Staten Island ‘Squatter Squad’ takes action to protect property owners

Sonya Gugliara

Originally published in Staten Island Advance on .

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Amid rising concerns about squatters occupying the properties of Staten Island homeowners, two determined politicians are fighting to protect local communities.

“We’re the squatter squad,” said City Council Member Kamillah Hanks (D-North Shore) about her and State Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton (D-North Shore/South Brooklyn). “Squatting is becoming a growing concern in many of our communities, causing significant damage to buildings and disrupting neighborhood peace.”

“Just last year, at this house behind me, the district attorney was able to get these folks out but it took more time. So we are excited that if this issue does persist, he would be able to now charge them with burglary,” Scarcella-Spanton said. According to Scarella-Spanton, her proposed legislation will allow Staten Island District Attorney Mike McMahon to charge squatters with burglary because they are no longer considered tenants under revised laws.

Scarcella-Spanton’s legislation was recently included in the FY 2025 state budget. This portion of the budget agreement clarifies that squatters are not considered protected tenants and defines them as people staying at a property without the approval of the owner or an owner’s representative.

“I’m proud that some of my legislation was included in the state budget to combat this issue of squatters that has continually plagued this community,” Scarcella-Spanton continued. “Our constituents’ homes should never have been up for grabs because of the technicalities in the law”

In combination with Scarcella-Spanton’s statewide efforts, Hanks introduced a city-level bill last month that would create a task force to handle squatting matters in a more structured and time-sensitive way than previously.

“I think that some of these agencies that are catching up, housing courts need to be better briefed on how to deal with these situations,” Scarella-Spanton said.

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