Town of Ulster Building Inspector Kathy Moniz will retire on Tuesday, Dec. 31 after six years in the position, a move requested by her letter on Dec. 16 and reluctantly approved three days later by councilmen.
This week, Moniz said she retired to help care for her mother-in-law, who is recuperating from illness and a hip that’s broken twice.
“We hired a home health aide and I’ve been basically doing just about everything else,” said Moniz in her office in the Town of Ulster Highway Complex. “I had to change my hours so that I could take care of her in the morning and then come in, but it just got to be too much. I’d still be working if it wasn’t for taking care of her. And I don’t mind that. She’s a wonderful woman, she gave to everybody all her life, and now it’s our turn to give back.”
Warren Tutt, Ulster’s municipal code officer, will step into the role of building inspector, with Moniz being hired back in a part-time capacity.
“I love what I do,” said Moniz. “(Supervisor James) Quigley asked me if I would stay on and that’s kind of like nice because then I’ll still be here. I won’t be the department head, but that’s fine. Warren is really very capable. He’s a good guy and he knows what he’s doing. He works well with the contractors. We work on the same even keel.”
Moniz, who including her time with the Town of Ulster has been a building inspector for 26 years, has in the past couple of years spent a significant amount of her time dealing with issues at a single residential property, Sunset Garden, a 217-unit rental complex. E&M Management purchased Sunset Garden and Lakeshore Villas, a 151-unit property in Port Ewen, from Morgan Communities in March 2018 for $44 million, expanding a local portfolio which also includes Kingston Waterfront and 30 Black Creek Road in Highland. According to the E&M Management website, most of their other properties are in Nassau County and Far Rockaway in Queens.
In late 2018, some Sunset Garden tenants described a property falling into disrepair and a property owner unwilling to do anything about it. They said tenants were not having their leases renewed to put them in a more precarious position of being subject to eviction on a whim as retaliation for speaking out, and at least two tenants said that was exactly what had happened to them. Tenants alleged E&M pressured some to move out, apparently replacing them with tenants willing to pay more in rent. (E&M officials have denied these allegations.)
While she’s leaving her full time position with the town, working part-time will allow Moniz to stay connected to properties like Sunset Garden.
“I’m never going to leave Sunset Garden,” Moniz said. “I’m finally getting on a good keel with the new manager, I think. I hope. And hopefully we’ll be able to do more stuff. It’s just a matter of staying on top of them. And now in my capacity with when I come back, I’ll have more time to do it because I won’t have to do as much of the administrative things and the other things.”
During the Dec. 19 Town Board meeting, Sunset Garden tenant Laura Hartmann said she was sorry to see Moniz go.
“You go above and beyond what your job calls for,” Hartmann said. “I want you to know that what you did for the people at Sunset Garden when that first incident happened, you changed our lives. We finally felt like we had somebody on our side, and you stuck with us. You did your job diligently, and you cared about this community. And I’ve seen that in other work that you’ve done. I just want to extend to you a great big thank you for all that you’ve done for this community and wish you well in your next journey.”
Moniz said the work done at Sunset Garden aligned with why she loves the job in the first place: She likes to help people.
“You know, people come in and they’re all frantic,” Moniz said. “They’re selling a house. They didn’t know they needed a permit for something. There are tenants that don’t realize that they have rights, and I’m here to help them. I’m just trying to help everybody, you know, and make the world a better place. One person at a time.”