The NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) fails miserably to protect our community from illegal and improper construction projects. But that is nothing new. On almost every level DOB continues to be a shockingly ineffectual agency. The buck must stop at the desk of Mayor Michael Bloomberg who during his 2001 election campaign promised to revamp the DOB. Instead like most of Bloomberg’s promises, we witnessed a lot of talk but little action. The Bloomberg spin machine continues to tell New Yorkers that things are better and yet he keeps ignoring NYC borough priorities unless that borough is named Manhattan.
The Department of Buildings, especially the Queens office, is still woefully understaffed and getting action from the agency is still a crap shoot.
When our neighborhood experienced a building boom 5 years ago we were relying on the DOB to review building plans and enforce zoning regulations, monitor construction and punish developers and architects who violate DOB regulations and zoning laws. The Juniper Park Civic Association actually met with DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri on several occasions in an effort to address the multitude of problems we were experiencing at construction sites. We received several promises but little action. LiMandri and his staff visited Mazeau Street in Maspeth in 2006 where notorious developer Tommy Huang was in the process of erecting a ridiculously out of character home much too large for the zoning regulations. LiMandri and the DOB promised everything, even possible court action against the developer. Yet three years later the construction fence is still up and apparently DOB made a “deal” with the developer. Right across the street a neighbor converted a garage into a house without permits and DOB did nothing. Around the block a developer on 57th Drive broke almost every regulation in the book and 8 years later the block still has a construction fence covered with graffiti. Few neighborhoods have had to tolerate such an attack on their quality of life as ours. Obviously DOB’s bark is much worse than their bite. There is little followup. Once the owner is fined DOB has no further contact. They don’t even followup to see if the fine has been paid. DOB doesn’t even bother to schedule another inspection to see if the owner has corrected the violation.
Hull Avenue in Maspeth is the poster child of Bloomberg’s failure to protect homeowners. Maryann Todzia and her family have a construction site next to their home since 2005. The excavation undermined their foundation and caused flooding in their basement. Four years later the problem still persists, the construction site next to their home has all but been abandoned. DOB did issues 41 building violations and according to the DOB website, 35 still have not been paid. The DOB’s response? Send the owner notices that keep piling up on their doorstep (see photo on previous page).
Looking around our community you can see evidence of the DOB’s lack of response. Construction fences are up for several years, covered with graffiti some with dozens of violations yet they continue to be a blight on the community. The Juniper Park Civic Association has documented some of these locations.
The descriptions of the violations for each property is from the DOB website (Building Information System) on www.nyc.gov.
Pictured on these pages are only some of many abuses for Mr. Bloomberg’s scrapbook. Please remember this, among other things, when you enter the voting booth in November.