GUEST VIEWPOINT: Dousing Fire Traps

GUEST VIEWPOINT: Dousing Fire Traps
Ed Day, Rockland County Executive

It’s been nine months since the New York State Department of State (NYSDOS) tasked Rockland County with the unprecedented takeover of the Village of Spring Valley’s Building Department.

From day one, I told the people of Rockland that our new Office of Buildings and Codes (OBC) will ensure strict compliance with all New York State Fire, Building, and Energy Codes, have zero tolerance for anyone looking to skirt or circumvent the law, and enforce strict quality control and operational oversight to ensure inspections are done right and by the book.

We’ve kept that promise despite the series of hurdles presented at every turn by the Village of Spring Valley. If you are interested in the ongoing efforts our OBC team is making, I urge you to watch a very informative seven-minute video we published on the Rockland County Youtube page which will give you a greater understanding of the complexities and demands we’ve been faced with while trying to complete our New York State-directed mission to fix the mess in Spring Valley.

One of the many alarming discoveries noted is that there was a lack of an official inspection process being followed by the village’s building department and lack of follow-up with no true enforcement placed on landlords to abate existing violations.

When launching this effort, the Village of Spring Valley provided us their “master list” of inspections needed for properties but it didn’t take long for OBC and Director Ed Markunas to discover this list was incorrect and missing key information forcing our legal team to draft a new master list which took two months to create requiring the cross referencing of all village parcels with tax rolls.

The county and village initially entered into an Intermunicipal Agreement (“IMA”) whereby Spring Valley building department inspectors would report to and work under county management. The goal was to train and reorganize Spring Valley employees so when NYSDOS finally decided to return the department back to the village it could be a seamless process.

Sadly, one by one the Spring Valley employees either quit, stopped reporting to work, or outright refused to follow directions regarding inspections and paperwork. Eventually, the county removed every village employee due to these reasons except one.

Despite the challenges this presented, we continue to be aggressive in this endeavor. Since assuming control of the Village of Spring Valley Building Department, we’ve written over 4,000 violations to 491 properties. Additionally, we’ve assessed about $100,000 in fines of which more than 50% we’ve collected.

I pledge to the people of Rockland we will ensure every penny of issued fines are collected and hold landlords accountable for their negligence.

I once again urge our residents to watch the full update on this effort on the Rockland County YouTube Channel:

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