DOB Appoints New Enforcement Official, Initiates Sweeping Balcony Inspections
The Department of Buildings (DOB) has been under increased scrutiny in the past few years, after a series of tragic construction accidents and the recent guilty plea by a construction crane company that it paid off a top city inspector to shortcut safety inspections and licensing exams. The company acknowledged it had paid the inspector more than $10,000 to fake results for inspections that were never conducted and to certify that the company's Nu-Way workers had passed crane operator tests that at least one of them never took.
The city has since added crane inspectors, increased training requirements, and changed how licensing exams are given to some crane operators. In a move to bolster the department's enforcement operations, DOB has recently appointed Eugene J. Corcoran as its new Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement to oversee investigations and prosecutions of buildings as well as DOB staffers. This will be the first time in the department's history that a police official has joined its senior leadership.
Background in Investigation, Enforcement
Since 2003, Deputy Commissioner Corcoran served as the United States Marshal for the Eastern District of New York, where he was responsible for overseeing complex protective and investigative missions, including the protection of federal court judges and court witnesses, the apprehension of fugitives throughout the world, and the coordination of various criminal investigations involving federal, state, and local agencies.
Prior to his presidential appointment as United States Marshal for the Eastern District, Deputy Commissioner Corcoran served as a Deputy Chief for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department. There, he was responsible for all police field operations for the largest mass transportation system in the country. He also served for more than 20 years in the New York State Police, where he was elevated to the rank of captain and supervised police and administrative operations statewide.
As Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement, Corcoran will oversee more than 120 attorneys, investigators, and inspectors whose primary mission is to investigate the work of contractors, developers, licensed professionals, and any others who violate the NYC Construction Codes and Zoning Resolution, and prosecute these offenders at the Environmental Control Board and the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. He will also oversee DOB's Office of Internal Audits and Discipline, which investigates employee misconduct and unlicensed construction operations, and work closely with the city's Department of Investigation (DOI) to root out corruption at all levels within the construction industry. He also will assist DOI in the operation of the Buildings Special Investigations Unit, a specialized unit that investigates unethical business practices and unsafe construction work that warrants criminal prosecution.
Balconies Under Scrutiny
On the heels of the appointment, DOB has declared the balconies of 16 city apartment buildings to be off-limits and that hundreds more lack proper inspections. DOB deemed the balconies unsafe following a review prompted by the March death of a tenant who fell from a faulty 24th-floor terrace on East 39th Street.
According to DOB spokesman Tony Sclafani, “Following the tragic accident in March, the department has intensified its focus on facade safety, and as a result, we have issued partial vacate orders to buildings whose balconies pose a risk to the tenants.”
Inspection teams have been conducting street-level examinations, with inspectors and engineers examining balconies with binoculars and entering buildings for physical inspections. They have found loose railings, crumbling concrete, and unsecured railing posts. Sclafani said inspectors have visited at least 530 buildings across the city and plan to do balcony examinations at hundreds more.
In addition to finding hazardous and poorly maintained balconies, inspectors found about 800 building owners who have failed to file mandatory inspection reports, Sclafani said.
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