Reporting Illegal Conversions - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the December 1999 Juniper Berry Magazine

Reporting Illegal Conversions

The creation of one or more illegal housing units without authorization from the Department of Buildings is a serious offense of the New York City Building Code. Illegal conversions reduce the quality of life in neighborhoods by enabling more people to live in an area than was originally intended. Unplanned growth causes a severe strain on local public services that results in the overcrowding of schools, public transportation and sewer and sanitation systems. It also creates parking problems.

The most serious aspect of this illegal construction is that often it creates substandard, potentially dangerous housing. This can, and has, led to tragic results.

The Department of Buildings Quality of Life Task Force Investigates complaints of illegal housing.

What is an illegal conversion?

An illegal conversion is the creation of a housing unit(s) without first receiving the approval of and permits from, the New York City Department of Buildings. Often, it involves the alteration or modification of an existing one or two-family home by adding an apartment in the basement or attic. Sometimes, an illegal rooming house has been created in a building that was intended to be a one-family house.

Why is this illegal?

Some of this housing is illegal because it violates the zoning regulations for the area. In other circumstances, the house itself was not constructed for the current use, and cannot safely accommodate all the people in residence.

What the JPCA is Doing to Address the Problem.

The Juniper Park Civic Association reminds renters, (both legal and illegal) they have a very valuable tool to pressure illegal landlords to make changes. They can withhold their rent until the violations are corrected.

Recently Bob Holden, our president, canvassed the neighborhood with the Commissioner of Buildings, James Leonard. All the obvious violations were logged with the addresses.

Also part of this neighborhood tour was making a list of the illegal businesses being conducted from many of the houses. Some of the newer larger homes have become manufacturing zones with heavy machinery, truck deliveries, etc. This is another issue and will be addressed in future articles.

We will continue to monitor this situation and you will be kept up to date on the results. In the meantime, if you have a complaint, here's what you can do:

What is Illegal and What

you can do about it:

Please Report these violations immediately:

Illegal Apartments, Basements and Conversions. This is the major cause for decrease in quality-of-life in Middle Village. Please give address and condition. You do not have to give your name. Just write that you are member of the Juniper Park Civic Assoc.

Commercial Vehicles- No commercial vehicle can be parked on residential property, including driveways, front and back yards or garages. Commerical vehicles parked on the street are also illegal but are under the jurisdiction of the police dept. (104 Pct. call 386-3004).

Failure to Maintain: A building, including residential and commercial, must be maintained.If your neighbor or business stores debris, hazardous material, fails to clean property and maintain building, the owner could be in violations.

Operating Business from Home: Operating a commercial business from residential properrty is illegal in the City of New York. Zoning regulations prohibit such use such as: Selling items or goods, storing commercial goods, taking commercial deliveries etc. For more information on the above violations please call the Dept.of Buildings at (718) 520-3308 or Community Board 5 (718) 366-1834.

Real Estate "Sold" Signs: Real Estate "For Sale" Signs are permitted for a specified period but once the "Sold" attachments is added it becomes illegal. Please report address to Department of Buildings or the JPCA. These signs are eyesores and serve only one purpose- an advertisement for the real estate firm.

To report above violations please write or fax (include that you are a member of the Juniper Park Civic Association):

NYC Department of Buildings,

City of New York

Att: Derek Lee, Borough Commissioner

126-06 Queens Boulevard

Kew Gardens, NY 11415-1554

(718) 520-3308

fax: (718) 261-7099