(L-R) Glen Cove Chief of Police William Whitton, Lieutenant Christopher...

(L-R) Glen Cove Chief of Police William Whitton, Lieutenant Christopher Ortiz, Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello, and Deputy City Attorney Kristina Heuser discuss the city's issue with illegal occupancy outside the home at 39 Coles St. where overcrowding has been an issue, Sept, 29, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Glen Cove officials recently amended the city's housing code, continuing their crackdown on illegal housing.

The new legislation adds a presumption of illegal occupancy if certain conditions exist at single-family homes or dwelling units, including more than one gas or electric meter, mailbox, entrance or doorbell.

"These presumptions will be another tool for the city in its aggressive approach in combating illegal housing and overcrowding throughout Glen Cove," said Mayor Reginald Spinello.

Spinello said in an interview in his office last week, "it's an issue that impacts everyone . . . all it does is distract from the neighborhood and creates unsafe conditions."

In his campaign for mayor, last year, Spinello said illegal housing would be a priority. The City Council unanimously approved the amendment at its Sept. 23 meeting.

In addition to the amendment, city officials said they have instituted other "aggressive" measures to fight illegal housing, including issuing more violations, hiring a private detective and more effectively enforcing laws.

Last year, the city budgeted $75,000 in revenue from code enforcement violations -- mostly related to housing -- and collected $43,650. This year, officials budgeted $50,000, which they had exceeded at the end of July, based on data supplied by the city.

Officials said they could not give an exact amount, because cases are pending that may affect the amount collected.

Chris Grella, who worked as a Glen Cove police officer for 27 years, was hired as a private investigator and has focused the past month on overcrowding. Grella, who is also a state certified code enforcement officer, said he has investigated four houses, triggering two prosecutions. He is being paid $600 a week for working 10 hours.

Deputy City Attorney Kristina Heuser, who prosecutes illegal housing cases, said officials have started issuing desk appearances to tenants, as the city code allows.

Heuser said sometimes the tenants are creating the overcrowding and illegal situations. "We don't do either tenants or the landlords . . . in our view, the landlords are still responsible," she said.

But she said the city wants tenants to be culpable when they cause illegal housing situations.

Since the beginning of the year, 25 new illegal housing prosecutions have begun, she said. But she said she knows others are breaking the law.

"If you are an illegal landlord, make sure to clean up your property and bring it in compliance with the code, because if we haven't gotten around to bringing you into court yet, we will."

Citing a violation

Glen Cove officials encourage residents to call if they have seen or suspect an illegal housing situation, as well as other code violations.

Residents can call 516-320-7869 or 516-676-2004.

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