’Self-Certified’ NYC Building Plans Rife With Violations

Fri June 06, 2008 - Northeast Edition
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NEW YORK (AP) More than eight in 10 building plans vetted by architects and engineers — instead of city inspectors — violate zoning rules, city reviews of the plans found.

The Buildings Department recently checked 869 of the “self-certified’’ plans and issued objections against 727 of them, the New York Post reported.

Recent accidents have heightened scrutiny of construction practices and criticism of the city’s “self-certification’’ system for building plans. The system lets architects and engineers confirm on their own that some plans comply with regulations, instead of having department inspectors do it independently.

Self-certification has become common since it was created in 1995 to tackle a backlog of plans awaiting approval. Some 54 percent of the 61,000 plans filed between January and April were self-certified.

The Buildings Department randomly reviews 20 percent of self-certified plans.

Some critics have called for ending the program, and the results of the recent reviews fueled their ire.

“It’s an open door for noncompliance’’ with building and zoning laws, said state Assemblyman James Brennan, a Brooklyn Democrat.

The city has promised a crackdown. Mayor Michael Bloomberg set aside $6 million last year to add three teams of investigators to go after faulty building permit applications and other bad practices.

Acting Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said the agency was setting qualifications for professionals to self-certify plans, and building cases against those who repeatedly break rules.

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