Property Rights Foundation of America®

October 3, 2003
The Press
Ellenville, New York

To the Editor:

I am in process of boarding up my house — not against hurricane Isabelle but as defense against our latest reincarnation of an overly aggressive eager code enforcement office. If a space is enclosed they are not allowed to sniff around and issue notices or tickets for esoteric, odd, arcane and new hair-splitting rules and regulations and codes no one heard of before nor knows how to access. Caveat (warning in business dealings): be very careful, it (the building department) can rain on your parade bad.

One of my oil burners smoked up a half basement when it blew back burning dirty less than a week after it was serviced. Someone called the police (inappropriate as remedy is routine and landlord had already taken care of it), police called fire department (three engine companies came [sic]), and then a building department person came who called Central Hudson Electric who turned electric off for whole house, forcing tenants out. All this was unnecessary. They made a mountain out of a molehill for whatever reasons: 1. to accentuate the importance of their job function; 2. to harass me because I write critical letters to the paper; 3. to "make work"; 4. as a practice exercise. Anyone having anything and any experience to do with oil burners knows that when this happens (smoky blowback) you switch it off (every oil burner has an On/Off toggle switch on the wall at a handy location), call your oil burner service technician or oil provider who comes and adjusts and cleans unit, charging a service fee, problem solved. The way the overzealous, over-reactive, self-aggrandizing, superfluous multiple cadres of tax-paid honchos handled it was:

1. To enlist more and more and more agencies — police, fire, inspectors, electric utility — to justify their existence despite they weren't needed under the circumstances.

2. Issue fraudulent "Fire Notice" (when there was no fire!).

3. Force tenants out unnecessarily, at night, at the mercy of their own resources (!)

4. Set up concatenation of subsequent inspection and reinspection, most of which the inspector never came for, constantly "moving the end point" (Inspector tells property owner to do A & B. Owner does A & B and calls for reinspection. When inspector comes back he adds additional requirements C, D, & E before he'll "release" for OK. Owner does C, D, & E and calls for reinspection. When inspector comes he/she adds more new requirements F, G.)

This is a common ploy, in my experience here for the past ten years or so, by our building department.

To understand that such a practice is grossly vulgar and unconscionable and fraught with a strong indication of their gaining enjoyment being cruel — using their position to bully people I'll use this analogy:

Suppose your child went to college and was told in the beginning he/she would obtain a bachelor's degree if he/she completed requirements A & B. Then a few months a before graduation was told he/she had to, in addition, complete requirements C, D, & E. Then a week before graduation was told he/she had to do F & G.

The building department does exactly the same thing, constantly, for years now. Please let's stop moving the end point, please!

5. Make a horrible situation for tenants, landlord, property manager, owner, travelers on main street. (They blocked Rte. 209 for upwards of two hours!)

6. Caused overtime for God knows how many employees paid for by our taxes.

7. Bully everyone around to intimidate anyone who began asking pointed questions that would have I revealed that all this flurry of expensive activity was an unnecessary overreaction.

It is odd to me that persons knowing better blew a minor routine repair item into such an exaggeration. (Unless someone had an agenda to purposely hurt and wrongfully discredit my operation).

Paul T. Johnson
Ellenville & NYC

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