Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spitzer Vetos A.7800. Brennan's reaction.

Statement of Assemblymember Jim Brennan,
on the veto of A.7800

A bill that would mandate that the New York City Department of Buildings re-inspect and seek correction of hazardous violations of the building code every sixty days

AUG. 29, 2007

It is highly regrettable that Governor Spitzer chose to let the New York City Department of Buildings off the hook in relation to a change in the accountability of the Department for enforcing the building code of the City of New York. As a long-time law enforcement official, the Governor should be aware of the common knowledge of every New York City resident - that enforcement of the building code has gross shortcomings. The Deutsche Bank tragedy, with its two firefighter deaths, was a grim reminder of the woeful inadequacies of the enforcement of the building and fire codes.

The objections of the Mayor and the Department of Buildings were without merit. Although the City complained that Environmental Control Board proceedings frequently took many months longer than the 60-day re-inspection period of the bill for resolution of violations, that objection was irrelevant because the bill provided that if a party who had received a violation appeared before the Environmental Control Board, the mandatory re-inspection and correction provision would not apply to the Buildings Department. The bill targeted persons and properties that were ignoring violations.

The City objected that the bill was inconsistent with the new model building code, but that objection was also without merit. The new code eliminated the word “hazardous” from a new violation system, separating violations into “major” and “minor.” But the Brennan bill contained a provision that allowed the Buildings Commissioner to delete particular violations from the “hazardous” term, effectively allowing the separation between “major” and “minor” and providing a mechanism for a smooth transition to the new model code. The model code, however, contained no mandate for re-inspection and correction of “major” violations.

The City also objected that the bill would cost $4 million a year and create problems if the City needed to prioritize major problems. However, those objections were both trivial and inconsistent since, if the City funded the new enforcement structure, it would enabled the Department to maintain a focus on priorities. The reality is that $4 million a year is a trivial sum in the City’s $60 billion budget, especially when the City has a surplus of $3 billion in cash and prepaid several billion dollars in current year expenses, meaning its surpluses are likely to grow. In fact, the Department of Buildings budget should be at least $30 million a year larger to address the enormity of regulating construction and buildings.

Nonetheless, I am committed to addressing the issue of improving public safety in construction and development and will continue working with the Governor, the Mayor, my colleagues, and the public, to fashion legislation that will improve public safety in the enforcement of the building code. ###

Why is this not surprising? How does this not serve the public? Yes we all know of the recent DoB improvements to streamline the process of building buildings. But making the paperwork less of bureaucratic nightmare does not help those people on the other side of that 8' plywood construction fence when things start going sour. Sixty days is plenty time for minor to become major.

What ever happened to an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure? Where is the logic in waiting until a building crumbles before an inspector can be sent out to investigate an immanently perilous condition finally worthy of a major violation?

As all events in the world somehow relate to the Armory Plaza, if the DoB had been listening to the cries of the people from the start and taken the residents' pleas seriously instead of blowing them off countless times, maybe 8 families wouldn't have been put out into the street. Sure coming to the rescue during dire straights makes it seem like you're doing your job in a hero kind of way, but isn't it the idea to never have to reach that point of no return? That's why fire fighters spend a great deal of their off time teaching people how to prevent accidental fires from occurring in the first place. Believe me when I say that Brooklyn residents are burning mad. Maybe it's just having all that smoke constantly blown up their rear ends.

Regrettably, it's also true that just because a troubled building site gets more official DoB supervision doesn't necessarily mean that the public is any more safe.

Our thanks to
Assemblymember Brennan for the effort. He has tirelessly worked for us through out this debacle of a housing boondoggle. -IMBY

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