During the early part of the year there was an uproar in Paterson over inspectors knocking on doors during the evening hours to search out illegal dwellings.
Ten part-time inspectors hired by the Community Improvement Department fanned out to the city’s different wards to issue violations to homeowners renting out their basements and attics.
The program generated a large sum of money for the city. “They’ve generated almost as much money as full-time inspectors” said Lanisha Makle, the director of Department of Community Development. An estimated $300,000 was generated from the violations that were issued by the part time inspectors.
After the program gained an infamous reputation, it was halted. Homeowners complained that the inspectors would knock on doors in middle of the night, and ask to inspect their homes. During one instance, a homeowner said, an inspector knocked on his door which prompted one of his children to open the door. Once the door was open the inspector pushed himself inside and began to snap pictures of the home.
“Their communication level was really poor,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, the 2nd Ward councilman. “A lot of people were complaining.”
William McKoy, the 3rd Ward councilman, concurred with Akhtaruzzaman saying, “I’ve seen some who were absolutely fanatical in carrying out tasks that should not have been carried out that way.” McKoy said many of them were poorly trained and had little clue on how to interact with the tax paying homeowners.
Makle said the program was started in January and it was suspended seven months later – it was suspended in July. “The goal was to work on quality of life issues,” said Makle. “They were to do block by block sweeps to look for illegal dwellings. If there were illegal dwelling they were supposed to issue violations.”
Charles Thomas, city’s business administrator, said the program was suspended “temporarily”, and has indicated that the city will put the program back together. At the moment, said Thomas, the city is assessing the effectiveness of the program. “Are you planning to put them back in — the part time inspectors,” asked Ruby Cotton, the 3rd Ward councilwoman, during the department’s budget hearing. Thomas responded, “Yes.”