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Bloomberg Plan to reform DOB

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Bloomberg Plan to reform DOB

Postby Cranky Tenant » Tue Jul 23, 2002 5:39 pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2002
No. 197
<http://www.nyc.gov/>

MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG AND COMMISSIONER PATRICIA J. LANCANSTER ANNOUNCE
PLAN TO REFORM BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced that the Department of Buildings
(DOB) Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster, AIA has released a report
outlining changes and reforms to the Buildings Department. The report
includes dozens of initiative from streamlining Emergency Response
procedures to introducing E-Government into the permitting and certification
process. Commissioner Lancaster's report details the current state of the
Department of Buildings, analyzing its strengths and weaknesses. The
Report provides details on initiatives that have been completed or are in
progress and sets forth the Commissioner's long-term commitment to
structurally and fundamentally improve the filing-to-Certificate of
Occupancy process -- a cornerstone of the agency's operations.

"I hired Commissioner Patricia Lancaster to fix the problems that have
long plagued the Department of Buildings and made it difficult to build in
this City," said Mayor Bloomberg. "I am pleased to announce that the
Commissioner has already taken steps to systematically reform the Agency and
set its future direction. This report addresses the climate of corruption
that has flourished and that has been fueled by cumbersome and opaque
operating procedures."

"With the support of Mayor Bloomberg, I will change the way DOB operates and
fulfill our mandate to improve service, increase efficiency and address
corruption," said Commissioner Lancaster. "Having been successful at
restructuring other organizations, I am confident that I can use those same
skills to simplify and de-mystify DOB's operations."

DOB has set forth a commitment to improve the way it does business including
application filings, plan review, permitting/inspection and the issuance of
the Certificate of Occupancy. One year from now, the Agency will produce a
template for re-inventing the set of transactions reflected in this
multi-faceted procedure, which shortens the overall process, provides time
frames for each component, and offers a level of transparency designed to
put information into the public domain and thus remove the obscurity that
allows corruption to flourish. The Report includes a review of the April
2001 Task Force on Re-engineering the Department and builds upon many of its
recommendations.

Since the beginning of Commissioner's Lancaster's tenure at the Agency, DOB
has completed or is in the process of completing the following short term
initiatives:

Initiatives Completed:
* Credit Card Payments Implemented: DOB began accepting
credit cards for all transactions in the boroughs on July 1.
* Allow E-filing for Subsequent Submissions to Applications:
Since June 10, applicants have been able to email their no-fee "subsequent"
applications.
* E-Filing of OP-38 Forms for Master Plumbers & Fire
Suppression Contractors: DOB is in the final stages of developing an
application which will permit licensed Master Plumbers or licensed Fire
Suppression Contractors to notify the Department when they will be
conducting self certified inspections or tests using a form available
through our Website on NYC.gov.
* Fee Estimation for Pre-filing: DOB has returned to the
practice of having technical staff perform a preliminary "pre-exam" for fee
estimation to identify any glaring errors before accepting an application
for filing.
* Intranet Building Code Search Capability for DOB Staff:
Using DOB's intranet, DOB has developed a new online search capability for
use with the New York City Building Code. This new application permits
selected employees to search through the entire Building Code on any word.
* IT Assessment: Over the last several months, DoITT has been
working with DOB to assess the ability of the Agencies information
technology to support the Agency's current and future business direction.
* Clarification of Professional Certification Procedures: DOB
recently clarified our procedure for the professional certification process.
Points include formalizing the criteria for audits and implementing a
randomized selection process to ensure that a representative sampling of
application types will be audited
* Emergency Response Procedures Established: We have asked the
Assistant Commissioner for Citywide Inspections to review our procedures for
responding to emergencies, and to develop standardized response protocols. A
Policy and Procedure Notice (PPN) reflecting the revised process was issued
July 3rd
* Monitoring of Home Improvement Contractors: The Agency is
working with the Department of Consumer Affairs to ensure that contractors
doing designated work in residential homes are appropriately licensed by
that agency.

Initiatives in Progress:
* Anti-Corruption Measures: Reducing corruption is one of
this Administration's primary objectives. Last year, DOB terminated eight
employees for corruption related acts. In 2002, we have already terminated
seven for similar offenses. Our approach to combating corruption includes
new initiatives that have been and will be implemented. First, DOB now
performs pre-employment screenings on all potential new hires. Previously,
only inspector positions and other sensitive positions underwent a
background investigation. Second, we have intensified our integrity training
to include examples of conflicts of interest and clearly written "Do's and
Don'ts" for staff to understand our zero tolerance policy. Third, we have
utilized new positions acquired for our Office of Investigations and
Discipline (IAD) to staff a double-check and spot audit unit.
* Scaffold Task Force: In response to the recent spate of
construction accidents that involved the failure of stationary scaffolds, we
have formed a task force of agency personnel to examine this issue.
* Certificate of Occupancy Pilot Project: On July 1, 2002, we
initiated in the Bronx phase one of our project for re-engineering and
shortening the process for issuing Certificates of Occupancy.
* World Trade Center Building Code Task Force: This spring a
Task Force consisting of an eleven-member executive committee and five
working groups met to focus on issues concerning structural strength, fire
protection, emergency evacuation, mechanical systems and DOB operations, as
relates to the collapse of the World Trade Center.
* Building Code Update: The published Building Code was last
updated in 1993. DOB is finalizing an update to the Building Code for our
web-based version (currently updated to 1998) and for publication. The Code
has been updated through 2000 for this round, which we expect to be
completed in-house by August 1, 2002.
* Rule 49 Exterior "Signs" Outreach Program: Last year, the
City of New York enacted Local Law 14 to reduce the visual clutter of
illegal exterior signs and to better regulate existing and new legal signs.
The Department is in the midst of the rulemaking process with respect to a
proposed rule to implement Local Law 14, which details requirements for new
permit applications.
* DOB Relocation to 280 Broadway: The renovation of the
historic Sun Newspaper Building is nearly complete and DOB's Hudson Street
offices will soon be settled in this building
* Little "e" Designations: In January, the Mayor's Office of
Environmental Coordination convened a multi-agency review regarding the
enforcement of e-designations. The Zoning Resolution provides that these
designations be affixed to amended zoning maps where certain tax lots
covered by the change may pose environmental hazards if the soil is
disturbed.
* Electrical Code Revisions: The new Electrical Code passed
by the New York City Council in November of 2001 contains administrative
enhancements as well as a built-in acceleration clause mandating the
codification and updating of technical standards through submission of a
local law to the City Council. The technical standards will reference the
1999 National Electrical Code with amendments and become effective January
1, 2003.
* Electronic Imaging of Violations: The Department is
finalizing a contract for digital imaging (scanning), of violation-related
documents to enhance data management reliability and efficiency.
* Forums for DOB Staff: During initial "Town Hall" meetings,
we found that employee
comments and suggestions could result in effective short term
solutions to existing issues.

"The Department faces enormous challenges. We have no illusions about the
scope of work required to deliver on the mandate that we have been given by
Mayor Bloomberg," Commissioner Lancaster concluded. "Moving forward means
moving on multiple fronts simultaneously."

-30-
I'm a cranky tenant NOT a cranky lawyer.
Cranky Tenant
 
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