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Village Board Strategizes to Halt Housing Violations

Proposed law will increase fines for repeat offenses

On March 1, the Westbury Village Board of Trustees updated the public on several significant issues, including the latest plan of action to deter illegal housing in the community.

“We’ve done a lot over the last couple of years to try to get a better handle on some of the illegal housing that takes place in the village,” stated Village Mayor Peter Cavallaro, citing increased code enforcement, recent housing sweeps and the use of search warrants. 

“One of the new local laws that we’re going to be taking up is a proposed increase in the fines for housing violations, especially second and third-time offenses,” said the mayor.

“We want to try to make it more punitive on those people who essentially purchase properties in the village and run them like a business, and try to make money by packing as many people as they can into those properties,” explained Cavallaro.

“The more costly we make it for them to do business, the less likely it is that they’re going to be able to run that business,” he continued.

According to the mayor, the increased fines will be supplemented by a “new, more vigorous approach in court” that will involve fewer instances of plea-bargaining in housing violation cases.

The proposed law will be discussed in more detail at a public hearing during the village’s next regular meeting on April 5. The mayor also gave an update on the upcoming budget, which is currently being prepared by the board.

“We’re working under the additional constraint of the two percent tax cap, which the state legislature and the governor implemented last year.

“A couple of months ago, we enacted a local law as a protective measure which enabled us to supersede the tax cap, but I think we’re going to be well below that limit,” stated Cavallaro.

“We’re going to try to adopt a budget that’s consistent with the last three, which I think have shown fiscal restraint while still getting the job done,” he said.

Cavallaro added that the budget would be finalized in several weeks as a tentative budget before being presented to the public. The public hearing on the budget will take place on April 19 at Village Hall at 7:30 p.m.

Cavallaro also briefly discussed Nassau County’s recent plan involving precinct closures and consolidations.

“The county executive’s plan calls for the reinstitution of the POP Cops, or Problem-Oriented Police, which were eliminated a couple of years ago,” said the mayor.

“POP Cops are police officers that are assigned to specific communities to address specific community needs. A lot of local officials complained when they were eliminated, so there’s supposed to be a restoration of a number of them with the reorganization that’s taking place,” said Cavallaro.

Cavallaro reminded the community that the Third Precinct, which covers the Village of Westbury, will remain open and that the county has pledged to the village that services will not be reduced.

A resident expressed a concern that police and fire emergency vehicles may have trouble finding houses in the village that have either absent or indiscernible house numbers.

“The simple answer is that neither the police department nor the fire department has that problem,” responded Village Trustee Steven Corte.

Corte explained that police and fire emergency vehicles are equipped with a technologically advanced mapping system known as GIS, or Geographic Information System.

“Before the drivers get to the scene, they know where everything is, including hydrant locations,” said Corte.

Several other community interest items were discussed at the meeting, including an update on the Post Avenue theater property, the formation of a new village council and upcoming local programs and events.

Regarding the theater, the mayor stated that, “It doesn’t look like a lot has happened over the last couple of months, but actually, if you look inside the theater, the developer has completed the floor deck, which is important.

“The next step is probably going to be to take down the exposed timbers, which are probably almost 100 years old, and to replace them with steel and other support beams,” he continued.

“The board has done everything it can to get the developer to a point where he can now move ahead and complete the building. I think over the next couple of months as we head into spring and summer, we’re going to see it start to move more quickly,” said Cavallaro.

Cavallaro also announced the creation of a Latino Advisory Council in the village.

“One of the first projects we’re going to undertake is to put together some material of some of the basics of the village, and have it translated into Spanish,” said the mayor.

“We recognize that we have a sizeable Spanish-speaking population in the village, and we need to try to figure out how to better communicate with them,” continued Cavallaro.

The mayor also mentioned that the village has been working on the PEG (Public, Educational and Government) Access Program with Cablevision and Verizon to broadcast local events such as village meetings.

“Hopefully, within the next six to eight months, we’re going to have a public access television station for people who can’t attend some of the events that are going on in the community,” said Cavallaro.

Westbury Historical Society board member Raymond Muntz stated that the society has also been taping its events to share with a wider audience, such as last month’s successful program on Westbury Little League’s World Series championship.

Muntz also reported to the board and to the community that a publisher approached the Historical Society to put together a picture book about Westbury.

Village Recreation Supervisor Michael Jackson informed the community about upcoming programs at the Recreation Center, including the reinstatement of the ceramics program for youth and adults as well as the Annual Easter Egg Hunt children’s event, which will take place on March 31.

Village Trustee Beaumont Jefferson added that the Recreation Center is also hosting the opening ceremony for Westbury Little League on April 21at 10 a.m.