Rockland officials at odds over illegal housing crisis

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Officials in a Rockland town are taking two different views on the issue of illegal housing is, just days before a high-profile hearing with state lawmakers on the topic.

Gordon Wren, Rockland County's former director of emergency and fire services, says there is a two-family home on Hempstead Road in Ramapo that is home to multiple families - and the town is doing nothing about it.

“It's six years of constant complaints and requests for updates and the town can't still get this building into conformance,” says Wren.

Wren is set to testify Thursday, alongside other authorities, before state lawmakers about the illegal housing crisis in Ramapo. The town has been identified as one of the four worst in the state for illegal housing, with Newburgh, Mount Vernon and Albany.

“In Ramapo and several of its villages, it's out of control. It's outrageously irresponsible, dangerous -I can't find enough adjectives to describe how bad it is,” says Wren.

But if you talk with Ramapo Town Supervisor Michael Specht, there is no crisis.

“Like every other municipality, I think it's happening. Is it an epidemic problem in Ramapo? I don't think so,” he says.

Wren says Specht is either intentionally distorting the facts or is “out of touch with reality.”

So how bad is the problem there? County officials estimate that within just a half mile of Hempstead Road house, there are several hundred other illegally converted or occupied buildings.

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