Rockland County Battles Over Housing Crisis and Jurisdiction as Unlawfully Converted Firetraps and Overcrowding Threaten Safety

In the Village of Spring Valley, Rockland County, a 2-family home with 25 beds was discovered this week by the Rockland County Office of Buildings and Codes and the Center for Rockland Codes Investigations. This unlawful conversion poses a significant fire hazard.

Rockland County, although beautiful, is a suburban area that lacks the necessary infrastructure to accommodate rapid population growth. The county is already grappling with a severe housing crisis, marked by a scarcity of safe and affordable housing units. As a result, there has been a surge in overcrowding within 1 and 2 family homes, which are not subjected to mandatory code enforcement inspections. Unscrupulous landlords exploit both legal immigrants and undocumented individuals in this situation.

Due to these prevailing circumstances, the County of Rockland is currently engaged in a legal battle with the City of New York. The city is attempting to shift its Sanctuary City responsibilities to Rockland, despite Rockland being the smallest county in New York State and already struggling with the influx of resettling individuals.

If the City of New York were to implement its decompression strategy, resulting in an overnight quadrupling of the homeless population, it would exacerbate the crisis. This crisis has already claimed five lives in March when a home with approximately two dozen residents suffered a tragic incident.

County Executive Ed Day expressed his concerns, stating that New York City Mayor Eric Adams lacks knowledge and concern for Rockland’s well-documented housing crisis. The crisis is so severe that Rockland has been uniquely authorized by the State of New York to take over Building and Fire Code enforcement in the Village of Spring Valley. Day emphasized the need for appropriate action from the justice system, warning of potential consequences if no action is taken.

Recently, the City of New York filed a motion to transfer Rockland County’s lawsuit challenging the City’s authority to violate New York State Social Services laws to a judge in New York City. In addition, the City of New York requested an adjournment of the County’s preliminary injunction hearing until after a decision is made regarding the venue change motion. Judge Thomas Zugibe promptly granted the adjournment without consulting the County, who is the plaintiff in the case. This decision leaves the fate of the preliminary injunction request in the hands of a judge from New York City.

The County of Rockland is now urging Judge Zugibe to withdraw the adjournment and continue presiding over the case, as it will have a significant impact on the county he has sworn to serve. Similar cases in Orange County and the Town of Orangetown have already been granted preliminary injunctions.

County Executive Day expressed doubts about receiving fair justice from New York City and emphasized the importance of having judges elected by Rockland adjudicate and decide on a case that directly affects the county. The current case of overcrowding is seen as a warning sign of the future dangers faced by Rockland’s residents, visitors, and first responders.

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