By Madina Toure
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is saying a bill introduced by City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) that seeks to protect deed-restricted properties is weak.
A restrictive covenant is a clause in a deed or lease to real property that limits what the owner can do with the property, according to Vallone.
For neighborhoods like Broadway-Flushing, restrictive covenants help homeowners associations preserve their suburban quality of life, he said.
Vallone’s bill would require the city Department of Buildings to keep a registry of restrictive covenants filed with the DOB and make the registry available to the public during business hours.
In a letter to Vallone dated Sept. 14, Avella said he opposes the bill because it does not require the DOB to review the deed registry before issuing any permits for properties.
In a telephone interview, Avella said the bill is merely a “political gimmick,” noting that the bill he introduced back in 2003 calls on the DOB to enforce the covenant as an added condition of getting a construction permit.
“It accomplishes nothing,” Avella said. “To me, this is the worst type of politician who does this and I’m not going to stand by without commenting that this doesn’t help anybody. I’m tired of political gimmicks. I’m all about, ‘Let’s come up with a resolution,’ and unfortunately, Vallone’s bill is just a political gimmick.”
He also noted that Queens Borough President Melinda Katz introduced a similar bill when they were both on the City Council and that it was similar to Vallone’s legislation.
The City Council’s housing and buildings committee held a hearing on the bill Sept. 16.
Vallone said that the bill is addressing an issue that has yet to be successfully legislated.
Restrictive covenants are private agreements subject to a court’s enforcement, which is outside the DOB’s mandate and the Council’s legislative authority, he said.
“I would have hoped that after eight years as a Council member, Senator Avella would understand this basic fact,” he said in a statement. “Taking action for our constituents is never a ‘press gimmick’ but rather a promise kept. The senator should be embarrassed because, once again, it’s clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black.”
Maria Becce, second vice president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, praised the legislation.
“This bill will be of great value to prospective builders as well as individual homeowners, reminding them to inform themselves about these covenants before finalizing their building plans,” Becce said. “Intro 280 is an important first step in bringing attention to restrictive deeds.”
Avella, the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association, state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and 75 residents held a rally in Bowne Park in which they called on the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to grant Broadway-Flushing historic district status.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour