RAMAPO, N.Y. -- The state is appointing oversight officers in Ramapo and Spring Valley to ensure local building and fire codes are enforced.
The New York State Department of State made the move in response to enforcement deficiencies by local officials.
The state is appointing the officers after receiving complaints from first responders worried about dangerous safety conditions , in addition to pressure from Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, (D-New City), Rockland County Executive Ed Day and officials with the Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force.
"The Secretary of State has found significant deficiencies in code enforcement in the Town of Ramapo and Village of Spring Valley," said officials with the Department of State. "The public's health and safety remains at risk. Therefore, the Secretary of State is placing oversight officers in both the town and village."
The officers will work to ensure that both properly enforce the state building and fire codes, and will remain until the secretary is satisfied the town and village are properly administering and enforcing the building and fire code, they added.
In the past, officials have also worried about the safety of overcrowded and converted schools in the Ramapo area . A Ramapo fire inspector was put on desk duty after being accused of not performing his job.
“These monitors will provide an investigatory presence that will be able to report directly to the Secretary for corrective action. It is clear that the public has lost confidence in one of the most basic functions of a local government which is safe zoning and building enforcement. I am hopeful this process will restore safety in these communities and give fire officials and the public a new voice,” said Zebrowski.
Overdevelopment in Ramapo and Spring Valley has reached a critical level, to the point where infrastructure and natural resources are being threatened for all of Rockland, Day said.
"There have long been questions about how this has been allowed to continue seemingly unabated. This situation puts residents, including children, and our first responders in danger," Day said. "We're relieved that the state is taking action and we hope this will be a step toward stemming irresponsible development that threatens the quality of life for everyone in Rockland.
The oversight officer will review zoning applications and supporting documents in real time and report on findings and deficiencies in applications that have caused problems.
Elected leaders in Ramapo and Spring Valley have been sent a memorandum of agreement to ensure that the oversight actually takes place.
In addition to the oversight officer, Sen. David Carlucci, along with Zebrowski and Rep. Ellen Jaffee, are sponsoring legislation that would establish a crime of reckless endangerment against anyone who illegally alters a building and creates a condition that causes injury or death to a protect first responders from.
“There have been too many incidents where individuals have been hurt and taxpayer funds have been misappropriated because of lack of oversight,” said Carlucci, who represents both Ramapo and Spring Valley. “Involving the state to administer these processes along with a tougher penalty for owners of buildings with fire and building code violations will send a strong signal to anyone looking to skirt the law that there are real, human consequences to doing so.”