Assemblyman Lentol Reiterates Call for Overhaul of Department of Buildings Enforcement

Legislation would create freestanding Enforcement Agency separate from rest of DOB
June 22, 2009

The near tragic collapse of a four story building at 493 Myrtle Avenue has led Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol to renew his call for the New York State legislature to pass a package of legislation designed to reform the Department of Buildings (DOB) and protect residents of New York City.

“This is not new, we have faced the complete displacement of our constituents from their homes because of construction mistakes or we’ve seen construction workers and innocent passersby getting hurt or killed at dangerous job sites and even pieces of buildings falling to the street, crane collapses and now building collapses,” lamented Assemblyman Lentol “Last session I introduced a bill (A.5178) to establish a new freestanding enforcement agency, insulated from developers, architects and engineers, attorneys and the influence of economic factors the Department responds to. This Agency will have the resolve to conduct aggressive and meaningful oversight, investigation and prosecution of the City’s rules and regulations, and it will provide the checks and balances so clearly needed over the Department of Buildings and the development and construction industry,” Lentol declared.

The building on Myrtle had already had complaints called in, and DOB workers had granted the owner more time to fix the violations. This shows that the potential tragedy could likely have been averted had the DOB been more aggressive with their inspections and enforcement.

Assemblyman Lentol said “My colleagues and I will continue to ask the Department difficult questions about what we have to do to fix the problems we face. I remain prepared to introduce legislation that increases penalties and create new ones.”

“However, I think it has gotten to the point that we must realize that the buildings department is not up to the task. I have tried to engage the Buildings Department on the issues. I told them to bring me legislation to help. It has never been brought forward,” Lentol said. “How many potential deaths do we wait for before we realize that this situation simply is not working? I am done waiting, I am acting,” declared Lentol.

“I am very angry because the adverse impact of construction gone wild has caused more hardship and agony on my district than almost any other issue.

“I believe that the Department of Buildings just gets too involved with the process. Once they have approved the plans for a building they are now invested in its success. If something goes wrong, everyone will ask why they approved the plans in the first place. It is just counter productive to have approval and law enforcement in the same building because there is too much incentive not to enforce the law.” Lentol explained

“We must focus on the terribly serious issues involving the Department’s ability to review, approve, understand or regulate construction gone wild in our City. For years many of us have been calling for change because of tragedies affecting our communities. When a call comes in to the DOB, we should not be reading about that same building on the front page days later. The DOB should be able to prevent tragedy. NYC Buildings Department lacks the expertise, focus, staffing and the will to monitor or control development,” continued Assemblyman Lentol.

“I support the housekeeping measures introduced by Mayor Bloomberg. I also applaud additional inspectors he has added. But to be effective and to keep everyone safe, they need to be independent from the Department of Buildings. Communities deserve better than minor improvements on the status quo, I know mine does,” concluded Assemblyman Lentol.