18 April 2008

DOB's Lancaster Admits She Screwed Up, in Several Ways

Embattled Department of Building head Patricia Lancaster—who is twisting in the wind while her boss Michael Bloomberg airs his poetical works—confessed at a Thursday City Council hearing that the East Side building that last month sent a crane hurling to earth, killing seven people, was not only in severe violation of building codes but did not conform with zoning regulations and was approved in error.

You got that right: it shouldn't have been built in the first place!

My favorite part of the New York Times account is this jaw-dropping exchange:

"Wow," said Councilwoman Jessica S. Lappin, whose district includes the site of the crane collapse. "You’re telling me this building should never have been approved in the first place?"

"That is correct," Ms. Lancaster replied.

After her testimony, Ms. Lancaster sought to clarify her remarks with reporters.

I'll bet she did! The mistake of approving the building was apparent discovered before the crane accident, but not acted on "because buildings officials were talking to [developer James] Kennelly to resolve the matter." Only the DOB won't say exactly when the found out the 43-story thing had no write to be there.

Other things Lancaster can't account for include the pace of building construction in New York City. She had no real answer for the Council. Also, the locations of buildings it has deemed dangerous—like the one that suddenly collapsed in Harlem on March 4. The Daily News reported, "Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster then promised a review of 'every outstanding emergency declaration in the city.' As of Wednesday [April 16] she could not provide the location of even one."

As of April 18, Lancaster still had her job. Somehow.

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