Court orders Buildings not to issue violation

Developer failed to issue Staten Island homeowners final C of O three years after construction was completed. In March 2001, Jamie Minchew and Rocco Rinella hired ATP Development Corp. to build a house at 44 Cottontail Court in Staten Island. Eight months later they closed on the house without a final certificate of occupancy, but ATP agreed it would furnish a final certificate of occupancy within one year. Several temporary certificates were issued up until January 2004, after which no more certificates were issued.

In November 2004, Buildings notified Minchew and Rinella that they were occupying the house without a valid certificate in violation of the law. In response, Minchew and Rinella sued Buildings and ATP, seeking to stop Buildings from issuing any violations related to their failure to have a valid certificate, and to compel ATP to obtain a final certificate. Buildings sought to dismiss the petition, claiming that the civil court lacked the authority to forbid the Department from issuing violations or permits.

Judge Philip S. Straniere disagreed and ordered Buildings not to issue any violations against Minchew and Rinella unless the premises were unsafe for occupancy and to use its authority to compel ATP to obtain the final certificate. Judge Straniere found authority for his order in the State constitution, the administrative code, and in sections of the civil court act related to violations of the building and maintenance codes. The court reasoned that if the City could avail itself of civil court to enforce violations and penalties, then Minchew and Rinella should have equal access to the court before the City instituted an action against them.

Minchew v. City of New York, N.Y.L.J., March 18, 2005 at 22 (Richmond Cty.Civ.Ct.) (Straniere, J.) (Attorneys: Law firm of Jamie M. Minchew, Esq.; Michael A. Cardozo, Leonard Koerner, for Buildings; Howard M. File, Esq., for ATP).

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