Public Schools and Hospitals also Affected by Lack of Enforcement
Stringer Calls for Breaking Apart the Department of Buildings and Creating the NYC Office of Inspections
January 21, 2010 (New York, NY) – Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer today released “Falling Apart At the Seams,” a report documenting a complete system-wide breakdown in New York City’s enforcement efforts aimed at protecting the city’s building stock.
“Walk into any building in Manhattan and chances are, you’re entering a structure with a building code violation that has gone unaddressed for years,” said Manhattan Borough President Stringer M. Stringer. “The city has created a culture of noncompliance, where scofflaws are being coddled and adherence to the building code has been made optional. More troubling, the volume of open violations means that all New Yorkers, even our school children, are being put at risk.”
Over a 34 day period in the fall of 2009, the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer conducted an extensive review of open Department of Buildings (DOB) and Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations on 41,992 lots throughout the borough. In total, it found 177,518 open DOB violations and 45,270 open ECB violations in New York City’s database – nearly a quarter of a million open building violations in Manhattan alone.
Of the open ECB violations, 33 percent (a projected 15,000 borough-wide) are classified as “Hazardous” or “Class-1” which pose a “threat that severely affects life, health, safety, property, public interest or persons so as to warrant immediate corrective action.”
And yet, despite the seriousness and severity of the violations, the average time period during which each of these serious violations has remained open is nearly five years. One violation found in a random sample has actually been open and un-remedied since June 2, 1988.
The study also found major enforcement problems in schools and hospitals. Specifically, 82.7 percent of Manhattan’s public schools and all five of Manhattan’s public hospitals have open ECB violations; 38.8 percent of public school buildings have one or more open ECB violations classified as Hazardous or Class-1.
To cite just one disturbing example, a school in West Harlem, which had 15 Hazardous- or Class 1 violations, is reported to have “interior structural cracking vertical and horizontal causing lateral movement through entire building.”
These ongoing building violations, when left unresolved, threaten the safety and health of residents as well as their ability to remain in their homes, schools, hospitals, and places of work. They also cost the City an estimated nearly $60 million in lost revenue just from Manhattan – enough to fund, at least partially, initiatives like NYPD cadet classes, MTA Student MetroCards or NYCHA’s Section 8 vouchers. Based on these results from one borough, the likely cost of lost revenue from building violations in the City as a whole is truly distressing.
In response, Borough President Stringer released the following recommendations:
- Create a New York City Office of Inspection (OOI), which will be responsible for building inspection and remediation. As a quasi-governmental authority, the OOI can draw more qualified inspectors, respond to fluctuations in development, and will have the authority to re-classify building violations so that the most dangerous violations are given an urgent designation and sufficient government attention.
- Equip building inspectors with 21st century technology, successfully used by the Department of Sanitation, to ensure the seamless and open transfer of information from building inspectors to City government and the public.
- Call for regular audits by DOB of randomly selected violations to determine the reliability and accuracy of self-certified certificates of correction submitted to the DOB by building owners.
- Expedite DOB’s response time to inspect and remove a stop work order after a building owner has remedied a violation, thus reducing the threat of lost wages or even lay-offs among construction workers.
- Improve the complaint system by allowing the electronic submission of photographs by email, text, or other means in order to facilitate inspectors’ access and identification of the violation upon the inspection of a site.
- Make the ECB a fully public body, with appointees from each of the five Borough Presidents as well as the Speaker of the City Council to reduce the potential for conflict of interest and inappropriate influence by the current and future mayors.
- Use federal funds from the pending jobs bill in Congress to put New Yorkers to work fixing outstanding building violations to alleviate the building violation backlog and to create new construction jobs.
- Extend the penalty relief program for delinquent ECB violations to allow building owners with delinquent ECB fines to correct the condition and pay the base fine without additional penalties, late fees, or interest.
Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer • 212.669.8300
1 Centre Street, 19th Floor • New York, NY 10007 • © Copyright 2006
The Manhattan Borough Presidentís Office is an Equal Opportunity Employer.