Bloomberg’s Buildings Chief Resigns
By Diane Cardwell
Facing mounting pressure and dwindling confidence from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg over her handling of the Department of Buildings, Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster resigned on Tuesday.
The first woman to lead the troubled agency and one of the only commissioners to leave the administration under a cloud, she is departing as a series of high profile construction accidents and bureaucratic problems have embarrassed the agency and the mayor.
Mr. Bloomberg announced at 12:10 p.m. that he had accepted her resignation. He had hired Ms. Lancaster, an architect, to modernize the 1,286-person agency, which issues permits, oversees construction and enforces the building code. But the agency had come under increasing criticism.
This year, there have been 13 fatalities at construction sites in the city, including seven in a March 15 crane collapse, compared with 12 during all of 2007. In another case, investigators found after the death of two firefighters in an Aug. 18, 2007, fire at the former Deutsche Bank building near ground zero that building inspectors had failed to detect numerous violations, including the dismantling of a standpipe that would have carried water to firefighters at the top of the building.
The announcement on Tuesday afternoon included a statement from Mr. Bloomberg:
This morning, I met with Patricia Lancaster at Gracie Mansion and accepted her resignation as New York City’s Buildings Commissioner. Over the past six years, Patricia has moved the Department of Buildings a long way forward by fighting corruption, strengthening inspections and oversight, increasing the public’s access to information, and bringing increased levels of professionalism and integrity to all levels of her agency. Patricia led a comprehensive overhaul of the City’s byzantine building code, the first in 40 years, which will make the construction of homes, schools, stores and offices in New York City safer, more affordable and more environmentally friendly for years to come. Patricia leaves a strong foundation of reform and improvement for her successors to build on, and I thank her for her dedication to making New York City a far better place to live, work and visit.
It also included this statement from Ms. Lancaster:
Today I submitted my resignation, which Mayor Bloomberg accepted. It has been an honor serving in his administration and I thank the Mayor for this opportunity. After six years in public service, I made this decision because I felt it was time to return to the private sector. I am proud of the groundbreaking work the department has done during my tenure to root out corruption, increase transparency, overhaul the building code and increase safety for workers and the public alike. My message today to the talented and capable staff at the Department of Buildings is to keep up the hard work: you’ve made so much important progress. It has been my distinct pleasure working with you.
Both statements are utter, mealy-mouthed crap, of course. You knew Lancaster's days were numbered when Bloomie stopped supporting her at press conferences. Still, I'm amazed Mayor Mike admitted to any fault in his administration.
Not to be smug, but this blog was the first I know of to call for her resignation in the wake of the crane accident. But congratulations to all the NYC blogs out there who kept the heat on the issue of rampant overdevelopment and the DOB's shoddy, corrupt performance, and finally forced the print dailies to take notice.
Now, let's see if Mike has the courage to appoint someone who will actually clean up the department, look out for the citizenry and keep developers in line. Let us not forget that whatever Lancaster did, she did with the tacit (or even explicit) approval of her boss.
Lancaster the Scapegoat