Cambridge updates construction order (some construction can resume today, all construction slated to be back Jun 15)

A Department of Buildings (DOB) inspector waits for contractors to follow to job sites in Queens.
Matthew McDermott

City building inspectors are running speed trap-style operations to catch contractors violating a coronavirus ban on “non-essential” construction work — and to slap homeowners with maximum, $10,000 fines, The Post has learned.

A Department of Buildings inspector spent at least 45 minutes Tuesday morning staked out at the intersection that leads to the ritzy Douglas Manor neighborhood in northwestern Queens.

“I’m an elevator guy normally but they got us all doing this now,” the inspector told The Post.

“Except for essential work, there are no inspections. So to keep us all working, they got us out making sure everybody complies with the governor’s order.”

Meanwhile, an electrician who was hired by a nearby homeowner said he was “followed” to the house by a different inspector on Monday — then drove off when the inspector pulled alongside his van and parked across the street.

A Department of Buildings (DOB) inspector waits for contractors to follow to job sites in Queens.
Matthew McDermott

The electrician said that he wanted to work, but that getting fined “makes it not worth it.”

Last week, he said, the same inspector who tailed him had pounced on a floor re-finisher, slapping the contractor with a $2,500 fine, plus $1,000 for each of his helpers — along with a maximum, $10,000 fine for the homeowner.

“They had just opened the van and brought the floor sanders onto his property,” the electrician said.

“The homeowner said, ‘Pack up all this crap and get the hell out of here.’ ”

That inspector told The Post that a violation occurs as soon as a contractor “steps onto the property.”

“The fine for having any work done is $10,000. First offense. No exceptions,” he said.

Matthew McDermott

Under restrictions imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that went into effect March 31, new construction work on private homes is generally limited to jobs “necessary to protect the health and safety of the occupants,” according to information posted on the DOB’s website.

Violators face fines as high as $10,000 each.

The inspector who was staking out the intersection of Douglaston Parkway and Northern Boulevard on Tuesday said his duties included checking on job sites that were shut down due to the pandemic.

The inspector, who was behind the wheel of a dark Toyota Prius with DOB markings, said he’s also under orders to investigate the activities of any contractors he’s able to spot.

“I go and check it out. Make sure they’re complying,” he said.

HVAC contractor John Heffernan, who owns Pride Maintenance & Mechanical Inc. of Bayside, said he was working at a house in Sheepshead Bay two weeks ago when a DOB inspector “boxed in my truck” with his car “and ran into the house I was working on.”

“He told the homeowner he was getting a $10,000 fine and I was getting fined $5,000 for each employee,” Heffernan said.

“I had to prove I was fixing the heat before he let us off.”

The DOB denied that it had a policy of lying in wait for contractors to violate the ban on non-essential work, but said that inspectors are expected to investigate if they see something suspicious.

“We are aggressively enforcing the governor’s ban on non-essential construction to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and fight this pandemic,” spokesman Andrew Rudanksy said.

“Our fellow New Yorkers depend on us to do our jobs, especially during this crisis, and we will not let them down.”

The DOB said it had issued about 200 stop-work orders and related violations at both commercial and residential worksites, and said they could result in around $2 million in fines.

The agency also noted that homeowners can apply for permits for non-essential work that’s “being completed by a single worker who is the sole employee/worker on the job site.”


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