Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino agreed to work with residents, the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District and the town’s fire and police departments to crack down on landlord fraud at a Town Board meeting on Oct. 3.
“We understand the severity of this issue, and we will work with . . . all concerned to address it,” Saladino said.
Darren Gerbosi, who has two children in the school district and raised the issue at the Sept. 17 Board of Education meeting, told the Town Board that landlord fraud and illegal housing was causing unprecedented growth and overcrowding in the school district. He cited the growth of the middle school, which registered more than 20 new students at the start of the school year. The district now requires that all students provide verification of their residency in the year before they start third, seventh and ninth grades, to comply with a policy revision that was approved by the District Board of Education on Jan. 27.
District Superintendent Dr. Laura Seinfeld said at the September school board meeting that 99.4 percent of families have complied with the new policy. The district is following up to obtain full compliance, which can include site visits by district personnel, Seinfeld said, and surveillance by private investigators, which has been employed in the past. But Gerbosi said that the district needed the aid of the town in order for the checks to be successful.
“The school district did a residency check, but we feel that it was light, at best,” Gerbosi said. “ Our budget dollars are going out the back door because of this issue. This community is trying to do it the right way and peacefully, and I’m not so sure how long that will last.”
Town Councilman Lou Imbroto, who leads the town’s Quality of Life Task Force, said it had been looking for months into the issue of illegal boarding houses, which are prohibited by town code, and overcrowding. Imbroto said that illegal housing has become a big issue throughout the town, and that the problem stems from people wanting to move to the school district and the community. He explained that while people want their children to be a part of the district, they can find it difficult to afford housing in Oyster Bay, so they try “skirting the rules” and rent rooms illegally.
Imbroto added that the problems caused by illegal housing go beyond school district overcrowding. They can include sanitation and fire safety issues. If too many people live in a single dwelling or room, dangers like fires can put people’s lives at risk.
Residents have also complained about too much garbage in the streets because of the overcrowding, Gerbosi said, adding that hundreds of residents have reached out to him expressing concerns about safety and sanitation.
“It’s a testament to our communities that people want to be here,” Imbroto said, “but it’s our responsibility as local government to enforce the rules and protect the suburban character of the town.”