By Mark Hallum
City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village) is making good on a campaign promise to tackle quality of life issues affecting constituents in the southwest Queens neighborhoods in his district with the introduction of a series of bills last week.
Illegal conversions, abandoned houses and stalled construction projects were the topics of the legislative package Holden hopes will pass in the City Council. Holden said he has gained bipartisan support from elected official across the city.
“One of the major issues that I ran on was to alleviate quality of life concerns that constituents were facing in District 30.” Holden said. “Immediately after taking office, I began the legislative drafting process for several bills, and am excited to introduce them in the City Council, finally.”
Holden was elected to City Council after unseating Elizabeth Crowley, the cousin of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), in the 2017 general election after switching over as the Republican nominee, but remained a Democrat upon taking office.
One of the bills co-sponsored by City Councilmen Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) will require a new certificate of occupancy to be issued if the cost of an alteration to a building exceeds $125,000.
Another bill, co-sponsored by City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) along with Ulrich and Borelli, will allow city Department of Buildings commissioners to lock up vacant properties with more than $25,000 in unpaid fines.
“Tackling quality of life issues is something I have been doing as a civic leader and community board member for the past four decades, and now as an elected official, it is incumbent [upon] me to use the power of the office to do right by my constituents and fellow city residents,” Holden said.
The package would also create a permanent interagency illegal conversions and occupancies task force to release reports on illegal conversions of homes and apartments across the city and how resolve the issue.
Holden would also have the process for approving work permits expedited if the project requires multiple permits in order to keep construction from being stalled, creating impacts to the surrounding communities.
If a construction site has been stalled for over two years, the DOB could replace green fences around the property with chain-link fences in order to prevent vandalism such as graffiti.
The package of bills is making its way through the approval process in City Council and is currently under review by the Housing and Buildings Committee.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall