2008-03-21 / Editorial/Opinion

Putting Our Lives In Their Incompetent Hands

The fatal collapse of a construction crane in Manhattan that destroyed several buildings once again points to the fact that something is very wrong at the Department of Buildings, the city agency responsible for insuring the safety of construction sites. Although there were no violations given to the crane operators, there were 13 general violations found at the site, and yet construction activities were allowed to continue unabated. One expert pointed out to the DOB more than three weeks ago the fact that the crane appeared to have improper braces. An inspector from the agency reportedly came to the scene in response to the complaint and reportedly made an off-hand decision that everything was fine. It was not fine, as we all now know too well. Alocal example of the off-handedness of the agency can be seen in the building of the new Rite Aid Pharmacy on Rockaway Beach Boulevard at Beach 108 Street. The building was constructed, in part, by the same men who work for Steve Valiotis across the street at the Surfside Houses because he owns both properties. Last August 27, the DOB issued a "Stop Work Order" at the Rite Aid site because inspectors, following up on a complaint by a civilian walking by the site, found that Valiotis was using undersized steel girders for the building's skeleton, something that could easily turn deadly should the roof be covered by snow and ice. The stop work order was lifted by the DOB in early October. Since the undersized steel girders were still in place, we wondered why the order had been lifted and called the agency. Aspokesperson for the DOB said that Valiotis had simply amended his plans to allow for the undersized steel framework. When we asked if the new plans made the building more dangerous, we were told that the agency would not have approved the amended plans for a weaker skeleton if the plans would create a danger. End of statement. There is building going on all over the peninsula. We hope the DOB is doing a better job of monitoring that construction than they did the crane in Manhattan or the Rite Aid in Rockaway. We probably will stay away from that building whenever there's a high wind or lots of snow and ice, thanks to a skeleton probably less able to handle the load.

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