DOB Takes Action

Obviously in hasty response to my recent posts, DOB has a series of reforms aimed at improving construction safety in New York City. Actually, the second half of that sentence is true – there’s even a press release. A lot of the press release covers initiatives that have been in place for some time, but some of it does propose new reforms. These include:

Deploy New Staff to Crack Down on Unsafe Construction. DOB will be adding 88 new staff lines to create 7 new special enforcement teams.

Make It Costly to Disobey Stop Work Orders. “If work continues in violation of a Stop Work Order, inspectors will issue violations carrying immediate civil penalties that must be paid before the Stop Work Order may be lifted.” [This one’s for you, 48 Box Street.]

Outline an Aggressive Legislative Agenda to Add Enforcement Tools. “In the next month, Buildings Commissioner Lancaster will outline an aggressive legislative agenda that will call for increased enforcement tools for the Department.”

Increase Safety with Handheld Computers for Inspectors. “…all inspectors will be provided with handheld computers that will allow inspection results and violations to be entered from the field and uploaded immediately to BISWeb for Buildings employees and the public to view in real time. With B-FIRST, the inspection process will be made more efficient and results more accurate, while eliminating delays in reporting crucial safety information at construction sites.”

Set New Standards for Architects and Engineers Who Professionally Certify. “With the New NYC Construction Codes, the Department will reform the professional certification system by establishing standards that licensed architects and engineers must meet and maintain to participate in the program.”

Stop Repeat Offenders from Filing Applications. “Recently-enacted legislation enables the Buildings Commissioner to refuse applications filed by architects or engineers who, after due process, are found to have filed false or fraudulent documents. By refusing applications, the Commissioner prevents the architect or engineer from doing business with the Buildings Department.” [If this means that architects and engineers will not be able to file any applications (as opposed to self-certified applications), it will be something new and improved. Of course it doesn’t address the issue of expeditors, who are not professionals.]

Make Architectural Plans Available Online via BISWeb. “By 2009, the Department will expand B-SCAN’s capabilities so that architectural plans will be scanned and provided online as well.” [Another big step forward, assuming the plans are available immediately – right now, plans seem to go into some deep limbo as soon as permits are issued, making public scrutiny (and challenge) near impossible.]

Enhance Reporting System to Focus on Safety Trends. “…the Department will develop a Compstat-like system to aggressively track safety trends.” [Another major step forward into the 21st century, though why this focuses on safety trends only, and not other complaint categories, is a bit baffling.]

According to Lancaster, all this means that for “the first time in the Department’s 150-year history, we are positioned to transform to a proactive enforcement model…” Which is a good thing, though it does acknowledge many of the main criticisms of DOB over the past few years.