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Village Trustees Discuss Housing Enforcement

Cavallaro: 54 houses flagged, seven found in violation of code

Village of Westbury officials discussed a wide variety of topics at their monthly board meeting Dec. 1, including the latest updates on the housing enforcement effort, liaison reports regarding the Westbury Public Schools and many additional items of community interest.

Senior Building Inspector William Mello discussed the most recent results of the increased focus on housing enforcement.

“In the last month, 54 houses were red-flagged by my department because there was a possibility of over-occupancy or some kind of illegal tenancy, or a past issue at the house that we wanted to check on again,” said Mello.

“Of the 54 houses that we attempted to inspect, we were able to inspect 26 of them, and of the 26 we found seven houses that did have some sort of housing violation,” he stated.

Village Mayor Peter Cavallaro added that there had been “a very substantial prosecution” in terms of fines and an expected jail sentence in regards to a Belmont Avenue home, which had been a repeated source of housing violations.

“When we’re in court, and especially when we’re talking about second and third-time violators, we’re going to be less willing to plea bargain or settle those cases, and if those defendants want to go to trial, we’re going to try to get as steep a sanction against them as possible,” said Cavallaro.

“If they’re second or third-time violators, they’re obviously operating as a business to exploit people by putting them in housing that is really not suitable, and by the same token, exploiting the neighborhoods that they’re in for their own profit.

“We’re not going to tolerate that,” stated Cavallaro.

“Our obligation as a board is to protect not only the neighborhoods and the quality of life that we have here, but it’s also to make sure that people, especially children, are not living in unsafe, unsanitary or unhealthy conditions,” he concluded.

Public safety issues were also discussed by Village Recreation Supervisor Michael Jackson, who represents the village on the Westbury School District Public Safety Committee.

“I think it’s instrumental for the village to continue to work with the schools because we’re in such close proximity, and we work with a lot of the same kids,” said Jackson, citing the afterschool programs provided by the Recreation Center.

Jackson expressed concern about bullying in the schools that has intermittently extended to the afterschool program, as well as recent public safety concerns at the Westbury Middle School, which is located near the Recreation Center building.

“There were three incidents where people in vehicles approached young girls at the middle school,” said Jackson, adding that the school had obtained a license plate on one of the vehicles for investigation.

Jackson also mentioned that, on the positive side, gang activity in the schools has seen a recent decline in terms of fewer students choosing to wear gang-related fashion paraphernalia.

“Another good thing that happened recently is that a new football program for mostly middle school kids, the ‘Westbury Wolverines,’ took a team down to Florida the week before Thanksgiving,” said Jackson.

“They participated in two games inside a professional stadium, which was a very good experience for the kids,” he continued.

Deputy Mayor Joan Boes, who serves as liaison between the village and the school district, also reported on a recent event she attended.

“The event was the Annual Legislator’s Day, and it was organized as part of the national effort to ensure that legislators stay in touch with their public schools,” said Boes.

“There were also county and community agencies there that serve our student population in Westbury, and there was an interactive discussion with the students.

 “It was a very exciting program, because the students asked very thoughtful and wonderful questions,” she continued.

Boes also mentioned that residents interested in school district news might wish to pick up a copy of the 2009-2011 Westbury Public Schools Annual Report from the district office.

“It’s a very comprehensive report that outlines and highlights each school in the district along with the services for the children and the personnel that develop these programs,” said Boes.

“I think it’s well worth having if you want to know what’s happening with the public schools in Westbury,” she concluded.

In his mayor’s report, Cavallaro discussed some ongoing and upcoming programs in the village, including the Westbury Business Improvement District’s “B.I.D. Dollars” initiative as well as a new commuter parking permit renewal program.

“Saturday, Nov. 26 was ‘Small Business Saturday,’ a national event that promotes shopping locally in small businesses and downtowns,” said the mayor.

He reminded the community about the B.I.D.’s newsletter, which was recently mailed to residents along with $35 of coupons for use at Post Avenue restaurants, retailers and service businesses.

“We have a lot of terrific businesses on Post Avenue, so I would like to ask the community to support our local merchants during the holiday shopping season,” said Cavallaro.

Cavallaro also informed residents that the village will continue its leaf removal program until Dec. 15.

“There will probably be another two passes through all of the neighborhoods when the village will be picking up leaves raked into the street,” said Cavallaro, adding that residents also have the option of bagging the leaves for a later recycling pickup.

Village Newsletter Editor Raymond Muntz also reminded the audience to check the latest edition of the newsletter for a special guide on identifying recyclable and non-recyclable items, and how to prepare recyclable items for proper disposal.

The village board also introduced two local laws at the meeting, which are scheduled for further discussion at the following board meeting on Jan. 5.  

One local law is to designate a no-parking zone on Parkway Drive on one side of the sump near Rose Avenue.

The other law is to give the board authorization to exceed the state-legislated 2 percent tax cap on year-to-year municipal budget increases.

“This doesn’t mean that we’re going to introduce or enact a budget that actually exceeds the tax cap,” said Cavallaro.

 The mayor explained that the state law allows municipalities, including villages, to enact a local law that gives them the ability to override the tax cap in a given budget year if necessary.

He added that the Nassau County Village Officials Association and the New York Conference of Mayors recommended that all municipalities enact this type of local law to avoid penalties in case it becomes necessary to exceed the tax cap.

“All three budgets that we’ve enacted in the last three years have seen overall year-to-year reductions in spending from the prior year, and last year we had a zero percent tax increase.  

“Our budget’s going to be the tightest budget we can put together and it is expected to be within the tax cap,” continued Cavallaro, inviting residents to attend the January board meeting to learn more about the proposal.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, a resident asked if there were any existing plans for the vacant building that was formerly Don Juan’s restaurant.  

“Currently the application that we have in our office is to basically demolish the whole stretch of buildings between Ellison Avenue and Albany Avenue and to build a new retail building,” said Building Inspector Mello.  

“The process is slow because the application will be subject to some planning board and zoning board review, but we do have the application at this time,” stated Mello.

Newsletter Editor Muntz, who is also on the board of the Westbury Historical Society, reported that the developer has been in contact with the Society to acquire photos and other material about the theater from the past to display inside the theater when it is completed.

“The Historical Society is thinking about doing a program on the history of the movie theater, so if anyone has any relevant information, please contact us,” requested Muntz.

Trustee Beaumont Jefferson mentioned that the Sherwood Civic Association will be hosting their annual holiday party on Dec. 10 at the Community Center and community residents are encouraged to attend.