Bloomberg Unveils New Approach to Target Illegal Conversions
In a statement released by his office recently, Mayor Bloomberg outlined how the city plans to deal with dangerous illegally converted apartments. A multi-agency task force, chaired by Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt, developed a risk assessment model that will be applied to illegal conversion complaint records weekly. The model generates a targeted list of illegal conversions at high risk for a fire, and the locations are inspected within 48 hours by a joint inspection team, which vastly improves the chances for access.
In a pilot-run, about 40 percent of the buildings that met the task force's criteria were illegal conversions and needed to be vacated, compared to a city-wide average of 3 percent. The model evaluates all illegal conversion and single-room occupancy complaints based on the four metrics, which have historically correlated with dangerous fires.
High-risk complaints are then inspected within 48 hours of being identified by the joint inspection team, consisting of Fire Department personnel and Buildings inspectors. Joint inspections are designed to increase the rate of successful access. In the past, Buildings inspectors have gained access roughly half the time when investigating complaints about illegal conversions.
If the joint inspection teams cannot gain access to the property, access warrants will be pursued if sufficient evidence is available. If, after gaining access, the joint inspection team determines that an order to vacate the property may be necessary, it will consult with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to consider whether there is a way to cure the problem or limit the vacate order to only a portion of the building.