DOB is just as good as DOA on Buildings Complaints

The Mayor of the City of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg, has asked residents to call 311 for quality of life and other non-emergency complaints. The 311 program has been, by and large, a success. However when it comes to the Department of Buildings (DOB) related complaints, particularly in Queens County, the 311 program has been a dismal failure.

The Juniper Park Civic Association has learned that the Queens Department of Buildings has over 12,600 outstanding or backlogged complaints so far this year. The complaints range from potentially life-threatening and hazardous situations such as structural called “A” Complaints… to illegal conversions called “B” Complaints… to improper or no certificate of occupancy called “C” Complaints… to illegal curb cuts called “D” complaints.

Without investigating the cause of such backlog, one might point to a shortage of building inspectors as the culprit.
However when comparing the backlog complaint numbers of the other NYC boroughs, a disturbing picture is evident.

For instance, the Brooklyn office of the DOB has a total of 2,905 backlogged complaints, Manhattan has only 197, the Bronx has 177 and Staten Island has the fewest with 156 backlogs. The four other boroughs combined have 3,435 outstanding complaints. Compare this total with Queens’ 12,600 and it is quite evident that something is seriously wrong with operations within the Queens Office of the Department of Buildings. The official response is that Queens receives more complaints than the other boroughs.

Over the years the New York City DOB has been overrun with corruption and incompetence. In June 2002 DOB Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster said… “the Department's inefficiency and the proliferation of corruption are inextricably linked.” Mayor Bloomberg had promised to clean up the DOB and make it more efficient and accountable.

Somehow – at least for the efficiency part of the equation – the Queens office of the DOB was left behind. Queens Borough Commissioner, Magdi Mossad, is in charge of the mess. His unimpressive tenure is quite evident in the numbers. Queens County lags far behind other boroughs in unresolved cases. So far behind that Queens alone has almost 4 times as many outstanding complaints than the other four boroughs combined. If there are major problems with DOB, you can multiply that by 4 in Queens.

You can also point the finger at Buildings Commissioner Lancaster but no doubt she has had her hands full with implementation of the sweeping changes that are necessary inside the dysfunctional DOB.

The man largely responsible for the quagmire in Queens is Deputy Commissioner for Operations – Robert LiMandri. He is aware of the Queens number yet has failed to take action in keeping the numbers under control. Apparently Commissioner Mossad and the Queens DOB has been hiding these numbers from Borough President Helen Marshall for quite some time. Her office was appalled when the JPCA faxed a copy of the numbers. Initially DOB even tried to question these figures as a fabrication.

We sent them a copy too and after a few days they discovered that the document was produced within their own
agency…they finally admitted it was true. Now it’s time to clean house in the Queens Department of Buildings.

Mossad and the men directly under him should be sent packing. Send him to the Bronx (their numbers are good, only about 175 backlogged jobs) so he may not be able to do much damage for quite some time. And don’t forget Acting Assistant Commissioner of Central Inspections, Karl Schmid and Robert D’Allessio, Administrative Chief Inspector, both should be exiled to the outer reaches of Staten Island.

Unbelievably in the bizarre world of the DOB, D’Allessio is reportedly up for a promotion and a hefty raise. For what? Doing such a great job in Queens? Mayor Bloomberg are you listening? The downzoning that many communities are undertaking, including Middle Village, is virtually meaningless without a responsive and functioning Department of Buildings. Unfortunately in Queens the problem is so out of control that emergency measures must be implemented.

The Juniper Park Civic Association is calling on the Mayor to launch an investigation and examine the leadership and efficiency of the Queens DOB. Unless this is done and quickly, much of Queens County will continue to see a deterioration in the quality of life and the mass exodus of
the middle class.