2003-05-02 / Columnists

On The Beach

With Beverly Baxter
On The Beach With Beverly Baxter

With the coming of spring come many new neighbors to our shores. The recently-built homes that have long remained vacant are beginning to be occupied by new homeowners. While driving along Beach Channel Drive one notices that the Monodnock Company’s attached homes are no longer these unidentifiable pre-fabricated row-housing structures; but rather they are homes unique to the residents that reside there adorned with door wreaths, window-dressings, and the family van parked in the driveway.

What has been a long arduous process for many from the time they buy their home until the time they are actually able to move in is finally coming to a close. But what has taken so long? There has been much speculation in the newspaper as to why so many of these homes have remained vacant. It seems that the problem is neither with the builders nor with Rockaway, but a systemic one that starts with the Department of Buildings. There are approximately 120 thousand homes all around the five boroughs that have been built over the past several years that remain vacant—and the Mayor is advocating for the construction of another 68 thousand to meet the middle class demand. The reason for the delays are due to an archaic bureaucracy within the department.  

You may recall that several years ago there was an enormous shake-up at the department. The whole structure was mired in corruption and indictments were handed down to the former Commissioner James Leonard, as well as to others within his department. Although there is a new department under Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, it is a department that is in some respects paralyzed by paranoia. A process of issuing permits and Certificates of Occupancy’s that should normally take merely several weeks can take up to a couple of years. It is hardly only an issue of frustration to the builders; but a financial hardship to the homeowners. Many are first time buyers who have scrimped and saved only to have their life’s savings tied up while they are forced to continue to pay rent and carry the expenses on their new home. But the hardship is not only absorbed by these delayed homeowners.

Construction is the barometer of the economy whether it be the national or local economy. Here in Rockaway, we have much to lose and much to gain. When a family moves into a new home, the economic chain extends to many industries. They hire a local moving company, order appliances and furniture, visit the local hardware store for gallons of paint, wallpaper, new keys, and other miscellaneous items. They’ll enroll the kids at school and buy stationary items.... From big-ticket items to the most minute of expenditures, construction and the ability to deliver a new home in a timely manner is vital to a strong local economy. But it all begins with the building department. I am in the planning stages of conducting an interview for cable television between the Commissioner of Buildings, several of the Developers who are building locally, and the delayed homeowners. It promises to be a show of great interest.

See you...On the Beach!


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