New York City's Buildings Commissioner Resigns

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Patricia Lancaster, the city's buildings commissioner. During six years in office she had strengthened the department in many ways, Bloomberg said; neither he nor Lancaster alluded in their statements to the March 15 collapse of a construction tower crane in Manhattan that killed seven people, nor to Lancaster's April 17 remark during a City Council hearing that her department should not have approved the high-rise building that the crane was being used to construct, according to an article published last week by The New York Times.

Ironically, Lancaster's department (www.nyc.gov/html/dob/html/home/home.shtml) will observe its 4th Annual Construction Safety Week 2008 beginning Monday, starting with a scaffold safety seminar that evening in the Bronx and including a crane safety briefing May 1 in Manhattan.

"Over the past six years, Patricia has moved the Department of Buildings a long way forward by fighting corruption, strengthening inspections and oversight, increasing the public's access to information, and bringing increased levels of professionalism and integrity to all levels of her agency," Bloomberg said Tuesday. "Patricia led a comprehensive overhaul of the city's byzantine building code, the first in 40 years, which will make the construction of homes, schools, stores, and offices in New York City safer, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly for years to come. Patricia leaves a strong foundation of reform and improvement for her successors to build on, and I thank her for her dedication to making New York City a far better place to live, work, and visit."

Lancaster said this in her statement: "Today I submitted my resignation, which Mayor Bloomberg accepted. It has been an honor serving in his administration, and I thank the Mayor for this opportunity. After six years in public service, I made this decision because I felt it was time to return to the private sector. I am proud of the groundbreaking work the department has done during my tenure to root out corruption, increase transparency, overhaul the building code, and increase safety for workers and the public alike. My message today to the talented and capable staff at the Department of Buildings is to keep up the hard work: you've made so much important progress. It has been my distinct pleasure working with you."

Lancaster on April 17 had announced the results of her department's citywide inspection sweep of tower cranes: 21 of 29 tower cranes installed and in use throughout the five boroughs passed inspection and were in compliance with regulations, she said. Eight tower cranes for which violations were issued were immediately shut down and remained out of operation until the violations were corrected. Lancaster, FAIA, is a New York State Registered Architect with more than 25 years' experience. As buildings commissioner, she was responsible for setting local construction standards, enforcing the Building Code and Zoning Resolution for more than 950,000 buildings and properties, and regulating New York City's $25 billion per year construction industry. She was the first woman to serve in the post.

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