Thursday, April 28, 2016

Two Construction Engineers Banned by NYC Buildings Department

The City of New York has banned and revoked the filing privileges of two construction engineers who submitted falsified plans to the Department of Buildings and signed off on unsafe blueprints— without even reviewing them.

In numerous instances, the Department of Buildings found that that the engineers were negligent in ensuring that plans accounted for necessary safety requirements, including providing details to maintain structural stability during construction.

Since last year, as part of the Building One City plan, the Buildings Department has been cracking down on shady construction professionals. Its efforts have led to actions against 59 individuals.

Stricter rules for construction sites were also implemented, including quadrupling fines for serious safety violations.

In this case, the two engineers, Yaakov Stern and Ashraf Ali, were caught in departmental audits and have had their filing privileges revoked.

Over the last two years, Ashraf Ali filed four jobs that were found during an audit to contain false statements. The filings demonstrate not only Mr. Ali’s incompetence as a licensed professional, but also a refusal to follow regulations meant to ensure the safety of buildings and prevent the displacement of tenants through construction-based harassment.

At 224 West 137th Street in Manhattan, Mr. Ali submitted falsified plans, failed to secure proper permits for the scope of work being performed, and failed to file a certificate of no harassment, which affirms that the tenants vacated their units willingly, and were not coerced to do so by the owner.

During an investigation into applications filed by engineer Yaakov Stern, the department found numerous occasions in which Mr. Stern’s Professionally Certified jobs contained false statements and severe safety oversights.

In one egregious case at 133 Patchen Avenue in Brooklyn, a certified application by Mr. Stern indicated minor work would occur on the building. However, during the audit, a review of the plans showed major construction that would result in a change to exit passageways to the building.

What’s more, the documents failed to note details that would ensure the stability of the structure during the work.

During the investigation, Yaakov Stern admitted to approving plans with his professional license numbers that were presented to him without properly reviewing the documents. He has voluntarily surrendered all of his filing privileges.

“Safety begins by ensuring that job applications filed with DOB are in compliance with the construction codes and prioritize public safety,” said Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler. “These individuals abused their privileges as licensed engineers, and put expediency and profit ahead of worksite safety. Construction professionals should take note that the Department will continue to crack down with those that cut corners and endanger the public.”

Under the NYC Administrative Code, the Department is granted a wide array of disciplinary enforcement actions for construction professionals who fail to comply with the NYC Construction Code and the various other laws the agency is tasked with enforcing.

In addition to the issuance of violations, the Department can place stop work orders on jobs, assess civil penalties, suspend and revoke licenses, and, where necessary, refer cases for criminal prosecution.

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