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board: Assemblywoman must shutter one rental
February 24, 2010 by JENNIFER MALONEY /

Three years after Assemb. Ginny Fields was cited for illegally renting out two Oakdale cottages, Islip's Zoning Board of Appeals has ruled that she can continue to rent one - but she must demolish or move the other.

Islip in 2007 issued notices to Fields and her husband, Walter Fields, for two one-story cottages on the lot of a larger house at 3 East Shore Rd. The cottages did not have rental permits and were not included in the house's certificate of occupancy, as required by town code.

Newsday reported a year ago that Fields (D-Oakdale) still had not submitted an application to the zoning board of appeals to bring the cottages into compliance.

She began the application process in March and completed it in December, town officials said.

At a zoning board hearing last month, she argued that both cottages qualified for legal nonconforming use, or "grandfathering." She testified that both had been occupied every summer since they were built in 1940.

But a man who in the 1940s and '50s lived next to the property testified that while one cottage had regular seasonal tenants, the other had no plumbing - just a garden hose running from next door - and was largely vacant until 1955.

In a written decision released Wednesday, the zoning board's chairman, Richard Scheyer, called that neighbor's testimony "extremely credible."

The board ruled that the cottage that was steadily occupied qualifies for a certificate of compliance, making it eligible for residential use. The other does not, the board found, because it had been vacant for more than a year and its structure was substantially altered in a renovation.

The cottage's tenant must vacate within 30 days, town attorney Alicia O'Connor said.

In a phone interview from Albany, Fields said she has not decided what to do with the cottage but may offer to donate it for historic preservation. "We've done everything we could to be in compliance. It's a bit unfortunate because . . . the records don't go back that far. I was unable to really show genuine proof" of continuous occupancy.

O'Connor said the town will extend the 30-day deadline if the owners "show good faith effort" to remove the cottage as quickly as possible. The ruling made note of several neighbors who attended last month's hearing to complain about the cottages. But town code does not allow quality-of-life issues to be considered in such a case, Scheyer wrote.

board to rule on Fields' Oakdale rentals
February 18, 2010 by JENNIFER MALONEY /

Three years after she was first cited for illegally renting out two Oakdale cottages, Assemb. Ginny Fields will soon hear from Islip's zoning board on whether she can continue to rent them - or must shutter them for good.

The zoning board of appeals, which last month heard Fields' case, could issue its decision as early as Tuesday.

Islip issued notices to Fields in May and June 2007 for two one-story cottages on the same lot as a larger house at 3 East Shore Rd. The cottages did not have rental permits and were not included in the house's certificate of occupancy, as required by town code.

Newsday reported last February that Fields still had not brought the rentals into compliance with town code and had not yet submitted an application to the zoning board of appeals.

She began the application process in March and completed it in December, town officials said, noting that the process took several months because the town required Fields to submit a new survey and a chain of title dating to 1940, when the cottages were built.

The zoning board heard the case on Jan. 26. At issue was whether the cottage structures had been substantially altered and whether they had been vacant for more than a year since they were built.

About a dozen neighbors attended the hearing to register complaints about the rentals and protested when the board's chairman, Richard Scheyer, explained that in such an application, quality-of-life issues are not considered.

Fields and her husband inherited the property in 2005 from a neighbor, Myron van Essendelft, for whom they had cared until his death at age 97, Fields' attorney, Eliot Bloom ofMineola, has said.

Ginny Fields spoke briefly at the hearing, testifying that the cottages had been rented out every summer since she moved to the cul-de-sac in 1971. The Essendelfts told her that they had been occupied every season since they were built, she said. "They were always rented out, always," she said.

But a man who in the 1940s and '50s lived adjacent to the property, at a Montauk Highway address, offered a different story.

Andrew Connor of Roslyn Heights, who testified at the request of the Fields' neighbors, said he was 10 when he moved there in 1941. He described in detail the properties and their occupants during that time.

While one of the cottages saw a parade of seasonal tenants, the other had no plumbing - just a garden hose running from another house - and remained vacant from 1940 and 1955, except for a tenant who stayed just two or three months, he said.

Islip hikes landlord fines for illegal rentals
Published: April 16, 2009 3:13 PM

The Town of Islip, which has faced criticism recently for slow enforcement of illegal rentals, is taking aim at landlords with onerous new penalties, including jail time of up to a year or a fine as high as $10,000 for third-time offenders.

The penalties, adopted unanimously by the town board this week, are among the highest on Long Island: for the first offense, a fine as high as $2,500; for the second, as high as $5,000.

Islip's matches Babylon's highest penalty.

Huntington's code calls for a fine as high as $15,000 but no jail time.

At a public hearing Tuesday before the board voted, Peter and Carol Schwasnick, who have named Islip Town in a lawsuit against their Oakdale neighbor, Assemb. Ginny Fields, chastised officials for not forcing Fields to put her illegal rental properties in compliance more quickly.

Fields was cited in 2007 for illegally renting two cottages. The town rejected her application to modify them and bring them up to code and she failed to file an appeal before her application expired last year, the town said.

Records obtained by Newsday show that she submitted the final documents for the application earlier this month. Fields' attorney, Eliot Bloom of Mineola, said the application took so long because it required new surveys, historic titles and affidavits.

The zoning board of appeals has not yet ruled on the application.

Islip Town also has come under fire for an illegal multifamily home in Brentwood where residents have gone to the hospital twice with carbon monoxide poisoning.

A full year after the town first cited the property owner for illegal apartments and fire code violations, carbon monoxide levels spiked again.

Town officials said the court process, which can stretch for several months, contributed to the delay in forcing the landlord to eliminate the illegal apartments.

Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan said the town's new penalties will make illegal apartments less profitable.

"You have to look at how much money these guys are able to get by breaking the law," he said. "I have to attack on the money side."

Previously, the town code limited the penalty for a third offense to $1,500 or up to six months in jail.

Fields' neighbors suing the assemblywoman
February 19, 2009 by JENNIFER MALONEY /

Oakdale neighbors of Assemb. Ginny Fields have filed a lawsuit charging that she, her son William and tenants launched an intimidation campaign against them in a dispute over a school bus stop and cottages rented illegally on Fields' property.

The abuse-of-power lawsuit charges that Fields (D-Oakdale) had claimed that a public right-of-way used for a bus stop was instead her private property and that she used political influence to discontinue its use. It also says she began harassing neighbors after they reported to the Town of Islip several code violations on a nearby property where Fields has acknowledged illegally renting out two cottages.

According to the lawsuit, Fields, with her son and tenants, threatened neighbors, blared a sexually explicit radio station in their direction, rode a motorbike along the property line and drove a truck dangerously close as they waited for the school bus.

Fields, who has been in the State Assembly since 2004, declined to comment on the charges in the lawsuit yesterday. Her son, William Fields, could not be reached.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by Carol and Peter Schwasnick, who live around the corner on Montauk Highway. They charge that the harassment began in April 2007, after they reported code violations involving cottages being rented at 5 and 7 E. Shore Rd., two of six homes on the cul-de-sac owned by Fields and her husband, Walter, property records show.

The lawsuit charges the following:

Bus stop. William Fields, 30, drove at high speeds and dangerously close to Peter Schwasnick's car on several occasions as he waited for his daughter at the bus stop at East Shore Road and Montauk Highway, and Ginny Fields laid railroad ties studded with nails along the shoulder to prevent the Schwasnicks from parking there.

Verbal harassment. Ginny Fields, 63, swore at Peter Schwasnick, 41, an elementary school physical education teacher and said, "We've been through this, you can't be here. I'm not playing games. You don't know who you're dealing with. You're done."

Political influence. Soon afterward, Fields "used her influence" with district Superintendent Alan Groveman to eliminate the bus stop.

"False reports." After the Schwasnicks and another parent complained to the district about the bus stop removal, Fields made "false reports" to Islip Town, alleging code violations on their properties.

Noise. Ginny Fields and her tenants in May and June 2008 rode a motorbike along the Schwasnicks' property line. When the Schwasnicks called Suffolk police to complain about the noise, police asked Fields to stop. But she continued to ride. And William Fields in June 2007 backed up his truck to the property line and played a sexually explicit radio station at high volume.

The suit also charges that Ginny Fields' tenants turned sprinklers on the Schwasnicks, threw eggs at their house and urinated near their fence.

The Connetquot Central School District said yesterday district buses no longer make stops at the location next to Fields' property. Instead, a bus now makes stops at two nearby locations on Montauk Highway.

Kevin O'Brien, assistant superintendent for business, said Groveman, the superintendent, had been advised not to comment on the lawsuit. "There is a process we do have for changing bus stops and that is followed," O'Brien said

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