Illegal housing and parking meters were a few of the issues that residents voiced concerns about at Long Beach Listens, a city-led community meeting scheduled for different neighborhoods each month, at St. Mary of the Isle Church in the East End on Wednesday.
Resident Kathleen O’Leary suggested to City Manager Jack Schnirman and City Council members in attendance that they address illegal housing. She explained to residents what makes a property illegal, as well as the proper process to report landlords who rent homes illegally.
“I would like to see the attitude change for illegal housing and I would like to see the laws changed to enable the building department to move these cases along quickly,” O’Leary said.
Councilman Scott Mandel agreed and encouraged residents to report any suspicious activity to the Long Beach Police Department.
“That is something that shouldn't be tolerated,” Mandel said. “If we know there is an illegal housing entity, we can’t just come in and shut it down, but bringing this to the building department’s attention is a crucial step.”
Police Commissioner Michael Tangney told residents the police department is investigating a number of properties in the city and warned those who refuse to follow the law. “If your planning on doing illegal housing, don’t; if you have it, correct it; and if you know someone that’s doing it, let us know,” Tangney said.
Meanwhile, other residents suggested installing parking meters in the city’s business district and even on residential streets to help generate revenue. Last May, city official took out a proposal in the 2011-12 budget to install parking meters in Long Beach, which was projected to generate about $450,000 in revenue.
Schnirman, while intrigued by the idea for parking meters, still held reservations about it, suggesting the city council seek out additional feedback from the community. “It is something that we would be looking to do after we hear more of a variety of perspectives,” he said.
Schnirman set the tone of Wednesday’s meeting by explaining the importance of a balanced budget, currently in a projected $10.2 million deficit. “What happens if we don't close our deficit is really not an option,” Schnirman said.
“If we don’t close it then we could be downgraded again,” the city manager continued, referring to when Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the city’s bond rating in December.
Other issues raised at the meeting:
- The council explained that although the city was approved to receive roughly $1.1 million in FEMA relief fund, following the damage caused by Hurricane Irene last August, they don't expect to see the reimbursement money until the end of the fiscal year.
- Jim LaCarrubba, the new public works commissioner, assured residents that concrete slabs left behind from the Decobike project in residential neighborhoods would be removed and refurbished as soon as possible.
- Several residents suggested that dog-waste bins and signs be set up to help eliminate littered sidewalks.
- Public works will look at long-existing sink holes located on the Presidents Streets, at the ends of Belmont and Cleveland Avenues at Walnut Street.
The new Democrat administration launched the Long Beach Listens meetings last month at the West End Community Center. The next meeting is scheduled for the North Park neighborhood at the Martin Luther King Center at 7:30 p.m. on April 4.