Welcome back to SiteCompli’s Ask the Expert series! Lindsay Garroway, attorney at administrative law firm Cohen, Hochman & Allen, has been handling DOB, FDNY, and ECB-related issues since 2010. Lindsay stopped by the Blog to give insights on two of the biggest violations hitting NYC owners and managers this year – cooling tower infractions and rodent violations:
Some of the most frequent questions we get at Cohen, Hochman & Allen relate to cooling towers and pest violations. And sure enough, our team of attorneys has seen a lot of activity and enforcement changes on these two areas in recent months.
It’s no secret that the city’s new favorite violations pertain to cooling towers. During the summer of 2015, a disastrous outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in New York City was traced to cooling towers in more than a dozen buildings – 120 New Yorkers in the Bronx were infected. In response to this outbreak, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a whole new set of regulations governing cooling towers. Buildings owners and managers had to scramble to quickly learn and comply with the new and complex rules. What has resulted is the issuance of many new violations and many frustrated property owners.
What can you do about cooling tower violations?
While our clients don’t always have a dispute to the crust of the charge, our attorneys can often argue for dismissals based on the fact that the violations are procedural defective. We have found that because these violations are so new, the City’s inspectors sometimes make mistakes in writing and issuing the charges correctly. Also, service of the violation can also be defective or not compliant with the New York City Charter.
Ramping Up Rodent Enforcement
Rodents are nothing new for NYC residents and property owners. Cohen, Hochman & Allen has defended these kinds of violations for over 30 years. Perhaps inspired by the infamous Pizza Rat video, Mayor DeBlasio has recently been very vocal about making rats a political priority in the City. Accordingly, the City is putting more pressure on property owners through violation enforcement to keep the streets and sidewalks pest free.
Check Your Entire Property
The newest spin on pest violations: rodents hiding in your sidewalks! With the prolific number of rodent violations being issues, a good chunk of them are now for sidewalk cracks and structural holes that exist on properties. Property owners often don’t realize that they are responsible for maintaining not only the building itself, but the sidewalks as well. A property can be cited by the Department of Health for harborage conditions if they see a hole or crevice on the property. We advise clients that there needs to be a pest management plan in place as well as someone who checks to see if those cited conditions actually exist. We are also looking for defects with the tickets as well – if it is hard for the client to ascertain what the inspector observed, we will raise that at the hearings held at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (editor’s note – OATH, the hearing tribunal umbrella for ECB-related infractions).
We continue to advise our clients: don’t let your property be a safe haven for rats. Be active in maintaining your property and thoroughly check your properties inside and out.
We discussed these two issues and other hot topics at last week’s RealFocus event. To follow up on RealFocus conversations or questions, get in touch with our team here.