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NEW YORK CITY- At a time when construction safety and accountability are major concerns within the community here, Robert LiMandri, acting commissioner of the Department of Buildings, says that as far as improving safety goes, “the time is now, and I am ready for the challenge.” LiMandri served as the keynote speaker at this year’s BuildingsNY real estate trade show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a two-day event, which kicked off Tuesday morning that is co-located with GreenBuildingsNY.

LiMandri, who was named acting commissioner in April 2008, is responsible for setting local construction standards, enforcing the Building Code and Zoning Resolution, and regulating the New York City construction industry, and he told attendees that he plans to do just that. He explained that in two weeks time, there will be new construction codes revealed, which he said will include new proposals on crane safety. The centerpiece of the agenda will focus on the highest-risk construction operations, he said.

“We are in the midst of an historic building boom,” he said, “but make no mistake that our number one priority is construction safety and enforcement. I will not tolerate unethical behavior.”

The DOB has been under scrutiny in the past few months with questions over inspections due to recent crane accidents in March at East 51st Street and Second Avenue, which killed seven, and only a few weeks ago, at First Avenue and East 91st Street, which killed two. James Delayo, the City’s assistant chief crane inspector with the DOB, was recently arrested and charged with taking bribes to allow cranes under his review to pass inspection and for collecting money from a crane company that sought to ensure that its employees would pass the required licensing exam, authorities said.

In his address, LiMandri instead focused on the positives, noting the wide variety of current initiatives underway at the DOB. He explained that the DOB has increased the staff from 800 to 1300. He also said that today, construction sites 15-stories and higher require site safety managers, however in two weeks, sites 10-stories and higher will require site safety coordinators, and below 10 stories will require a licensee or construction superintendent.

Although LiMandri would not discuss specifics surrounding the continuing investigation of the recent crane collapse, he did say that “the DOB will continue to work to determine what happened at the collapse, but that we can’t wait for that investigation to be complete to take action on safety.” He said that the DOB is looking at what the code requires today, at maintenance records, at advancing technology for testing safety, and other safety opportunities that might be out there.

LiMandri also said that in the coming weeks, he will be seeking to increase access to information so that the public can more easily access approved zoning analyses for construction, including details on proposed height and square footage. The DOB is focused on making operations open and transparent.

On Monday, the DOB revealed new safety requirements for contractors to protect their workers with reliable safety strap systems on concrete high-rise buildings. The DOB also recently revealed a $4 million investment to conduct an in-depth assessment of high-risk construction activities.

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