CORONA — Half of the city's complaints about illegal apartment conversions or subdivisions are in Queens, prompting an aggressive approach in the borough by the Department of Buildings, according to a representative from the agency.
Nearly all of the warrants the city has filed to force homeowners to provide access to their homes — after inspectors repeatedly couldn't gain entry — have been in Queens, according to Anthony Iuliano, an intergovernmental liaison for the borough.
"We pursue a more aggressive approach here in Queens County," Iuliano said Oct. 23 at a town hall meeting in Corona sponsored by Assemblyman Francisco Moya.
During the last fiscal year, 272 of the 278 warrants obtained to access homes where there's evidence of conversions were in Queens, Iuliano said.
"When [an inspector] made the first attempt and second attempt and they notice there's a one-family home and there's two or three doorbells, [or] it's a one-family home and there's two or three mailboxes... he takes photos and he sits down with borough attorney," he said.
The results of those warrants weren't clear. It's not immediately clear how many additional warrants were filed this year.
Iuliano admitted it can be tough to regulate subdivisions because someone living there needs to consent.
But the warrants, which the agency began obtaining three years ago, have allowed the Department of Buildings to act aggressively when inspectors have proof, he said.
Warrants are filed by either a complainant — a neighbor or even a tenant — or an inspector who has enough evidence of illegal subdivisions.
The penalty for illegal apartments can be as high as $25,000. The fine was increased in 2007 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Penalties can stem from the creation of illegal basement apartments, creating a home in an area zoned for manufacturing or industrial uses, or dividing an apartment into single-room-occupancy units.