New-York News

Editorial: City's staffing shortfall could stymie crucial housing and climate initiatives

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As New York grapples with pressing urban challenges — from climate action to housing affordability — the staffing shortages in the Department of Buildings could undermine the city’s capacity to translate legislative intentions into tangible outcomes. The city’s new initiatives, Local Law 97 and the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity, are pivotal, aiming to make New York cleaner and streamline business approvals. Yet, without adequate staffing, these initiatives risk becoming mere entries in a ledger of unfulfilled promises.

At the heart of the problem lies a discrepancy in the city’s staffing priorities. While departments such as the NYPD enjoy robust support — evidenced by an 86-member public relations team, as documented by New York Focus —the DOB is noticeably understaffed. The department’s headcount is 1,584 compared to the 1,861 positions allocated last year. Wait times for construction inspections have more than doubled, and the department’s ability to respond to non-emergency complaints has slowed, directly affecting the city’s operational efficiency and safety.

In April 2023, a parking garage on Ann Street collapsed, killing a man. The buildings department rushed to inspect hundreds of parking garages afterwards, resulting in 13 full or partial vacate orders and 237 summonses — mostly under the category of “failure to maintain.” Inspecting these garages after-the-fact is insufficient and bordering on negligence.

The City Council is correct to spotlight this issue as a critical budget priority, arguing for the restoration of $19 million for 207 positions previously cut. However, despite the urgency conveyed by council members and optimism from Buildings Commissioner James Oddo, action seems elusive. Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, while making strides in certain areas, appears to falter when bold visions meet the operational realities of city governance. The proposed staffing enhancements — a modest increase of 36 full-time staffers to manage compliance with Local Law 97 — are insufficient. As Councilwoman Pierina Sanchez noted, the department needs more than a “couple more people” to effectively manage these critical areas.

The time for half-measures and delayed decisions must end. New York’s housing and climate agendas are too crucial to be stymied by inadequate staffing. It is imperative for the administration to prioritize and equip the DOB sufficiently to ensure these ambitious initiatives do not remain unexecuted theories. As the city positions itself as a leader in urban innovation and sustainability, it must align its administrative capacities with its ambitions.

This moment calls for a reassessment of priorities within City Hall. Failure to do so not only jeopardizes the success of Local Law 97 and the City of Yes initiatives but also reflects poorly on the city’s commitment to its future.

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The Editors , 2024-05-20 12:03:03

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