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Police Take Increased Role in Illegal Apartment Crackdown

Harrison Police compliance training adds to building department resources to continue the fight against dangerous illegal apartment dwellings

With the exception of the individual landlords and tenants involved, it appears we are all of in agreement that we need to stamp out the problem of illegal apartments.

The safety risks are evident, especially following the multiple deaths in the New York area in the last year when fires in illegal apartments trapped tenants who could not escape. It's something that could also happen here locally.

In addition to these risks, illegal apartments exacerbate infrastructure overload; increase numbers in already crowded schools, create parking problems and overburden community services including public transport and sanitation. When service levels erode and there is overcrowding, property values decrease and we all lose.

So the question is, how can these illegal apartments be eliminated?

Like most Westchester communities, Harrison has struggled with this issue for decades. Currently Harrison has only one full-time enforcement officer in the building department to deal with these and all other code complaints.

It is not enough to make a difference.

"Nothing has changed," Harrison’s building inspector Bob FitzSimmons said to Patch in . "We chase after them, we will always chase after them, but there's always going to be a property owner willing to take the risk."

With that in mind, Police Chief Anthony Marraccini has stepped in to add additional manpower to fight the issue.

While the police have always worked hand-in-hand with the building department on code enforcement, Marraccini recently sent his first officer for code enforcement certification training. 

“We have been working with the town’s building inspector for a long time and he has been doing a fine job,” Marraccini said. “However, the police are on the streets and on the front line so they see evidence of these illegal apartments first-hand and it makes sense that we could assist further. Whatever we do, it has to be in conjunction with the building inspector—it’s clearly important that we work as a team.”

Marraccini says that this established close working relationship has already shown success.

“Working along with the building department we have achieved compliance in 30 to 40 locations,” Marraccini said. "It is important that this continues and that everything is done as a team.”

To that end, Harrison Police will follow up any complaints made to them, in conjunction with building department personnel.

“We can help by taking the investigations a step further, photographing and monitoring locations to get probable cause where necessary," Marraccini said. "I want everyone to know that no complaint goes unaddressed.” 

Community members can play a role in the process by reporting suspected incidences to the police who will keep citizens’ names confidential.

“It is important that the community get the information to us so that we can work with the building department to take action and feed back results,” Marraccini said. “This information is a two-way process and can be very important in helping us as a community to crack down on this issue seriously.”

Ross Revira March 20, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Take the financial incentive away from the landlords. When they are caught the penalty should be equal to the rent collected. Register any property that is being rented and have the landlord sign the application attesting to the number of units. The penalty for a false registration is far greater than a simple building violation. Lastly nothing will change until neighbors are fed up with all the congestion caused by their greedy "friends".
Not on of the Good Old Boys March 20, 2012 at 01:29 PM
It’s about time we take charge of our town. We all know this is not working with one full time? Over paid code enforcement personnel? The Police will do there job and help bring this town back from a down hill slide. Now the Town Board has to keep its word to the rest of the campaign promises. And enforce the laws they pass like no commercial parking, and to bring back the services we all pay for. I know this new garbage truck will be sold after it can’t do its job of picking up cans that fall or are behind a parked truck. Just like the $300,000.00 dredger that sold for $100,000.00??? We need service not over sized trucks that don’t work in our community.
Cadeyrn March 20, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Port Chester should do likewise.
Oscar Delannoya March 20, 2012 at 02:19 PM
PC could never do it as it's a cesspool of slum lords and politicians that have a license to steal . It would just be another hand in the pocket of PC tax payers .
Palma Salvietti March 20, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I agree with you I have gone directly to the building department on 3 occassions for the same landlord and it took them forever to go check it out. I like the idea of the police doing surveillance to catch these people. How about this same person has 2 boarders living in his house where my granddaughter spends every other weekend he took her bedroom away and she is 5 years old to give it to a boarder. So now he is collecting money from 3 tenants
grassroots March 22, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Does anyone know if its legal to take in boarders in a one family dwelling?
not one of the good old boys March 22, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Harrison is not to far from becomming PC we have the same self serving politicians and slum lords Take a look at Halstead Ave. Also look at the sign on Harrison Ave. Take a one family lot and make it into (2) (2) family lots. Now you have 4 or more renters not one owner living in a Home. Just more rental income homes with more money fo the owners not a good way to make a community . Look out Harrison
grassroots March 22, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Hay Not one of thG O Bs Where is this lot on Harrison Ave? I would like to see what evolves of this attempt.
Ross Revira March 23, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Some towns have laws regulating how many non family members can live in the dwelling. There are also laws that regulate legal boarding houses. Every town is different. Don't confuse legal sub-dividing of ones property and building legal one or two family homes with the issue of illegal apartments.
anthony coluccio June 05, 2012 at 01:50 AM
i used to live in west harrison..what a deplorable..BLUE collar community..every stiks their nose in your bussiness...huge trucks parked everywhere..the ONCE highly regarded schools..(ruined by yes non english speaking children,,,yes)...and shit teachers.I AKED WHY AM I LIVING HERE??? UGHHH..I moved to Garrison..best move of my life..and yes..yes im 2nd generation Italian.
ANDREA February 25, 2013 at 04:56 PM
@ Cadeyrn U are 200% RIGHT they will have a feast in Port Chester example were i live they have 6 apartments 4 units with 4 apartment has 3 bedroom 1 unite has a 2 bedroom and 1 united a studio in 3 of the 3 bedroom all the room are rented 1 3 bedroom apartment i live in it just me husband and 2 kids its hard to pay rent on are own but here u have people rent even the kitchen and driving very nice car if i was 2 rent out rooms ill be able to get a very nice car and have money to play with here were are American and can't live a good life that is sooooooooooo sad

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