DOB must become more accountable for its actions

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After the debacle over not stopping the use of poorly welded cranes which led to the deaths of two workers last year, city Department of Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster resigned and was replaced by Robert LiMandri. During a meeting of the Queens Civic Congress last year, civic leaders spoke favorably of LiMandri.

Civic association leaders have long criticized the DOB for inaction, incompetence, bribery and permitting speculators to destroy the quality of life in neighborhoods with illegal and out−of∭’character construction.

Actually, poor laws and poorly enforced rules have led to many out−of∭’character and disruptive buildings in many communities. The DOB and city Board of Standards & Appeals have watered down zoning resolutions so longtime homeowners find their neighborhoods have a different ambiance than when they moved in.

LiMandri started out his tenure last April by trying to stop on−site construction accidents by issuing more stop−work orders and increasing fines and penalties and methods to prove accountability by making the DOB more transparent. He then shuffled borough commissioners around. Queens Buildings Commissioner Derek Lee, whom we knew and who knew us and our concerns, was replaced by Ira Gluckman, who had served on Staten Island and lives in Brooklyn.

Moving officials around is not necessarily the answer to complaints and creating efficiency. The DOB has to check plans and make sure they are followed during construction, stop and fine illegal activities, punish those who do illegal things and correct the illegal activities and publicize the correction and punishment in the news.

Gluckman has been commissioner in Staten Island and was moved to Queens on Nov. 17, according to the “Zoning Update” column by Joe Amoroso in the Kissena Park Civic Association’s newsletter.

LiMandri is due to speak at the QCC April 20. I guess Gluckman will attend that meeting also. We will have to get to know him and make sure he understands the concerns of Queens residents about the tearing down of houses and the building of McMansions or two or three buildings where one had stood, the paving over of lawns and the illegal construction activities in our neighborhoods.

Gluckman will have to worry about Queens upzoning, which is leading to the construction of many multi−storied apartment buildings, hotels and apartment buildings. We will make sure he receives this column and other past relevant columns.

The civics will keep Gluckman informed of problems they find. Another zoning activist is City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside), formerly a College Point civic leader. Back in July 2007, Avella complained that the new city Construction Code is good, but just not being enforced.

LiMandri said he would be using specialized engineering experts to evaluate sites all over New York. I hope he will check more of the self−certified plans which builders prepare for the sites they are working on. The DOB had wanted to examine 20 percent of the self−certified plans, but did not reach that goal in the past.

Considering the number of times over the years the DOB announced it was adding inspectors, we should have thousands of them ready to correct all problems. Unfortunately, inspectors either resign or are fired and their numbers go down until a new press release announces more inspectors. Ironically, the DOB produces money through fees and fines when the latter are paid, thereby making money for the city.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced in July that it was granting 5,000 special immigration visas for Iraqi employees and contractors and their families who have worked for us for at least a year since March 2003. Additional translators can come here under the new rules.

Sadly, we only recently belatedly issued 500 visas to translators. These people helped us in Iraq and are subject to assassination for helping us. It is only fitting that we let them come here when they are in danger.

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