are not usually written on garbage
         collection days in order to give owners the opportunity to clean up litter
         and debris which was not picked up. Tickets for litter are also usually not
         written on very windy or rainy days. We also learned that warnings are
         usually not given to property owners who have a history of violations.
         Further, we learned that property owners who occasionally have special
         needs can call the Enforcement Bureau to resolve matters or request
         additional time for compliance, and thus, often avoid being ticketed.
     7. We believe that the flexibility that the Code Enforcement Bureau exhibited
         is appropriate because it reflects a practical approach to dealing with the
         many different problems associated with proper garbage disposal. 22
         However, we also believe that property owners have a right to know what
         is expected of them, and should have access to the policies and
         procedures that the Bureau employs when enforcing the Code. We
         believe the City can do better at communicating its policies and
         procedures.
     8. In New York City, the Department of Sanitation, which is responsible for
         enforcing sanitation violations, provides a 40 page pamphlet (available
         on-line) which provides detailed descriptions of the rights and obligations
         of property owners with respect to the City of New York’s enforcement of
         sanitation codes. We strongly recommend that Yonkers develop a similar
         publication.
     9. Three specific aspects of the New York City publication that we
         particularly liked were: 1) New York City’s “enforcement routing” policy
         which limits the times when littering tickets are issued. This puts landlords
         on notice – and removes the uncertainty that some of the Yonkers’
         landlords complained of – as to the specific times they will be inspected
         for litter and debris violations. 2) The New York City publication contains
         photographs of typical conditions that constitute sanitation violations.
         These photographs help clarify the question of what constitutes litter for
         enforcement purposes. 3) The New York City fines are significantly higher
         than Yonkers’ fines. We believe that larger fines which increase for
         second and third time offenders would create a greater incentive for
         owners to keep their properties clean and otherwise abide by the
         requirements of the City Code.
     10. A Yonkers City pamphlet, modeled on New York City’s publication, would
         resolve the questions that Council Member Annabi raised about what
         constitutes litter and what are the obligations of responsible property
         owners.
     11. Except for the purpose of increasing fi nes, we do not believe that there is
         a need for new legislation to address issues related to litter and debris. All
         that is needed is a better understanding of the obligations of property
         owners, and how the City will enforce the existing laws.

22
   The New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials publication entitled Propert y
Maintenance: From Nuisance Properties to Unsaf e Buildings, June 2005 states that “[e]very
effective code enforc ement program must be comprehensive yet flexible.”


                                                                                              24
The Need for Additional Enforcement Strategies

   12. When we first began this investigation, we were startled by the severity of
       the litter and dumping problems in the neighborhoods subject to our
       review. The problems persist despite the best efforts of DPW and the
       Enforcement Bureau.
   13. We were the most shocked by the dumping conditions on two vacant lots
       adjacent to the “Elm Street Steps”. DPW officials characterized the
       condition as so extreme as to constitute an illegal landfill. When we
       alerted the administration to the need to take immediate action to address
       this condition, we were pleased that in a matter of a few weeks, the
       property owners were persuaded to live up to their obligations under the
       law and clean up the dumpsite.
   14. The quick action on the Elm Street Steps landfill demonstrated to us that
       concerted City efforts can play a significant role in addressing litter and
       dumping problems. One such new initiative, for which the City
       administration deserves credit, has been the installation of surveillance
       cameras at several known dumping areas in the City. The existence of
       these cameras has resulted in a decrease of dumping at these locations.
   15. We believe, however, that there is more that can be achieved in the area
       of legal enforcement. The CEOs that we interviewed expressed their
       collective frustration over violations that went unabated for long periods of
       time. Certain scofflaws simply abdicated their responsibilities, failed to
       remediate violations, and then, with apparent impunity, ignored the tickets
       they received.
   16. With respect to these scofflaws, we learned that tickets designated as
       being subject to warrants for arrest or subject to corporate default
       judgments were not acted upon. Thus, the tickets issued for these
       violations had no effect, and the violators/scofflaws were not subject to
       any punishment.
   17. We believe that the Law Department should implement new legal
       strategies to address the issues surrounding scofflaws. Specifically, 1) In
       appropriate circumstances, the Corporation Counsel should request that
       the Police Department enforce outstanding arrest warrants; 2) Nuisance
       abatement actions, which are specifically authorized by State and local
       law, should be commenced against property owners to address large
       scale dumping problems and other chronic sanitation problems. If
       appropriate, the County Health Department, which has additional
       authority under the New York State Public Health Law, should be
       requested to become involved; and 3) Civil actions, which are authorized
       by the City Code and provide for stiff civil penalties in the tens of
       thousands of dollars, should be commenced against property owners who
       demonstrate a continuous unwillingness to meet their obligations to keep
       their properties clean.




                                                                                 25
Other Recommendations

     18. We were generally impressed with the programs that the City has
         implemented through the Department of Public Works to combat the
         problem of illegal dumping, but recognize that the dumping and litter
         problems persist despite the City’s efforts.
     19. In the interviews that we conducted with the comp lainants, we asked each
         what could be done to better control litter and illegal dumping. Most of the
         recommendations that we heard concerned the specific problems related
         to the complainants’ properties. We believe that these suggestions should
         be collected, perhaps by Council Member Annabi’s office, and forwarded
         to the Mayor’s Office for review and consideration by the appropriate City
         agencies. There may be some solutions to some of the chronic problems
         that are relatively easy to implement. 23
     20. We also believe that DPW should study whether its policy of not
         accepting construction debris and bulk items at the City dump from
         residents who live in buildings with more than six units is contributing to
         the illegal dumping problems in the City. When debris is illegally dumped
         on City-owned property, the City must remove it. A change in policy
         regarding access to the City dump may lessen the amount of illegal
         dumping.
     21. Finally, we recommend that the Code Enforcement Bureau change its
        policy of permanently assigning CEOs to patrol a particular quadrant of
        the City and implement a policy of rotating CEOs on at least an annual
        basis. Such a policy will lead to the CEOs having a better familiarity with
        the entire City, promote uniformity in CEO enforcement practices, and
        provide a necessary internal control to help ensure the integrity of
        enforcement operations.




23
  For instance, the represent atives of the St. Thomas Mar Thoma Churc h, believe that trash
barrels and signage in the area where residents tend to congregate could help alleviate the litter
problem on their property.


                                                                                                 26

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Stats:
views:271
posted:11/14/2010
language:English
pages:26
Description: City of New York Divorce Records document sample