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Weprin held a news conference Friday in Holliswood to decry self-certification and announce the introduction of two pieces of legislation in the City Council. The first eliminates a loophole in the building permit process which currently allows developers to apply for a certain type of alteration permit rather than a demolition permit. The second prohibits self-certification of plans submitted to the DOB that involve demolitions and certain types of alterations."Only 20 percent of self-certified plans are reviewed at random," Weprin said. "The DOB has lost control of the honor system among builders and architects that was originally intended to expedite the process. It was never intended to aid in the demolition process."The news conference took place in front of 196-05 Como Ave., which Weprin and neighbors contend is a particularly egregious example of how self-certified builders can exploit the loopholes in the law. The house that used to stand on the lot was a split-level home with a deep front yard. The builder has torn down the structure-leaving one original wall intact, so the Buildings Department sees the work as renovation rather than demolition-and built most of the way out to the property lines.Complaints on the Department of Buildings Web site about construction at the site date back to summer, including stop work order violations and work outside permissible hours. But the Sept. 29, 2006, complaint on the DOB site that bears out Weprin's proposed legislation reads: "caller states [workers] ... have a permit for renovations however they are performing demolition."Neighbors are furious that their complaints about the demolition have gone unacknowledged."I'm most upset that I've filled the airwaves calling 311 and gotten no response," said David Weiselberg, who lives next door.According to the DOB Web site, seven of the last 10 complaints-ranging from after-hours work to a lack of a safety fence at the site to the fact the builder raised the level of the back yard five feet by moving earth from the front yard then building a 12-foot retaining wall-have not been investigated."He raised the level of his property five feet and put up an illegal wall. I'm an engineer, and that wall is not fine," said a neighbor whose backyard overlooks the site.Calling self-certification "a dangerous and flawed process," Weprin said he hopes his legislation will "stem the tide of unscrupulous developers and prevent them from inflicting further harm on affected neighborhoods."Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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