More Complaints About Complaining to the Buildings Department
We've got to say that we don't have any personal experience with calling 311 to file a complaint with the Department of Buildings, but we do have experience with people that have done so and become frustrated in the process. There are those that claim they call to lodge a complaints about things like after-hours construction that are not investigated or that are investigated in such a way that the original problem is gone by the time the building inspectors show up.
There are also those that complain they can no longer get information over the phone about what permits a particular building or contractor may or may not have. For instance, blogger Bad Advice recounts this tale of inquiring about whether a contractor had building permits in place:
Of course, anyone can access the Department of Buildings Building Information System (BIS) website. Fairly up to date information is available there on every building in the city. The problem is that the entire system is written in professional code and that the average person has little hope of deciphering the information.
I looked up the address on the DOB website, but couldn't decipher whether or not the demolition permits had been granted. I could tell they'd been applied for but they use all this weird coding that normal people without an extensive construction background can't understand. So I called 311 and attempted to talk to a human.
The operator connected me to the Department of Buildings, where a cheery young woman informed me that I'd have to look on the website to see if there were any permits.
I told her that I'd done that, but couldn't decipher what the codes meant. I asked her to help me figure it out and offered to give her all identifying details. She refused.
I didn't understand, as I just wanted to know what a bunch of letters meant. She cheerfully restated her position that the only thing she could do was direct me to the website and wondered aloud whether they were doing work without a permit.BUT YOU WON'T TELL ME WHETHER OR NOT THEY HAVE A PERMIT!!!! I may have yelled.
The screen above comes from the page for 90 N. 9th Street in Williamsburg, which we posted about yesterday in relation to its very dangerous scaffold and overall look of abandonment. We understand what the each of the entries say, but does an average person stand a chance of determining if the workers banging away at 10:30 on Sunday morning have a permit? We do undertand that it's a government website and that it contains technical information about permits. We also know that there are documents on the site explaining the abbreviations and codes, still, there should be a way for people to get information in a way that they can understand. (For instance, over the phone from someone who can translate into English.)
One would be tempted to suggest that the system has been set up to deliberately make it harder for citizens to find out what's going on, but that would be cynical, wouldn't it?
Labels: Construction Issues