Prior to the last Williston Park Village Board meeting the board held public hearing to rescind the Rental Registration Law.
The boardroom was filled to "standing room only" capacity as the board secretary read the legal notice announcing the hearing.
Mayor Ludwig Odierna then opened the public hearing and said, "The reason tonight we are rescinding the rental registration law is twofold. Number one: It is not the economic time. We have people who have lost their jobs; people are moving back in with their families and the board feels that it is not the right time to do this. The board, however, is well-aware that we have illegal housing going on in the village. We will still be looking at that.
"Number two: The reason that we want to rescind the law is that the presentation was not as it should have been, open to the entire village. It was originally listed as going out to two family homes and there was a lot of misunderstanding. Two family homes, no it was a four rental units. It was a big misconception so the board feels we should rescind the law."
He then called for trustee comments and trustee Beth Swendsen Dowd said, "We listened and everybody had really thoughtful and concise points; and we learned a lot, and you're residents and we listened to you. We spent many, many hours talking about it in workshops and executive board meetings, but the most important thing is that you spoke to us about what your concerns were and we listened and we heard you. So we determined that the best thing to do for the village was to rescind the rental registration law."
After her short speech the entire group of assembled residents broke out in thunderous applause. The mayor then opened the meeting for public comments.
The first resident to speak was Tom Granger who said, "I just would like to say that this victory is more yours than ours. The reason I say that is that you could have very well said you were going to do this no matter what, but no, you made this a representative government. Something that we cherish forever. There is a group of laws on the books that have been on forever and the most important of those is "love thy neighbor as thy self" and you demonstrated that. I just hope now we can push the rescind button and go back, and instead of having two groups we can repair relationships and become one voice."
Next to speak was Village Court Justice Alan Reardon who said, "Mr. mayor you said "at this time." Does that mean you are withdrawing this totally or will you bring it back again?"
The mayor said, "We want to look at the law again. Not at this particular time. The main reason for this law is safety, it is not the $200, but it is the safety of the residents living in Williston Park. The board has an obligation to every person that lives here. That is why we are going to look at it. I will also ask members of the Williston Park Civic Association to meet to formulate something going forward so that we can get something that works.
"I saw what other villages have done and no village has done this overnight. This takes a long time and you need a consensus of people and that is why we are looking to work with you, because this is your village. We are just here to work with you. You elected us to represent you and that is why we have to go after illegal housing down the road. It's as simple as that. Safety is what we are looking for. I don't need to have people killed in fire, as we had on Park Avenue, 10 or 15 years ago and it shouldn't have happened."
Judge Reardon added, "Well, this law will be off the books as soon as this is filed with the Secretary of State. But, in the future, make sure that any new laws proposed are well broadcast well before discussion, so that the residents don't suddenly wake up and find out the law is there."
Mayor Odierna replied, "That is our intent, Judge."
Judge Reardon said, "But, that didn't happen the first time."
Odierna said, "No it didn't, and I objected to that and there was a reason for that. One that I am not at liberty to discuss."
Judge Reardon continued, "I guess we do have illegal housing in the village and have any of the board members been approached about that and if so what are you doing about it?"
Mayor Odierna responded, "We mention it to our building inspector. And, we leave it with him. We are the legislative body and we don't want to get into enforcing the law."
Judge Readon asked if there were any results from the notification.
Deputy Mayor Ann Marie Smith added, "We need proof and when we go to get an affidavit signed, we find that neighbors don't want to go against neighbors."
Judge Reardon said, "Well, I can tell you if you have sufficient proof, you won't need an affidavit signed, because I can issue you a search warrant. I don't want to hear people say I talked to somebody and nothing happened. But, if you build it up we can get an administrative search warrant and that will start the ball rolling."
Mayor Odierna added, "As Ann Marie said, we need your cooperation in order to earmark it so that we can make sure the law is enforced properly. It's an awful thing to see part of a family decimated by fire and I witnessed that, so it's all safety."
The next to speak was former village trustee Ray Cross, who wanted to know what the cost of this bill was to enact. He said, "To run everybody through three or four meetings and then rescind it. Can you tell us what the cost was?"
Mayor Odierna said, "I have no idea."
Cross said, "Could the village attorney and the village staff find out?"
The mayor answered, "Sure. As I said before, this is not an easy law to pass. None of the villages have done it on the first shot."
Another resident wanted to know if the original monetary amount of $200 attached to the bill would buy safety for every resident of Williston Park?
The mayor replied, "It's more an administrative cost for every other year which works out to be a minimal cost. To get people to work on this and we don't want to increase taxes. The worst thing that we could do today is to increase your taxes."
He then commended, "How many of you are on fixed incomes? How many have lost jobs? How many people lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the stock market or on 401Ks? Let's face it, these are the things that we are very sensitive about. We are very sensitive about all of you."
Another resident said, "Just to clarify this, what we are doing here is simply rescinding the need to register and pay a fee. We are not intending to infer on any illegal units a referral of legality."
Odierna said, "lllegal housing is still against the law. It's the rental registration law that we are rescinding."
Mary Rayan said, "Now, just to clarify in my mind. We were raising the amount of the fee?"
Mayor Odierna said, "No, there is no fee, we are rescinding the law altogether."
Ryan countered, "So, if I wanted to make my house a two-family house, I don't have to pay."
Odierna said, "No, you would have to go through the village. I will turn it over to building inspector Kerry Collins."
Inspector Collins answered, "You can only make your home into two-family for medical or hardship reasons only."
Paul Ehrbar said, "What about the 'use it or lose' aspect of the law? "
Mayor Odierna said, "We are going to look at that and we were going to put that into rental registration. We have not reacted on that. But, that law is still on the books we did not rescind that part of it."
There were no further comments from the public and village attorney Richard Reers called for a motion to close the hearing. The village clerk Julie Kane called for a vote and the board officially voted to rescind the rental registration law.