Ridgites and politicians are scrambling to stop greedy property owners from illegally dicing up one-family homes into multi-family flophouses, but holes in legislation and enforcement mean there is no silver bullet.
“We have to chip away at this piece by piece,” said Community Board 10 district manager Josephine Beckmann.
The board’s Land Use Committee met twice about the growing problem over the summer recess and is finalizing a list of recommendations to the city for quashing illegal conversions. Chief among them is a request for the Department of Buildings to focus enforcement on “hot spots” where residents log the most 311 complaints about conversions.
The city receives an average of 20,000 illegal conversion complaints a year. Since 2012, the city received more than 1,100 such complaints in Community Board 10 alone, and it has followed up on less than half, our analysis of city data shows.
The city sent inspectors to verify fewer than 300 of the complaints. And in half of those cases, inspectors never got into the building. When the department receives a 311 complaint, it dispatches inspectors to see if the complaint is warranted. But they only make two attempts to enter a questionable building. If nobody lets them in either time, the department just closes the complaint.
Of 282 inspections the department mounted since 2012, 76 resulted in no violation, 29 resulted in some kind of punitive measure by the city, and the other 177 cases were closed because inspectors were turned away at the door or residents were not home, according to city data.
But if the city can send more inspectors to Bay Ridge, it may have better luck getting into suspected conversions, board members said.