06/25/13 9:59am
06/25/2013 9:59 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Ed Reale of the North Fork Housing Alliance speaking during the Village Board’s rental law hearing Monday.

“Cruel.” “Unjust.” “Over the top.” Those were just some of the harsh words Greenporters, many of them landlords, used to describe a proposed village law to regulate rentals for residential properties during Monday’s public hearing on the issue.

The proposal aims at eliminating illegal apartments within residential homes, which the board believes encourages the deterioration of the Village’s housing stock – leading to blight, excessive traffic, parking problems, an overburden on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns.

The controversial issue has been in limbo for at least three years, according to Mayor David Nyce. Back in December 2012 the mayor said the draft law was changed because residents had expressed privacy concerns. At that time, the Village Board voted to keep the public hearing open and to send the draft law back to the code committee for further review.

During the past several months the draft ideas have been bounced around in code committee. The proposal was recently amended, however the changes do not satisfy residents.

“This is completely out of touch with village history,” said former Greenport mayor David Kapell, who said the laws regulating rentals that are already on the books are sufficient due to past adjustments to regulations.  “Trustee Hubbard, Trustee Phillips, Trustee Robins you were all here in 1979 when Greenport was described as housing some of the worst slums in Suffolk County. There is just no comparison to the conditions that exist today and the conditions that existed then.”

Furthermore, Mr. Kapell said the new proposal targets the poor.

“I don’t know who wrote this thing but it reads like a fascist manifesto to attack immigrants and low-income families that distinguish this village. It talks about a traditional family. What is a traditional family? Who decides? The mayor? It’s preposterous.”

He went on to say that law-abiding landlords would be subject unfair criminalization under the law and leave many more year-round residents, who rent rooms in private residences, on the streets.

Mr. Kapell was not alone in his opinion. Not a single speaker favored the rental regulations.

“This is a mean-spirited law,” said Ed Realer, founder and member of the Board of Directors of the North Fork Housing Alliance and a real estate agent. “It’s vindictive and unfair and I don’t think that’s how this village has operated in the past.”

Mr. Reale said the law was practically uninforcable and intrusive. “The presumptive evidence is way over the top,” he said.

In a letter submitted to the board, an unidentified resident wrote: “This insults me to my core. What is it about this board that thinks it needs regulate other people?”

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Village Trustees (from left to right) David Murray and George Hubbard and Mayor David Nyce listen to the criticism of the proposed rental law.

The law would establish minimum quality standards for habitation, including partitioned bedrooms and separate entrances, kitchens, electric meters and cable lines.

Homeowners that wish to lease space in their homes would be required to obtain a rental permit. A five-member board appointed by the mayor and approved by the Board of Trustees will review the application.

Those found in violation could face fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment.

The board will readdress the issue on July 22.

10/13/12 2:00pm
10/13/2012 2:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Members of the Greenport Planning Board, who said yes this week to the NFHA’s plans to rebuild on Second Street.

The Greenport Village Planning Board has said yes to putting up a new house at 620 Second St. to replace the structure destroyed by fire more than four years ago.

During its first meeting at the Third Street firehouse last Thursday, the all-new Planning Board, appointed Sept. 24, approved the site plan by a vote of 4-0. The Rev. Ben Burns was absent.

The North Fork Housing Alliance, a Greenport-based group that finds affordable housing for low-income residents, has owned the property since 1993, along with an adjacent property at 618 Second St., where another house burned in the August 2008 blaze and was subsequently demolished.

Although the previous Planning Board had approved a site plan for a handicapped-accessible, two-family house at 618 Second St., that lot has remained barren for a few years. The housing alliance has said it plans to start construction on both properties at the same time.

Before last Thursday’s vote, some Planning Board members had questions about drainage and landscaping plans.

Garrett Strang, a Southold-based architect who was hired to design both houses, said stormwater runoff will be maintained on the property through the installation of dry wells. He said he is in the process of finalizing landscaping designs.

Village administrator David Abatelli said after the meeting that the village has attempted to expedite the planning process because the blighted properties have negatively affected the community’s quality of life over the years.

“From the night of the fire to today, it has been a long road,” Mr. Abatelli said.

Mr. Strang, who was the only person to address the Planning Board before the vote, said his new site plan for 620 Second St. includes three parking spaces at the rear of the property.

That change was made after the former board and current Zoning Board of Appeals expressed displeasure during a joint public hearing this summer with the original plan to place the parking area at the front of the house.

Many residents pleaded with the village boards to have the house razed, saying they could still smell the charred wood, especially when it rains. Although severely damaged, the house at 620 Second St. was initially spared because the NFHA believed the three-family structure could be saved.

Renovation work began in February — nearly three and a half years after the fire — once the village cited the alliance and ordered it to stabilize the structure. Shortly after construction began, however, work ceased because engineers found that the structure couldn’t be saved.

The NFHA then determined the charred shell couldn’t be salvaged and demolished the structure in May.

Village officials said both design plans have been approved by Greenport’s Historic Preservation Commission and the houses will be off-white in color.

Mr. Abatelli said he believes it will be another year before construction is completed.

NFHA director Tanya Palmore did not return a phone call seeking comment.

[email protected]

10/05/12 10:00am
10/05/2012 10:00 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Greenport Village Planning Board approved Thursday a site plan for 620 Second Street.

The Greenport Village Planning Board approved Thursday a site plan for 620 Second St. that was destroyed by a fire in 2008.

The Planning Board approved the plan, 4-0. The Rev. Ben Burns was absent from the meeting.

The housing alliance, a Greenport-based group that finds affordable housing for low-income residents, has owned the house since 1993. It also owns the property next door at 618 Second St. The home on that site also burned in the August 2008 blaze and was subsequently demolished.

Although severely damaged, the house at 620 Second St. was initially spared because the NFHA believed the three-family structure could be saved.

Renovation work began in February — nearly three and a half years after the fire — once the village cited NFHA and ordered it to stabilize the structure.

Shortly after construction began, work ceased because engineers found that the structure couldn’t be saved.
The NFHA then determined the charred shell of a house couldn’t be salvaged and demolished the structure in May.

Garrett Strang, a Southold-based architect who was hired to design the houses, spoke prior to the vote and said his new site plan places three parking spaces at the rear of the property. The change was made after the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals expressed displeasure with the original plan to place the parking area at the front of the house.

Village officials said construction could start today since the site plan has been approved.

Read more about this story on Oct. 11 in The Suffolk Times.

[email protected]

07/16/12 6:00pm
07/16/2012 6:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Tonight’s Greenport Village Board work session was at 6 p.m.

The Greenport Village Board held its monthly work session in the Third Street Firehouse at 6 p.m. tonight. Suffolk Times reporter Jennifer Gustavson reported live from the meeting.

The Village Board approved permits submitted by the Greenport Harbor Brewery and the North Fork Housing Alliance.

The Greenport Harbor Brewery has requested to close Carpenter Street — from the front of the brewery to the rear entrance of the Capital One Bank — on July 21 from 3 to 8 p.m. for the brewery’s third annual celebration.

The North Fork Housing Alliance has requested to use 301 North Street on July 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the alliance’s annual Community Day celebration.

Department heads also presented their monthly reports to the Village Board, which are included in the agenda below.

Click on the blog below for a recap and scroll down to view the complete agenda:

Greenport Village Board work session agenda July 16, 2012

05/08/12 2:42pm
05/08/2012 2:42 PM

The controversial fire-damaged house at 620 Second Street in Greenport Village was demolished Tuesday morning, nearly three years and nine months after the fire that destroyed the North Fork Housing Alliance home.

Claudia Helinski, who lives across the street, said demolition started about 7 a.m.

“Watching it was amazing,” said Ms. Helinski, who owns Salamander’s downtown. “When they first touched it, the whole thing started to rock.”

Greenport Village building inspector Eileen Wingate said the housing alliance, a Greenport-based group that finds affordable housing for low-income residents, obtained a building permit Monday to knock the house down.

NFHA has owned the house since 1993. It also owns the property next door at 618 Second St. The home on that site also burned in the August 2008 blaze and was subsequently demolished.

Last month, the village Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board held a joint public hearing to discuss a pending plan to replace the 620 Second St. house.

Ms. Wingate said those public hearings were left opened. The ZBA will discuss NFHA’s variance requests May 16. The planning board will review the site plan May 31.

NFHA is looking to reposition the house, placing it farther back from the street in order to create a parking area in the front yard.

NFHA director Tanya Palmore wasn’t immediately available for comment.

[email protected]

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The blighted house at 620 Second St. in Greenport Village was demolished Tuesday morning.

07/28/11 5:35pm
07/28/2011 5:35 PM

With Greenport Village moving to condemn and demolish it’s Second Street multi-family house, the North Fork Housing Alliance is pushing back, blaming the village for much of the delay in getting permits to rebuild the structure gutted by fire in August 2008.

The building at 620 Second St. provides Section 8 housing for low income renters, was badly damaged in a fire that destroyed an adjacent house. Earlier this week the Village Board said too much time has elapsed since the blaze and ordered the building taken down.

But in a letter to the Mayor David Nyce dated Wednesday, July 27, NFHA executive director Tanya Palmore threatened to pass any costs onto the village should the house be demolished and have to be rebuilt, instead of renovated.

Plans to renovate the structure have been under way, but that requires approvals from the state Housing Trust Fund Corporation, which would fund the reconstruction. Admitting that  state approvals have been slow in coming, Ms Palmore told Mr. Nyce the vote to demolish the house was “a purely political response to a vociferous neighborhood group” and that the village itself was responsible for some delays.

The application for a village building permit has been pending since June 30 and NFHA has yet to receive an approval or comments on the application, she said.

“It seems, at best, disingenuous for the village to move to demolish the building while it has, at the same time, held up the building permit for the reconstruction,” Ms. Palmore wrote.

She also charged that her request for minutes of an Historic Preservation Commission meeting approving plans for the rebuild haven’t been forthcoming, despite eight months of asking for them. The state had requested to see those minutes, she said.

Neighbors have been complaining for much of the past three years about dangers in allowing the structure to remain, saying that people are experiencing respiratory illnesses and that the house is filled with rats and raccoons. They fear that children could be injured  and that the burned-out shell could lower local property values.

They brought their complaints to Monday night’s Village Board meeting. The board then unanimously agreed to pursue legal action to condemn and demolish the property.

Ms. Palmore has said she intends to seek an injunction to stop the village’s legal action.

04/29/11 2:25pm
04/29/2011 2:25 PM

After three years of promises, neighbors will finally see work begin to restore two Greenport Village Section 8 houses that burned down in August 2008.

Construction is slated to begin June 30, according to North Fork Housing Alliance director Tanya Palmore.

The houses at 218  and 220 Second St. were damaged in a late afternoon blaze in mid- August 2008. The structure at 620 was demolished, while the other heavily damaged home needs to be renovated.  But because the properties belong to North Fork Housing Authority, the rebuild has been delayed by red tape in getting New York State to approve plans. New York State finances the project that provides Section 8 housing for low-income residents.

The blaze left 10 residents homeless, all of whom subsequently found other housing, Ms. Palmore said. But neighbors, concerned about both danger at the site and its potential effect on their property values, have long been asking that work get under way.

Ms. Palmore has several times come before the Village Board to explain that she couldn’t move forward with the work without state permission. She received a letter today approving June 30 as the start date for the work.

“I’m singing it from the rooftops,” Ms. Palmore said. She’s not sure how long the construction will take. “We just want it to start,” she said about the long-delayed project.

Five rental units will be created at 218 Second St., Ms. Palmore said.

Plans for the project passed muster with Historic Preservation Commission members, which is needed because the homes are situated in a historic district, last January. Architect Garrett Strang said he was working with the housing alliance to develop specifications so the project could be put out to bid.

“We’re not going out to bid tomorrow,” Mr. Strang said then. But he wanted approvals so he could move forward with getting the state to sign off on the project.

At the same time, Mr. Strang said he will resume talks with the HPC if a few aspects of the plan prove too costly for what he described as a tight budget and need to be revised.

[email protected]