Super Lawyers quoted me in Development’s Back, Baby! But Do Neighborhoods Rights Extend Beyond the Right to Complain? It reads, in part,
The list of what can go wrong during construction is longer than Long Island, and some of the items on it are very bad indeed. Reading Chapter 33 of the New York City Construction Code, “Safeguards during Construction or Demolition,” is like Googling skin diseases: You encounter possibilities that, in your previous blissful ignorance, you’d never worried about.
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So how can citizens stand up for their rights?
“City residents do not have tons of rights regarding construction,” says Brooklyn Law School professor David Reiss, who focuses on real estate finance and community development. But, he adds, “They do have some. Technically, many of them are not rights. Rather, citizens have a right to complain.”
According to Reiss, the Department of Buildings is the agency to call about excessive debris, problems with fences, safety netting, scaffolding or cranes; or work being done without a permit. (The DOB’s phone number is New York’s general information and non-emergency kvetching number: 311.)
To complain about after-hours construction-before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, or anytime on Saturday or Sunday, unless the contractor has a permit stating otherwise-Reiss recommends contacting the DOB or the Department of Environmental Protection. The latter’s number is also 311.
“It never hurts to start by talking with the contractor and/or owner directly, “ says Reiss, who also recommends talking to your community board and city councilmember. As with most things, there’s strength in numbers. “The more people that complain, the more likely it is to get on the radar of officials,” he says.
He also recommends collecting all the evidence you can, whether to show officials or, if worse comes to worst, to use in court. “Create a paper trail. Pictures, of course, are worth a thousand words, particularly if they are time- and date-stamped and you annotate them as appropriate.”