Councilman Calls for Probe into Uncollected Building and Sanitation Fines
In April of 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed three bills that were designed to help the city collect $1.6 billion in outstanding fines for everything from building code infractions to tickets from the sanitation department. But the latest figures indicate that the value of the city’s claim has barely changed. According to data compiled by Housing Rights Initiative, the Department of Finance records show the city is owed more than $1.5 billion in various sanitation and building fines. Among the worst offenders was Kushner Companies, the real estate company once run by President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
A City Council report released in April showed that the city’s Department of Finance doubled its collection from $50 million in fiscal year 2015 to $90 million in fiscal year 2018. However, much of that bump was due to an amnesty program, and the department’s collections were expected to fall back to 2015 levels for the current fiscal year. The same report predicted that the department could rake in an additional $50 million this fiscal year if various agencies acted on one of the laws passed in 2016 that empowered officials to deny permits or licenses to repeat offenders. However, no agencies appear to have drafted rules to do so.
Since the data has come out, City Council Investigations Chairman Ritchie Torres and Housing Rights Initiative executive director Aaron Carr are calling for an investigation. The pair wrote a letter to Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters requesting that he investigate the “systemic failure of the City of New York” to collect the fines, calling the city “embarrassingly inept” at doing so. “What the city lacks—but needs now more than ever before—is a robust enforcement culture that treats debt evasion as an act every bit as serious as tax evasion. Whether one is evading debt or taxes, the effect is the same: delinquents, like Kushner Companies, are evading their obligations to the City and robbing the public of finite resources that could shore up an increasingly decrepit public infrastructure.”