Buildings Department to the Rescue: What Took So Long?

Adam Lisberg of The Daily News wrote today that the Buildings Dept. vows crackdown on unscrupulous builders.  Sounds like an excellent idea to me as it seems like everyone and their brother thinks they are an investor/developer these days.  I can’t tell you how many phone calls I have received from friends and family asking me to find them a "deal" somewhere so that they can either convert, build, or renovate and flip the project.  99% of these people have absolutely ZERO experience with projects of this type.  They all have one thing in common though and that is that they believe you don’t need experience to make money in this real estate market.  Unfortunately, that has been true up until now but who wants to buy from an investor/developer who has no proven track record?  Check out what the Buildings Dept. is finding now that they are actually delving into the inner workings of some of these projects.

Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster said a special excavation task force has issued stop-work orders on 167 sites – more than 20% of the ones it inspected – and a team now visits sites to ensure the orders are followed.

She said the department also is cracking down on architects and engineers who build illegal eyesores by abusing their right to certify their own plans.

When the Buildings Department audited 155 of those plans, it found problems with 80% of them.

As someone who has watched projects from beginning to end with fascination at their seemingly shoddy construction, this really doesn’t surprise me.  I also don’t pretend that I’m any sort of expert on construction but I can see the difference between a project completed by Extell or Related versus Joe Schmoe who builds 10 units in the form of an upside down "L" over an existing tenement building. 

The desire to capitalize on the booming Manhattan real estate market has unfortunately brought out the worst in some people as they have cut corners and bent rules and regulations to suit their wallets.  No big surprise here.  What is rather disconcerting to me is that the Buildings Dept. is only now taking an active role in policing these projects. What happens to all of those who bought property in these projects already built by "unscrupulous builders?" What is the Buildings Dept going to do to those builders and for those who were taken advantage of by purchasing in those buildings?

Now that the housing boom is over in much of the country and slowing significantly in our back yard (my opinion of course…I must still say that inventory remains ridiculously low and many of my buyers remain frustrated that they can’t find a home…the difference is that these buyers are patient), it seems that various agencies are ready to go after the "sleazy" who profited during this time.  Check out Jonathan Miller’s post today at Matrix regarding the Federal government’s plan to create oversight of the mortgage broker industry.  Nice timing!  What were these agencies doing when all of this fraud and unscrupulous behavior was taking place?  I just don’t get it!

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2 Responses to Buildings Department to the Rescue: What Took So Long?

  1. avatar Christiane says:

    You are so right! Where were all the regulators when the fraud was being committed? Absent, as usual. But we are used to this down in GA, since we are blessed with the distinct honor of being one of the areas with the highest mortgage fraud in the country. And they wonder why our foreclosure rates in some counties are so high too?
    My husband used to have his own remodeling company. I wish I had a dollar for every “botched” project he went to estimate to fix. The problem here is that anyone can be a contractor, just hang a sign on the side of your truck. The lack of licensing requirements and our huge illegal alien population put the legitimate companies out of business. My family still lives in Westchester and Gotham and are amazed by these facts.

  2. Funny you mention the contractor biz. As a real estate agent, I am asked weekly for a referral for a reputable contractor and in my 16 years EVERY single one that I have referred has eventually disappointed. Even the guy who did work for my wife and I in 2 of our homes started a job for a colleague of mine based on my recommendation and then did a vanishing act with a huge punch list to finish.

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