Councilman Vacca declares war on deadbeat developers

Councilman James Vacca has declared war on “deadbeat” developers, including the erstwhile landlord of 3030 Middletown Road, Vacca said.

Jacob Selechnik obtained a permit to build condominiums at 3030 Middletown despite owing the city roughly $300,000 in fines.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Vacca said. “Building here is a privilege.”

The councilman wants developers held accountable. An existing law allows the Department of Buildings to block construction only where a developer has already incurred code violations.

DOB may not withhold a permit on the basis of violations earned elsewhere. Vacca’s “bad actor” bill would allow the agency to do just that.

“The current system is Swiss cheese,” he said. “It should be – correct your mistakes and pay your fines, then build.”

Al D’Angelo of the Morris Park Community Organization likes Vacca’s idea. According to D’Angelo, irresponsible developers have partitioned home after Morris Park home.

“They buy property,” he said. They’re fined. They buy more property.”

Deadbeat developers hide behind limited liability companies. For every property, a separate LLC. Vacca’s “bad actor” bill would require DOB to dig. The agency could assign each principal an identifying number, he said.

Locust Point Civic Association president Will Cuevas is all ears. In 2005, developer Boaz Smolarchik tore down a row of trees at the end of Glennon Place. One of the two houses he built remains wrecked and vacant.

“This guy screwed up our neighborhood,” Cuevas said. “Anything that will prevent him from doing the same thing in another neighborhood, I’m for it.”

Debt collection is another problem. Last month, an audit by city Comptroller William Thompson Jr. revealed 75,000 unsettled building code violations. A “bad actor” bill would force developers to complete repairs.

Vacca and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agree that the city must establish inter-agency tracking. DOB ignores debts owed to other agencies – unpaid water bills, for example.

“We’re working to centralize debt collection,” Bloomberg spokesman Marc La Vorgna said. “By summer, we’ll have netted the city $25 million.”

Sandi Lusk of the Westchester Square Zerega Avenue Improvement Organization is a fan of Vacca’s “bad actor” bill. According to Lusk, 3030 Middletown illustrates housing gone wild.

“These developers get away with murder,” she said. “They create tenements. That’s what the people on Middletown are afraid of.”

Anne Jack of Pelham Bay feels the same way.

“Instead of raising our taxes, the mayor should go after the developers,” Jack said. “Don’t pick on us. Pick on the bad guys.”

James Vacca , “deadbeat”, developers

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