Update on DOB Doings in South Park Slope

From Aaron Brashear, Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Hts.
[email protected]

Greetings all,

A day late, but never a dollar short, here’s my synopsis of the great meeting we had at the DOB on Monday 7/16/07 with Comm. Mossad, his 2 Deputy Commissioners, head plan examiner, both community affairs liaisons and lead inspector manager.

From the community were Bo, Jeremy (CB7), Mic and myself.

First off, let me say there was a very different vibe to the meeting. 6 months ago, it was very much about Comm. Mossad telling us what he and his office had done to date to improve the Brooklyn DOB. There was very little back and forth discussion, though we were able to hand off a hit list of questions, which we again presented this time.

That’s how this meeting was different. In a very direct way, the Commissioner accepted our agenda, and for the most part, we covered all the topics I e-mailed to the DOB (and to our groups) prior to the meeting.

Here’s some of what was covered (paraphrasing here, of course…and it’s a long one):

-Improvements at DOB in the last 6 months: we discussed our POV that there has been a definite improvement in response time, enforcement and pro-active work by inspectors and the DOB.

-In response to the above comments from us, Commissioner Mossad brought up the newer DOB code, Rule 52 (in effect earlier this year) that requires a developer/contractor to notify the DOB 48 hrs before they start any new excavation. This gives the DOB the ability to randomly check and “surprise” sites undergoing excavation without the developer/contractor knowing it. After enough of these (it was stated has been very effective), developers/contractors will be kept “on their toes” not knowing when DOB might do a surprise inspection. Comm. Mossad pointed out that while he was happy with the results, he felt the DOB could take it one step further, visiting ALL new construction sites. They chose CB1 (Williamsburg/Greenpoint) as the testing area. There are currently 40 new construction sites in CB1. The DOB has visited 30 so far, giving out violations at the majority of the sites (14 sites shut down). Comm. Mossad personally visited 5 of the sites, issuing 4 of the sites violations (some minor, some more significant violations). After concluding the study, they plan to present it to Comm. Lancaster and see if it is something that could be pursued Boro wide…of course with more funding and added inspectors. We asked for a copy of their synopsis once they make it available to the public.

-Needs for improvement from the DOB: follow up on problem sites and a keeping tags on repeat offenders. Comm. Mossad says his office flags all repeat offenders for consideration when they try to pull additional permits on existing or new development sites. While they cannot legally target these sites, they can keep closer tabs. We were assured they were. Generally DOB immediately meets with the architect/contractor/engineer on a flagged site after a violation, then follow up 1 week after a SWO is lifted, as an example.

-Deputy Comm. Winters brought up specifically the issuance of variance permits for after hours work. If they catch a developer abusing the permits, they no longer can pull them. If there are enough quality of life complaints to 311 associated with variance permits, he says his office will not reissue subsequent permits until issues are addressed. If they are not, no new variance permits (was refreshing to hear the DOB takes into consideration quality of life issues as they pertain to after hours work, especially on weekends).

-Updates on: 162 16th St. / 639 6th Ave. / 338-342 22nd St. / 23 Caton Pl. / 406-408 15th St. / 614 7th Ave. / 570-584 4th Ave. / 18-20 Jackson Pl. / 279 21 St. St and others. We discussed reviewing these off-line with Ken Lazar, but did specifically bring up 162 16th St (see synopsis of Tuesday plan review below), 406-408 15th St, 23 Caton Pl. and 639 6th Ave.

-406-408 15th St. is still being closely monitored. Crack monitors have been installed at 1502 8th Ave and seem to be stabilized (the Commissioner is hopeful any damage that was done there will have ceased by the completion of the foundation of 406-408 15th St.). The DOB has made the developer agree to take boring samples of their property and the adjacent properties to determine the condition of the soil (and what needs to be done to remediate it, if anything…). So far they have done 406-408 15th St. and the developer is negotiating taking samples from the residents on 8th Ave and 16th St. Obviously there’s much reluctance to cooperate with the developer, but let’s let the lawyers work that one out without further comment from me. I will note that the Commissioner noted that 406-408 15 St’s foundation job was very difficult if they did not have a “proper engineer.” You can read into that yourselves.

-22 Caton Pl. has had real issues with after hours work during the foundation pours as of late. We were told the developer and contractor had been read the riot act. In addition, late last week, Ken Lazar gave his e-mail to members of Stable Brooklyn to e-mail him directly with any after hours work. I will add that again folks MUST call 311 at the time of a complaint. Not the next morning, not the day after. Make sure it is DOB you are filing the complaint with and not a noise or quality of life complaint with DEP. Currently the agencies do not share data.

-639 6th Ave. and the worker injury were discussed, not to our satisfaction, unfortunately. Since DOB received notice of this days later (that is why we all MUST call 311 when we see something, even though there may be follow up by CB7 or myself), DOB’s inspectors witnessed no worker injury, nor any scaffolding creating a dangerous condition. I have turned over the info to OSHA, and DOB has informed us it is in OSHA’s hands (making it tough fro OSHA since they need a complaint from the injured worker or a fellow worker, or specific info from the DOB, if a complaint was checked and violations were issued). Still waiting to hear back from OSHA after 2 conversations.

-We gave DOB 182 15th St. and 614 7th Ave. as the first 2 “bad water sites” with potential for mosquito infestations (are there any more out there?). We were advised to also alert the Dept. of Health as well, which i will do via CB7.

The meeting ended with some repartee about some of our more favorite architects and development sites. Mic and I left the meeting feeling we had accomplished our goals of improving relations with DOB and seeing improvement in their efforts in the South Slope and Greenwood Hts. I got the distinctive impression they felt the same.

Be glad to give more in depth info if folks want. E-mail or call me directly.


UPDATE on 162 16th St. Yesterday, placing my CB7 hat back on, Bo, Jose (an R.A. from Prospect Ave, adjacent to the site) met with head plan examiner, John Gallagher, to review concerns from the neighborhood on recent issues at 162 16th St. (go figure) with construction of the parking area/garden and open space concerns as they pertain to potential FAR violations.

I will not tip our hand, but let’s just say it was a very enlightening experience. John was excellent at answering questions and helping us find 4 distinctive issues with the plans/construction that he will be taking to Comm. Mossad. Look for more inspectors to the site and a potential SWO. TBD.

All for now, back to the trenches. Enjoy the rest of the day, albeit a soggy one.


Posted Under: Brooklyn, Department of Buildings, Enforcement, Park Slope

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