State Senate hearing in Newburgh looks at housing code enforcement problems

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Harsh words and the blame game were heard Thursday in Newburgh at a state Senate hearing on housing code enforcement problems.

Those problems were specifically about Ramapo, Newburgh and Mount Vernon. The hearing comes just three days after two girls nearly drowned in a pool outside a Spring Valley home with numerous housing violations.

State Sen. James Skoufis says he wants to know whether the town of Ramapo is doing enough to prevent similar situations.

Skoufis grilled Ramapo town officials at the legislative hearing after an investigation found Ramapo to be one of the worst in the state for housing code issues, along with Mount Vernon, Newburgh and Albany.

Rockland County officials testified that Ramapo isn't doing enough to fight illegal housing. Former county fire director Gordon Wren blames town officials.

“It makes no sense whatsoever. Why wouldn't the town enforce the codes? Why would they allow buildings to be occupied without COs for years and years? It's politics,” he said.

Ramapo Town Supervisor Michael Specht said the town meets the state's minimum housing standards – and that’s why a state-appointed monitor was allowed to leave her position overseeing the town last year.

Wren said the state hasn’t done its job either.

“I blame the governor of the state of New York because he’s the captain of this ship,” said Wren.

Lawmakers hope to use testimony given at the hearing to determine which municipalities need more state oversight and what laws could be created to crack down on an illegal housing crisis that many say is only getting worse.

City officials, tenant associations and so-called slumlords from Newburgh and Mount Vernon also testified at the hearing Thursday. Many of them gave conflicting statements over various housing issues in their cities. 

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