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Village Board Increases Housing Violation Fines

New law raises minimum, maximum fines for repeat violators

The Village of Westbury Board of Trustees took action on several significant matters at its April 5 meeting, including the enactment of a new local law that will be the village’s latest tool in curbing illegal housing.

“Virtually every part of the village is affected to some degree or another by illegal housing, and there are certain parts of the village that are affected significantly,” stated Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro.

“We have many instances in the village court where we have absentee landlords who really don’t care about the effects that their moneymaking businesses have on our community, and for them, sometimes the fines have just been a minor cost of doing business,” he continued.

Added Village Attorney Dwight Kraemer, “Essentially, what we’re attempting to do with this amendment is to increase the minimum as well as the maximum fines for repeat offenders who violate the housing law.”

According to Kraemer, the minimum fine for second offenders will increase from $1,000 to $2,500 while the maximum fine will increase from $2,500 to $5,000.

For third offenders, the minimum fine will increase from $2,500 to $5,000.

A resident commented that the amounts of the fines seemed to be too low.

Senior Building Inspector William Mello explained that the fines are based on each individual count and that the total fine could be a far greater amount.

“In most housing instances, we’re looking at a minimum of five counts, sometimes as many as 10 or 15 counts, so those are multiplied by that number,” stated Mello.

Another resident inquired as to what action the village would take if a violator refused to pay the fines.

“We had a special proceeding with many people that were in that category,” responded Kraemer.

“Essentially, the judge advised those people that they were delinquent in paying their fines, and if they persisted in doing that, they were going to be sent to jail as an alternative.

“We got a lot of cooperation with that approach, and there are people that have either paid if off completely or are now actively participating in a payment plan,” he continued.

In another public hearing, the board outlined a plan for the use of community development block grant funding that the village is requesting from Nassau County.

“This is a hearing that we have each year regarding an application that we submit to the county for federal money,” said Cavallaro, explaining that the county allocates the money based on a community’s need for economic assistance and community development.

The village is applying for $400,000 for road improvements and $30,000 for maintaining the Westbury Senior Center.

The mayor indicated that the board does not expect to receive the full amount because of funding shortages but that the board was “optimistic that the village will get a significant allocation.”

The board also approved modifications to the village code regarding the 10 percent village tax exemption available to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers who meet the exemption criteria.

The modifications will allow the tax exemption to transfer to the spouses of deceased emergency personnel under special circumstances, so long as the spouses do not remarry.

Village Attorney Kraemer indicated that there are currently three individuals in the village who would benefit from the enhanced provisions to the code.

“This is a very modest enhancement to the tax abatement program that’s available to firefighters and their families, and I think it’s certainly something that we should entertain,” said Cavallaro, citing difficulties that fire departments have had in recruiting volunteers.

The board also authorized a special use permit for Club Napoli USA, a new soccer-based social club, to establish club headquarters at the bottom level of the Dell’Assunta Society Hall on Maple Avenue.

Club Treasurer Vincent Abbatiello described the new organization as a gathering place in which club members can access the television station that broadcasts professional soccer games from Naples, Italy.

Abbatiello indicated that the club’s lease agreement specifically prohibits smoking, alcohol and gambling on the premises.   

“It’s open to everyone, there’s no age limit,” said Abbatiello, adding that the club plans to start a youth soccer program with possible scholarship opportunities as well as an eventual partnership with a professional team in Italy.

In trustee and liaison reports, Trustee Beaumont Jefferson reminded the community that the opening ceremony for Westbury Little League will take place on April 21 at 11 a.m. at the Recreation Center, with a game scheduled for after the ceremony.

Jefferson also mentioned that Fairway Market, which will soon be opening a new store in the area, will host a job fair at the Long Island Marriott on April 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“They’ll be hiring cashiers up to management staff, so if you know anyone looking for a job, it’s a great opportunity,” said Jefferson.

Deputy Mayor Joan Boes also reminded the audience about the 4th Annual Golf Outing to benefit the Senior Center, which will take place on May 16.

Boes mentioned that the center needs help in obtaining prizes, sponsors and volunteers for the event and that anyone interested in assisting should contact the center.  

Public Safety Commission Chairwoman Gloria Monitto announced an upcoming county-hosted safety fair on April 28 and 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Wantagh Park.

“Topics include water safety, electric safety, bike safety, child seat safety and fire safety,” said Monitto, adding that anyone in the community who needs help obtaining a bicycle helmet should let the Public Safety Commission know.

In another public safety-related issue, Mayor Cavallaro updated the community on the village’s request to the State Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit along a portion of Jericho Turnpike after a recent fatal accident near Hicks Nurseries.

“Senator Jack Martins and our various assembly representatives have also written letters to the DOT supporting our request,” said Cavallaro.

“The only feedback we have from the DOT directly is an acknowledgment of the letter advising us that they will be studying it. Hopefully, we will get some more feedback sooner than later,” he concluded.