Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NYC Buildings Commissioner Resigns

NEW YORK -- The city's buildings commissioner resigned Tuesday, a day after the mayor said he was unhappy with the agency and the rising number of fatal construction accidents this year.

Patricia Lancaster, an architect who overhauled the city's 40-year-old building code and introduced several new rules to manage building safety, quit after six years on the job.

"I made this decision because I felt it was time to return to the private sector," she said in a statement. "I am proud of the groundbreaking work the department has done during my tenure to root out corruption, increase transparency, overhaul the building code and increase safety for workers and the public alike."

But her resignation comes after Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the unusual step of publicly singling out a city agency, saying Monday, "I don't think anybody should be fully satisfied with the Department of Buildings."

Thirteen people have died in construction accidents this year, more than the total for 2007.

Seven died in a crane collapse last month that leveled a townhouse and damaged several buildings around it in a residential neighborhood. Last week, Lancaster acknowledged at a public hearing that the department improperly approved a construction permit for the 46-story condominium that was being built there.

The department has been criticized before for ineffective inspections, including at a skyscraper fire last year that killed two firefighters near ground zero. The department inspected the former Deutsche Bank tower regularly but did not notice a months-old problem with the building's standpipe system that hampered firefighting efforts.

In March, Lancaster acknowledged that department officials failed to process paperwork that had declared a vacant East Harlem apartment building to be unsafe more than a month before it collapsed near a Metro-North train station.

Critics said the department has been a mess since the 1990s, when it created a "self-certification" system to streamline the permit process and drastically reduced its inspections staff. Lancaster has been credited for raising the number of inspectors from under 300 to more than 400 in recent years.

Lancaster, the first woman to head the buildings department, served two years as deputy commissioner for design and construction in the Department of General Services for Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudy Giuliani.


Anonymous said...

"I am proud of the groundbreaking work the department has done during my tenure to root out corruption, increase transparency, overhaul the building code and increase safety for workers and the public alike."

root out corruption, yeah right!
Don't make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

Of course, she was just following orders. It's her boss who ought to resign, but that ain't gonna happen. Now I wish she'd write a tell-all memoir... like for next week's New York Mag. I love the way yesterday she was telling the NYTimes that she was committed to another 600+ days to finish the job, & today it's time to return to the private sector. Like, uh, yeah, sure.

Anonymous said...

It's about time. I wonder if we'll see any real improvements with the next commissioner.

Anonymous said...

Now, if the Commissar had any brains, he'd send CAU Commissioner Parvizi to replace Lancaster.

Parvizi has demonstrated a superb understanding of the role and duties of city employees.

Anonymous said...

Sadly in order to see some real change, what we really need is Bloomturd to throw in the towel. I can't imagine him hiring someone that will actually stand up to the developers and increase inspections.

Maybe the DOB enforcement wing needs to be folded into the NYPD. Same goes for ACS. Rules and laws get broken, people should be put in jail. Maybe then we won't see so many construction site related deaths,injuries, and property destruction

faster340 said...


BUH BYE!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, the Mayor told us the main reason for 311 was to evaluate the various agencies' performances.

Mayor Bloomberg it's oviosly not working!

Another example: Multiple calls re Quality of Life laws i.e. noise.
Goes on to 5:00 a.m. No police response, but police report to 311 that they did respond. Multiple, multiple tenants (including doorman) know diffently.

Anonymous said...

i work in heavy construction and its the owners of the buildings who push the General Contracotrs to get the building up. Doing things safely takes time and that costs money. Big Money. Where I work it costs approx $500 a day for a man (taxes, insurance, union)
Every day lost with a crew of 40 is alot of money. They want these buildings up and the apartments rented. Its all about the almighty dollar and they really dont give a hoot about muich else.

Anonymous said...

$500 a day? Wow :-O

Anonymous said...

What happened?
Mayor Bum-berg was defending Pat
and her department all along.

Oh, Mike needed a quick scapegoat
to make it look like he was doing something.

So she was given the choice of walking the plank or getting the ax!