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NYC Buildings Dept. cuts back on staffing, including inspectors — despite recent collapses

1/9/24 The headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitcher religious group has been closed temporarily because holes in the walls of the basement were found, which means the Department of Buildings must come and inspect the premises. The holes were created to get from one building to the other. Here, a Department of Buildings inspector arrives at the site to check out the structural integrity of the building. (pictured) 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY. Please credit Gregory P. Mango. "NYpostinhouse"

“We see the impact,’’ she said.

In the first four months of this year, the DOB issued 2,225 stop-work orders — a 36 percent decrease from the same period in 2023.

“The average wait time for a construction inspection increased to three days, while average wait times for plumbing inspections increased to 2.6 days, and electrical inspections increased to 4.0 days,” too, she said.

On the morning of the hearing, a construction company owner was convicted of criminally negligent homicide after a faulty wall collapsed and crushed 5-year-old Alysson Pinto-Chaumana in the city.

DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said the department was never able to fill all of its open inspector positions in part because the department has trouble competing with salaries in the private sector.

But he noted that the DOB has 525 inspectors and only needs 540 to be considered fully staffed.

“Historically speaking. we are still doing an excellent job,” Oddo testified. “We did 370,000 filed inspections last year, more than at any other point.”

He said the DOB doesn’t need to hire more inspectors. Instead, the department needs to use its existing inspectors more efficiently, Oddo said, and pointed to a new bill — currently working its way through the approval process — that would use predictive analytics to identify problematic buildings before they collapse.

Still, council members were appalled at the staffing decision in the wake of recent tragedies.

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In December, dozens of residents were displaced when an apartment building in the Bronx partially collapsed.

In April 2023, a parking garage at 57 Ann Street in the Financial District collapsed, killing one man and injuring five other people.

City council members also slammed the DOB’s staffing decision as the city undergoes a new rezoning plan called “City of Yes” that’s expected to lead to a boon in construction.

“You’re not going to be able to keep up with the pace of development that we’re anticipating in this city without more inspectors. And you’ve managed to survive with this overtime, but it should have been replaced with more bodies to be able to ensure that construction projects are happening safely,” Councilman Lincoln Wrestler said.

The Brooklyn pol said that same morning, a constituent called his office after scaffolding from a building fell on her as she was walking her baby in a stroller in Greenpoint.

“Fortunately she’s OK, her shoulder is messed up, but the baby is OK. But we need DOB out there keeping us safe with all of the development happening in our communities,” Wrestler said.

DOB is still investigating the cause of the parking garage collapse and the partial collapse of the Bronx apartment building.

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