HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL WITH NEW DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS COMMISSIONER
Hank Kita, Executive Director
With the recent appointment of former Councilman Eric Ulrich as the new New York City Buildings Commissioner, one hopes that some change may be finally coming to this very bureaucratic, rigid, and unyielding department. Along with Commissioner Ulrich, Kazimir Vilenchik was appointed as the department’s First Deputy Commissioner.
Mayor Eric Adams made the appointments of Ulrich and Vilenchik as a part of a “Get Stuff Done” initiative which he has touted as a fresh approach to the more timely and efficient delivery of services to the public across all City departments. After hearing of significant changes in personnel at DOB in the first day of Ulrich’s tenure, hope springs eternal that this troubled city department might be finally heading in the right direction.
For too long, the Department of Buildings has been plagued by an entrenched bureaucracy that has made construction more difficult and costly to accomplish. While one cannot argue with the DOB mission of ensuring safety in construction, it has too often taken a punitive rather than a collaborative approach to enforcement. One example of this punitive approach is the recent trend in blanket stop work orders enforced by DOB inspectors for violations or incidents that may be caused by one confined aspect of a project. Instead of targeting these stop work orders to the “problem” components of the site, entire projects are being shut down putting dozens if not hundreds of workers off the job and costing owners and contractors untold sums of money.
Upon his appointment, the newly installed Commissioner Ulrich said, “I will be laser-focused on raising safety standards on job sites, delivering the customer service our city deserves, and making our building industry the most sustainable in the nation. I look forward to working collaboratively across the agency and with all of the stakeholders to move our city forward”.
I hope that Commissioner Ulrich is able to fulfill his pledge to work collaboratively with the union construction industry stakeholders resulting in a safer and more equitable construction process. The STA wishes to congratulate Commissioner Ulrich on his new job and looks forward to working with him and his new team. Hopefully, we can get the Commissioner in front of our membership in the near future in order to discuss how we might be able to work better with his Department of Buildings.