The Real Deal New York

Torres calls for a probe into city’s $1.5B in unpaid fines

Department of Finance says fine collection rates has improved 61% since 2014
September 06, 2018 11:31AM

Ritchie Torres and City Hall at City Hall Park (Credit: New York City Council and Wikipedia)

After a report about the city being owed $1.5 billion in unpaid fines, one official is calling for a probe.

Council member Ritchie Torres and the head of housing activist group Housing Rights Initiative sent a letter to the Department of Investigation that called for an investigation into the city’s “embarrassingly inept” efforts to collect the fines.

“Whether one is evading debt or taxes, the effect is the same: delinquents, like Kushner Companies, are evading their obligations to the city and robbing the public of finite resources that could shore up an increasingly decrepit public infrastructure,” the letter said, according to the Associated Press.

The Department of Finance, which is in charge of collecting the money, said its efforts have improved.

“We take the issue of non-payment seriously and have committed resources and developed processes to ensure that we are effectively collecting fines, increasing our rate by 61 percent over the last four years,” the agency told the AP.

One problem, Torres noted, is that if fines go unpaid for eight years, they “expire” and are taken off the books. In the three fiscal years through June 2017, $262 million in fines were written off.

A previous report noted that the city has struggled to collect outstanding fines from landlords and owners. Kushner Companies, for example, owes about $500,000 for violations. That total includes $210,000 in fines from the Department of Buildings for falsifying dozens of permit applications at 17 buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn. [AP] — Meenal Vamburkar