Quality of Life Enforcement Legislation Passes City Council $1.6 billion in outstanding debt could be recovered

04/07/2016
$1.6 billion in outstanding debt could be recovered
New York, NY – Today, the City Council passed three bills co-authored by Council Members Ben Kallos and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland to improve quality of life enforcement by including specific information to identify who is responsible for violations and requiring agencies to consider prior offenses when issuing or renewing permits, licenses and registrations. These reforms will not only improve the City’s collection efforts, but will more importantly change the behaviors that harm quality of life and jeopardize public health and safety. 

The bills passed are:
  • Int. 810-A by Kallos, requires agencies to consider prior offenses and outstanding debts to the city prior to issuing or renewing permits, licenses and registrations with reporting on when they are denied.
  • Int. 807-A by Ferreras-Copeland, requires agencies issuing summonses to "owner of" to make reasonable efforts to learn the actual name and amen. Currently, violations issued to “owner of” are difficult for the Department of Finance (DOF) to collect on.
  • Int. 812-A by Kallos, requires agencies to include the borough, block, and lot number (BBL) and building identification number (BIN) on summonses. A major difficulty in DOF’s collection efforts is that summonses do not contain sufficient information to identify the responsible party.
Every day council members receive calls, emails, and even tweets with photos of quality of life problems like trash on sidewalks, noise before or after hours, and dangerous construction. Until now, a 311 complaint might result in a violation, but those violations were rarely collected, and thus not truly enforced. This package of legislation will give the City power to collect on this money and ensure that the violations are addressed.
 
“Quality of life is about to get better because city agencies will finally be considering prior offenses when issuing or renewing approvals businesses need,” said Council Member Ben Kallos Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. “For far too long, quality of life violations have gone uncollected, to the tune of $1.6 billion, with bad actors continuing bad behavior to the detriment of their communities, which we hope to change.”
 
“Thanks to the collaboration between the Council and the Department of Finance, we now have ongoing reporting and increased enforcement of outstanding Environmental Control Board judgments, which will go a long way in  helping us recuperate the $1.6 billion the City is owed. The goal of this amnesty program is not only to ensure even faster resolution of ECB debt, but to give property owners and small businesses an opportunity to pay before tougher enforcement is implemented. I thank Council Member Ben Kallos and my colleagues for their support in passing this bill. The Council's Finance Committee will continue to track the Department of Finance’s effort and find new avenues for collecting what is owed,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.
 
“The Environmental Control Board plays a vital role in protecting quality of life in New York City,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “These three bills will help ensure that the ECB’s rulings will be taken seriously and that violators will be held accountable. I thank Council Members Kallos and Ferreras-Copeland for their leadership on this important legislation.
 
The $1.6 billion in uncollected debt was first raised in the Council by Kallos and Ferreras-Copeland during a joint budget hearing of their committees in May 2014. This hearing was followed by a June 2014 DOF report - which provided the basis for the legislation passed today - and Local Law 11 of 2015, which required reporting on ECB violations by DOF. The first report under that local law, issued in November 2015, aided the rationale for these bills by outlining the full scope of the debt problem, including the finding that 78% of the summonses resulting in outstanding debt were issued by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), with 55% of the total outstanding debt resulting from summonses issued by the Department of Buildings (DOB).

Twelve agencies issue ECB violations, which are adjudicated by a tribunal under the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH). The issuing agencies are:
  • Business Integrity Commission (BIC)
  • Department of Buildings (DOB)
  • Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
  • Fire Department (FDNY)
  • Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH)
  • Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT)
  • Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)
  • Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR)
  • Police Department (NYPD)
  • Department of Sanitation (DSNY)
  • Department of Small Business Services (SBS)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)

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