From the Queens Courier:
From the barrio to the tree-lined streets of upscale neighborhoods all over Queens, thousands of people live in danger. They live in illegal apartments.
In the worst cases, unscrupulous building owners partition off houses into multiple apartments – sometimes as many as eight units in a two-story structure, even cramming living spaces in the attic and cellar.
Frequently, there is only a single exit for as many as four rooms – a narrow hallway that can be blocked by fire or smoke. This was the case in a November 7 fire in Woodside that claimed the lives of three Bangladeshi immigrants and left three, including the building owner, with serious injuries.
Firefighters, who search for possible victims in these labyrinthine deathtraps, encounter unnecessary risk. Sometimes they pay the price for a landlord’s greed.
Beyond the obvious danger caused by illegal conversions of homes into apartment buildings, there are other problems. The clandestine increase in population density impacts the quality of life – from overcrowded schools, to street congestion and parking problems, to strains on water, sewer and sanitation.
“Each year we receive thousands of complaints about illegal conversions and make thousands of inspections,” said Tony Sclafani, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB).
Queens has the largest number of illegal conversion complaints in the city, according to Sclafani. “The style of home construction lends itself to illegal conversion,” he said.
Well then, it appears the laws need to be changed with regards to what kind of dwellings can be constructed. But since the council people depend on developer cash, don't hold your breath.