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PR- 073-08
February 29, 2008


The Following is the Text of Mayor Bloomberg’s Address to the Department of Buildings as Prepared.

"Thank you very much, Patricia. Good morning, everyone. When they told me I was going to be a 'surprise' guest speaker before the entire staff of the Department of Buildings this morning, I wondered if I should prepare something special. So I asked Deputy Mayor Skyler what I should do. And he told me, 'Don't try to be charming, or witty, or suave. Just be yourself!' That's always such good advice. So let me cut right to the chase.

"We've got 671 days left in this Administration. I intend to make the most of every one of them. And I expect each of you to do the same. Over the past six years, Commissioner Lancaster and all of you have made enormous progress in turning this agency around.

"I know that in her remarks today, Patricia spoke about the department that she inherited in 2002. And knowing her, she probably under-stated how enormous the challenges she faced were, and how successful she has been in meeting them. When she assumed leadership of the Department of Buildings, it was severely understaffed and deeply demoralized. That's all in the past.

"Under the leadership of the Commissioner and her team, you all have made tremendous progress in increasing this agency's efficiency and in vastly improving customer service. You've fulfilled a campaign promise that I made in 2001, and created a new set of Construction Codes that's worthy of New York City. And the Commissioner and her team have also made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that we will not tolerate even the appearance of corruption or impropriety in this vital department. The Commissioner not only has my deepest admiration for everything she has led you in achieving, she also has my unqualified support as she prepares the Department of Buildings for '2008 and Beyond.' You all have every reason to be proud of everything that you've done. Now it's time to complete the job we began six years ago.

"It's time to make New York City's Department of Buildings a model for agencies like it across the nation. And over the next 671 days, I'm expecting you to focus first, last, and always on your most critical and fundamental responsibility - rigorously, thoroughly, and aggressively protecting the lives and safety of our city's more than 125,000 construction workers, and the lives and safety of everyone who lives and works in or near, or who passes by, any building or construction site anywhere in our city. Because make no mistake about it: just like our city's police officers, just like the firefighters and inspectors that Chief Cassano commands, you are on the frontlines of public safety in New York City. That's why earlier this year, I put this department in the portfolio of agencies that answer to Deputy Mayor for Operations Ed Skyler, whom you heard from earlier today - who also has oversight over the city's other public safety agencies, too.

"Let me read you what the City Charter says about your inspection powers: 'The commissioner, any deputy commissioner, borough superintendents, inspectors, or any officer of the department may, for the purpose of performing their official duties, enter and inspect any building, structure, enclosure, premises, or any part thereof, or anything therein or attached thereto.' And, as the Charter goes on to stress, any refusal to permit such inspection is a criminal infraction of the law.

"There's a good reason that you are given those sweeping powers. It's simply this: Your job is to save lives. That means that it's your duty to make sure that anyone reporting to any construction job, anywhere in the five boroughs, shouldn't have to worry about going home safely that night. And let me make it as clear as I can: simply shrugging your shoulders and saying, 'Well, after all, construction work is a dangerous occupation,' is behavior that will not be tolerated from anyone. Not from any contractor any property owner any construction supervisor or construction worker and certainly not from anyone in New York City government.

  • Let me underscore the importance that we assign to safety:

  •  Six years ago, there were only 277 inspectors in the Department of Buildings. We have raised that to 426 - a 54% increase;

  •  Last year, when I signed the new Construction Codes into law, the Commissioner and I announced a new three-phase 'Special Enforcement Plan' of strategies for rigorously implementing worksite safety;

  •  We backed the first phase of that plan up with $6 million in new funding, and 67 additional staff lines, including new inspectors and auditors, organized into multi-disciplinary investigative teams;

  •  They are empowered to monitor and come down on developers, contractors, and others who engage in patterns of non-compliance with the Building Code;

  •  We've also tightened up the process of certifying plans submitted to the Building Department, to ensure that they comply with all building and zoning regulations;

  •  Two weeks ago, we announced Phase Two of this Special Enforcement Plan, and committed another $1 million in additional resources to it, the focus of this Phase Two is cracking down on illegal after-hours construction, unsafe demolitions of the interiors of buildings, and other serious construction site problems;

  •  This summer we'll roll out the third phase of this Special Enforcement Plan, and we'll make sure that it comes with real teeth, too;

  •  And as the Commissioner reported today, the Buildings Department last week began a 30-day sweep of the city that will inspect more than 1,500 scaffoldings and sidewalk sheds to make sure that they meet every safety standard.

"I'd also like you to look around this auditorium. You'll see hundreds of men and women who are proudly wearing navy blue jackets and blazers marked with the Department of Buildings insignia.
Three months ago, we issued those uniforms to the department's inspectors and field responders. We did that for a very good reason. Because now, if you're a Buildings Department inspector and you go to any construction site, anywhere in this city, you stand out. That's the way it should be, because you're in charge, and I expect each of you to carry yourselves with the all the pride and confidence that come with the responsibilities and the authority that we give you.

"When Commissioner Lancaster assumed leadership of this department in the months just after 9/11, a lot of people thought New York's days of growth and greatness were over. They certainly didn't think that we were on the verge of a major new surge in construction and development. Boy, were they wrong. Today, New York City is bigger than it's ever been. We've got a record eight and a quarter million people - and growing. Our population will reach more than nine million people by the year 2030.

"We're also in the midst of a construction boom of truly historic proportions. In 2001, construction spending was $15 billion a year. This year, it's projected to grow to $27.5 billion - a better-than 80% increase, and those numbers are expected to keep climbing through '2008 and beyond.'

"As many of you know - in fact, know better than anyone in New York - over the past six years, this Administration has rezoned roughly one-sixth of our entire city. That's more than the past six administrations combined. Here's what that means: Since 2002, we've created the capacity for up to 40 million square feet of new commercial development-approximately the equivalent of Downtown Houston, and up to 45,000 new houses and apartments - about enough to house 120,000 people. What's more, by 2009, additional re-zonings that we'll carry out will clear the tracks for tens of thousands more housing units.

"That population growth, and that construction and development explosion, have given you tremendous new responsibilities. Today, Commissioner Lancaster has previewed how she intends to meet them, leading this agency during '2008 and beyond.' She has outlined bold new initiatives in technology, efficiency, and safety. It's her blueprint for the future of the Department of Buildings -
a future built on the foundation she's already established - a foundation of integrity, transparency, and accountability. She and her managers hold each of you accountable; I hold them accountable. And we all answer to the people of the greatest city in the world. Let's all make them proud of the job we do, especially in carrying out our primary responsibility to them, keeping them safe. And let's all make sure that the best days for this department, and the best days for the City of New York, are still to come.

"Good luck and God bless you all."


Stu Loeser / John Gallagher   (212) 788-2958

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