Property owners, contractors, and construction licensees are all familiar with the New York City Environmental Control Board (ECB). Recently assimilated by the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) and dubbed the OATH Hearings Division, ECB holds hearings at locations in each of the five boroughs. At these hearings, the issues discussed include summonses issued by the Fire Department of New York and New York City Departments of Buildings, Transportation, Sanitation, Environmental Protection, and many others, for alleged violations of the City’s ordinances and rules.
According to the 2017 Mayor’s Management Report, City agencies issued 826,690 summonses in 2016. These violations are adjudicated at informal hearings before an Administrative Law Judge and an attorney from the issuing agency.
It was once not uncommon for respondents to simply pay violations as part of “the cost of doing business,” but in recent years both the number and severity of violations issued has increased due to the City’s “enhanced enforcement initiative.” Fines for violations can range from a few hundred dollars to $10,000, $25,000, or more, and unpaid violations can cloud title to property and be liened by the City. Failure to certify correction of violations can stall a construction project. Perhaps most importantly, findings of “in violation” have been used to justify disciplinary proceedings against contractors and holders of licenses, and can even be used against defendants in civil litigation and criminal cases.
Our firm’s attorneys have defended respondents in thousands of ECB hearings and as Stuart Klein loves to remind his clients, he literally “wrote the law” for many aspects of ECB procedure.