From the NY Times:
Mayors have been grappling with inefficiency and corruption within the city’s Buildings Department for decades. John V. Lindsay’s buildings commissioner so tired of allegations of graft that he suggested the agency give its inspectors uniforms without pockets.
But Michael R. Bloomberg took office with a reputation for managerial ingenuity and earned accolades for crime reductions and improvements in student test scores. He brought a flair for technological, data-driven solutions honed in the business world and an outsider’s energy to refashion tired practices.
“Reducing corruption is one of this administration’s primary objectives,” he declared in a news release about the Buildings Department early in his first term.
Over the past seven years, however, the agency has largely been a blemish on the mayor’s record, a bureaucracy that found it difficult to effectively oversee a construction industry that operated at full throttle during the building boom while construction spending doubled.
“When you pay people who have the responsibility as inspectors so little, they’re prone to having their hand out,” said Daniel J. Castleman, a former chief assistant in the Manhattan district attorney’s office who is now a managing director at FTI Consulting, an investigations firm. “That’s not endemic to one mayor or a dozen mayors, that’s just the way it is. There’s so much money to be made in construction and development that people are going to offer you things and people who are paid less are going to think, ‘Who’s this going to hurt?’ ”
The point was driven home just six months into Mr. Bloomberg’s first term, when 19 of the city’s 24 plumbing inspectors were arrested on federal bribery charges.
Since then the Buildings Department has been cited for regulatory oversights in connection with demolition work at the former Deutsche Bank building, where two firefighters lost their lives in a blaze that prosecutors tied to inspection lapses by the agency. Two tower cranes have fallen, killing nine people, and in the aftermath prosecutors ended up charging two of the agency’s crane inspectors.
More recently, the agency has had to change the way it oversees the concrete industry after two testing companies were indicted on charges involving their work.