Friday, June 20, 2008

The Department of...You've Got To Be Shitting Me.

280 Broadway, 3rd Floor

This is how the DOB operates after being upgraded with "21st century" technologies. Some genius figured out how to fix the horribly Rube Goldberg-esque machine that is the New York City Department of Buildings. Their solution was to consolidate a half-dozen or so divisional tasks (Data Entry, miscellaneous Data Entry (don't ask), permitting, cashiers, etc...) and to create a new breed of Uber-clerks that do everything.

By my estimate the line these days exceeds 150 people, possibly closer to 200, and literally stretches to the commissioners' office door. It seems that some of the frustrated people that frequent the Manhattan DOB noticed that the temporary certificate of occupancy they run for this building, they being the Department of City Wide Administrative Services, only allows for 180 people on the floor. It also seems they registered complaints with the FD who were on the 3rd floor 3 times last week; word on the street is that the FD issued violations for over-occupying the floor. The actual number of occupants on the floor on a typical day is probably closer to double--if not more--than what the legal occupant load is.

The videos:
left: the line begins on the left side of the frame and I keep it there best I can to the end.
right: the line in reverse.

This is a pdf link to the building's temporary CO. I think it's funny they have been running a temporary CO for several years and haven't been able to finalize it; the DOB is the sole tenant, less the 3 commercial occupancies on the first floor; you'd think they could pull some strings--waive a few of the final CO requirements the normals have to achieve--for the DCAS as a professional courtesy, no? Perhaps they'd even take the time to correct the occupant load and group seeing as they should be leading by example.

I noticed a few other things while investigating this matter that I'll expound on later such as the hazardous facade violations that have been "written off" but are still active. They can't be cured until they file and get approval for their Local Law 11/98 (facade inspection) report. It was due Feb. 21st, 2007 and still isn't in. Their cycle 5 report ('02) was filed, but filed as "unsafe." I'll save my breath on that for now though.

It's too easy to just rail against the DOB so I'm going to offer up the following suggestions:

The DOB is a singular place. Cutting off its head (commissioner) and instituting a "good manager" (as indicated by Bloomberg's proposal to eliminate from the City Charter that commissioners be licensed RA's or PE's) will not work. You need someone who understands the nuts and bolts of this monster; Patricia Lancaster was from upstate or Wyoming or some place not NYC. To reform something, first one must honestly and truly understand it. I'm positive that one can't have substantive understanding of this beast unless you've been embeded in it for at least 5 years.

Work from the bottom up, not the top down. There's no way they [the DOB] can achieve the sweeping change it so desperately needs without being able to efficiently handle the most basic bureaucratic functions.