Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mayor's Order Encourages Developers to Violate the Law

The following is the first part of a response by Monte Schapiro to Bloomberg's recent DOB announcement:

For those of you who have not seen this, the Mayor is now issuing edicts by fiat in the form of press releases.

Perhaps in response to too much prying and resistance by tenants and community advocates the Mayor announced on Feb. 2, 2009 that along with the posting of zoning diagrams on the DOB website there will now be a completely arbitrary statute of limitations restricting community interference with what is being called "[T]he current crisis, which has no formal timeframe, produces confusion and unnecessary and unintended costs for development in New York City."

Potentially aggrieved residents and neighbors, community advocates, and elected officials are now being put on notice that once the zoning diagrams appear on the DOB BIS website the clock will start ticking. Those who might disagree with the Mayor's assessment of "development" will have 30 days to object and be funneled into what will surely be an even greater bureaucratic and capricious morass than now exists. That might be hard to believe for those of you familiar with the complacency/hostility now posing as DOB policy toward development-hating citizens.

Even in the worst of times the monarch would have to sign his/her name to an edict of this sort. In fact, without the issuance of a Policy and Procedure Notice from the DOB this "announcement" has questionable legal foundation. No doubt, but the head honchos aren't distracted by such nuisances. They know that a lawsuit challenging such a "policy" would drain any group of much needed resources.

By the way, what about the DOB's responsibility to enforce the Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL), state law which has something to say about building plans as well?

Concerning the proposed ultimate exhaustion of remedies, in the form of an appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), it might be instructive to know that in order to get that far one must satisfy nearly insurmountable requirements. The greatest of these is obtaining a Letter of Final Determination on the issues in question from the Building Commissioner. Without it no appeal may be heard by the BSA. If you are a nobody, a building or neighborhood resident, you might as well forget about getting such a letter. We know from experience that it takes political support to get the DOB to respond having now successfully brought two appeals before the BSA, one zoning related and the other having to do with the MDL.

They are apparently trying to sneak this one by us hoping we would not notice. This is an affront to our basic First Amendment rights to be informed and seek redress and must be vigorously opposed.

I think it’s great that the DOB will finally be uploading diagrams of zoning plans to their feted website. That would surely be an improvement over the current situation, one in which plans and microfiche mysteriously vanish or the Dept. simply refuses to provide copies to interested parties. It should not, however, be part of some insidious quid pro quo in which citizens give up their right to oppose illegal building plans for the privilege of seeing diagrams online. What are we supposed to do? Should we be monitoring building permits 24/7 in order to prevent illegal construction just because the Mayor and his hand-picked crony LiMandri want to throw ad hoc administrative obstacles in our path? That would be ridiculous!

The Mayor and the new Building Commissioner like to talk about "streamlining" as if they are running a company. This term, so overused in this administration, is code talk for rushing things through before any opposition might develop. They must be reminded that we have a polity, dysfunctional as it is, which requires respect for the rule of law.

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