Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New York Buildings Commissioner Resigns


Facing a loss of support at City Hall and growing criticism for an increase in construction accidents, Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster resigned on Tuesday.

In accepting her resignation, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said she had moved the Buildings Department “a long way forward by fighting corruption, strengthening inspections and oversight, increasing the public’s access to information, and bringing increased levels of professionalism and integrity to all levels of her agency.”

For more than six years, Ms. Lancaster, a 54-year-old architect, has labored to overhaul an antiquated agency with a history of corruption, inefficiency and missing records, while coping with a building boom that stretched the department to the limits of its resources.

In her own statement, Ms. Lancaster said she had been honored to serve in the Bloomberg administration, urging her “talented and capable” agency of 1,286 workers to “keep up the hard work: you’ve made so much important progress.”

Ms. Lancaster, the first woman to lead the troubled agency and one of the only commissioners to leave the administration under a cloud, is leaving after a series of bureaucratic snafus and high-profile accidents cast a shadow over her achievements.

Those achievements included rewriting the city’s much-maligned Building Code.

The Bloomberg administration had made it a priority to reform the Buildings Department, making it more efficient and streamlining its procedures to make development easier. But that task clashed with the enforcement of safety procedures in a city where construction cranes were everywhere on the skyline.

“She did a terrific job in getting the department back on track,” said the developer Douglas Durst.

But clearly, Mayor Bloomberg was unhappy. This week, after Ms. Lancaster revealed that the East Side building — the scene of a fatal crane accident last month — should not have received building permits, Mr. Bloomberg expressed dismay. “I don’t think anybody should be fully satisfied with the Department of Buildings’ performance,” he said.

In January, after the departure of Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, Mr. Bloomberg moved the department to the group of public safety and infrastructure agencies like police, fire, sanitation, transportation and emergency management that report to Edward Skyler, the deputy mayor for operations to redefine the agencies’ missions.

“Your job is to save lives,” he told staff members at an agencywide meeting in February. “That means that it’s your duty to make sure that anyone reporting to any construction job, anywhere in the five boroughs, shouldn’t have to worry about going home safely that night. And let me make it as clear as I can: Simply shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘Well, after all, construction work is a dangerous occupation,’ is behavior that will not be tolerated from anyone.”

1 comment:

  1. Let the next head of the DOB put more boots on the street and on the jobsites to make them safer.

    Work Safe and take care of each other.


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