Brookhaven moves to speed up housing code prosecutions with special court session

Brookhaven Town hopes to speed up prosecutions of Brookhaven Town hopes to speed up prosecutions of suspected housing code violations when a special court opens next month in Patchogue. Photo Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

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Brookhaven Town officials said Monday they hope to speed up prosecutions of suspected housing code violations when a special court opens next month in Patchogue.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine announced Monday that Suffolk County Court officials have agreed to set aside one day a week for cases involving alleged town code violations, including housing cases, at Sixth District Court.

The first session of the Brookhaven Community Housing Court is scheduled for Sept. 4. The court will be in session each Thursday, officials said.

Brookhaven previously had launched a crackdown on housing code violations, prompted by complaints from residents who said dozens of houses in the Stony Brook area had been illegally rented to hundreds of college students.

Romaine, during a news conference Monday outside the Patchogue courthouse, said the town handles 150 to 200 code violation cases each week. Most involve alleged housing violations, he said.

"We want our cases to be expedited," he said. "We don't want to be delayed, delayed, delayed."

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The new court might cut the time needed to prosecute cases from about 60 days to 30 days, town officials said.

In a July 28 letter to town officials, Suffolk County Supervising Judge Glenn A. Murphy said court officials agreed to establish the housing court "to make sure that cases before it are adjudicated in a prompt, yet fair manner, recognizing the rights of all involved."

The new court was supported Monday by Stony Brook community activists who recalled waiting several hours earlier this year before a District Court judge heard a case involving a landlord charged with safety violations.

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"We waited till the last case at the end of the day on a Friday," said Bruce Sander, co-founder of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners. "This should expedite the cases because they'll go before the judge much sooner."

Kai Li, organizer of the Coalition of Landlords and Tenants of Stony Brook, said he did not object to the court or to town laws intended to ensure safety. But he said he was concerned the town was unfairly targeting landlords renting to college students.

"They cannot deny the students the rights of choosing off-campus living," Li said in a telephone interview. "They cannot try to pass numerous laws to eliminate this type of business, because everybody has a right to rent their houses."

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