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People of Incorporated Village of Westbury v. Gray

Justice Court of the Incorporated Village of Westbury, Nassau County

June 15, 2017

The People of Incorporated Village of Westbury
v.
Lloyd Gray, Defendant.

          FOR THE VILLAGE: ANNA K. VIKSE, ESQ., Village Attorney and Prosecutor.

          FOR THE DEFENDANT: Michael Previto, Esq., Attorney for the Defendant.

          HONORABLE THOMAS F. LIOTTI Village Justice.

         The defendant is charged with seventeen building code violations. It is alleged that the defendant is the owner of the building and property in question. The building in question is a residential, single family, birchwood type, red brick, split level home whose construction is common in this Nassau County and elsewhere. The home is located at 632 Nelson Place in the Incorporated Village of Westbury, Long Island. It is also located within the Westbury Union Free School District and the Town of North Hempstead. [1]

         The Village is a multi-ethnic, racial and religious community in the center of Nassau County. It has a population of approximately 15, 500 not including undocumented immigrants.

         There is a housing shortage throughout the nation which despite the venerable efforts of the Town and Village is also acute in Westbury and within the unincorporated area of the Town adjacent to it, namely New Cassel. New Cassel is part of the Westbury Union Free School District and also has a Westbury Post Office zip code. That same zip code also includes part of the East Meadow Union Free School District in the Town of Hempstead, adjacent to the Village at its southern border but not a part of the Village. That same zip code also includes part of the Village located within the Carle Place Union Free School District.

         The defendant is charged with seventeen building code violations as follows:

Summons No. Charge
11942 Renting without a permit
11943 Inadequate egress - key locks and 4 guest bedrooms
11944 Lack of operable smoke detectors
11945 Conversions, change of use of C.O.
11946 Construction without a permit
11947 Electrical work performed without a Westbury Villageelectrical license
11948 Electrical work done without a U/L Certificate or a C.C.
11949 Plumbing work performed without a license
11950 Plumbing work without a permit
11951 Cellar used as habitable space
11952 Inadequate egress - cellar
11953 Insufficient light and ventilation
11954 List, solicit, advertise, etc., a rental unit without a permit
11955 Acceptance of deposit for rent or security for a rental unit without rental permit number
11956 Publish written listing, solicitation, advertisement, etc., a rental dwelling unit without a permit number
11957 Pool or spa installed without permits
11958 Dangerous conditions - no handrails.

         Each charge, upon conviction, carries with it a maximum fine of one thousand dollars ($1, 000.00) on a first offense and up to and including 15 days in the Nassau County Jail. A consecutive sentence may then lead to a total of seventeen thousand dollars in fines and up to 255 days in the Nassau County Jail. The Court considers these charges to be extremely serious as they threaten the property values and far more importantly, the lives of residents. While there is a housing shortage, the Court is aware of the exploitation of the poor and undocumented by some unscrupulous landlords, property owners and even absentee slumlords. Neither the Court nor the Village can or will accommodate profiteers engaged in the downzoning of residential property by illegally turning single family homes into illegal occupancies. Providing for illegal housing is not a public service. It is a dangerous enterprise.

         These issues adversely impact on the residential character of the community in many ways including, but not limited to, the quality of education and the costs for the rendition of additional municipal services. Homes that are zoned and taxed as single family dwellings but which are occupied illegally carry with them the additional expenses of water, utilities and garbage usage. The reality is that if you cannot afford to buy or maintain a legal, single family home, then you should not own one. Single family homes in this Village should not be viewed as investment opportunities where they can be cut up into separate apartments or rooms occupied by or rented to persons not part of a single family.

         The New York Court of Appeals in McMinn v. The Town of Oyster Bay, 66 N.Y.2d 544 (1985), gave a definition of a "family" which has been engrafted into our Village Code. Essentially, it is a group of people living together as a single family unit not residing in separate apartments within the home.

         During the more than twenty six years this Court has been on this Bench, it has an extensive history of deciding cases involving alleged illegal occupancies in this Village. See generally a Practice Guide to the Village, Town and District Courts of New York (Reuters Thomson West 1995-present) where this Village Justice is a co-author. See also, for example, People v. Suppa, N.Y.L.J., October 8, 1997 at 1, 25 and 28; People v. Tran, N.Y.L.J., October 7, 1998 at 1, 25 and 29, col.6; People v. Ari Seigler, N.Y.L.J., June 6, 2002 at 1, 17 and 26; People v. Howlett, N.Y.L.J., May 30, 2003 at 1, 17 and 23; People v. Wilfred Dary, N.Y.L.J., June 24, 2003 at 1, 21 and 27, col.6; People v. Beauvil, 2008 NY Slip Op 51370(u) and The Magistrate, Spring, 2004, Vol. 44, No. 1 @ 22 and 23; People v. Ventura, 3 Misc.3d 1107 (A), [2] 787 N.Y.S.2d 680 (2004), N.Y.L.J., May 25, 2004 at 1, 17, 19 and 20; People v. Ventura, 6 Misc.3d 1001 (A), 800 N.Y.S.2d 354, NY Slip Op 51695(u), N.Y.L.J., February 1, 2005 at 1, 17, 19 and 20; People v. Juana Ventura, 2007 NY Slip Op 51949(u), N.Y.L.J., November 13, 2007 at 1, 17 and 19 and People v. Alba Garcia, 17 Misc.3d 1106 A, 851 N.Y.S.2d 60 (2007), N.Y.L.J., October 22, 2007 at 1, 17, 21 and 22.

         Ironically, the defendant has alleged that Code Enforcement Officers and the Village are discriminating against him because he is African-American. This remarkable assertion is made despite the fact that Beaumont Jefferson, the Treasurer for Nassau County and a Trustee in the Village who is also African-American resides on Nelson Place, the same block from which these charges emanate. Also, on that same street resides the Ewing family. The Ewings are all African-Americans. Floyd Ewing is a lawyer and Past President of the Westbury Union Free School District Board of Education.

         It should also be noted that Village Trustee William Wise, an African-American, also resides in that same part of the community. The late Village Trustee Alphonse Campbell (dec.) also an African-American lived in that part of the community known as Sherwood. His wife, an African American continues to reside there with her daughter Karin who is a former member ...


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