Anybody Home?

October 5, 2007 by
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

P. Lancaster

Last night, as many of you know, the mayor visited our fair burg. I made it a point to arrive early so I could get a seat. I did. I did not, however, have an opportunity to posit any questions to Ms. Lancaster, a woman who is arguably one of Greenpoint’s least favorite public officials. The questions were determined ahead of time by a panel of neighborhood organizations.

The rest of us were encouraged to write a question on an index card with our name and address. We would receive an answer in writing in a week, they said. I couldn’t exactly make my question(s) fit on an index card, so I improvised a solution. Follows is what I handed the Brooklyn Borough Director of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit. She assured me Ms. Lancaster would receive it. I can only hope so.


It is really a shame I couldn’t posit some of the questions hastily written on this packet of Department of Buildings property profiles. It would have been fun to watch her try to answer them. Here are a few highlights.

143 Huron Street

I have gone off on this site twice: once on New York Shitty, later via The Gowanus Lounge. Here is the first of three complaints about illegal after hours construction at this site. It dates from September 9, 2007.

9907 Complaint

Note that the “comments” section states this is a previously inspected complaint. Here is the next complaint about after hours construction. It dates from September 19, 2007.

9/19/07 Complaint

“See previously inspected complaint.” I would presume that to be the one from September 9th, which as we have already seen, tells us to refer to the previously inspected complaint. A little confusing, yes?

The above complaint was finally investigated September 27, 2007. This is hardly what I would call an “emergency response”. It’s too bad they waited so long, if they had inspected two days earlier they might have prevented another complaint from being filed.

9/25/07 Complaint

Stop work order violation served (after hours work only).

I really wish I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Lancaster what the above means. It is pretty much a given that working after hours is a no-no. Did they have a variance to work this particular evening? Well, it’s kind of hard to tell. Yesterday my buddy over at Greenpointers showed me the only way she could determine whether or not a variance has been issued via the Department of Building’s online information system: via the payment history.

143 Huron Payment History

The payments tendered for these variances date from July, presumably for variances used during that month. Even if they weren’t, we have three complaints about after hours construction against two variances. Something isn’t adding up here, folks.

60 Java Street

As indicated in this post on the Gowanus Lounge, I was the person who saw the aftermath of the 51 Java Street ‘collision’ Friday, September 28, 2007. I spoke to the owner of 51 Java Street at length that very evening. He was understandably rattled. His house had been struck twice in three weeks. On a lark, I looped by this block the next day to see how things looked. That’s when I beheld heard this.


A pile driver hammering away at 60 Java Street on an otherwise beautiful Saturday afternoon. I noticed a woman was watching this contraption grind away from her apartment window. I waved her down and we spoke briefly.

You really should call 311 about this.

I said. To wit she replied she had called 311 and the police. No one would do anything. She was under the impression the contractors had permission to do this. Seeing no variance posted I was skeptical. So, I pointed and clicked my way to 60 Java Street’s payment history.

60 Java Payment History

They did. If it is the job of the Department of Buildings to safeguard the public interest, why did they issue a variance to this contractor so he could operate a pile driver on a weekend? This does not strike me as civic-oriented behavior. Neither does the following, for that matter.

60 Java Street Property Profile

Per this screen capture (which was taken this morning) there are no complaints lodged against this property. I know for a fact this is not true; a complaint was lodged. Let’s review:

  1. A woman awakens one Saturday morning to the sound of a pile driver.
  2. She calls 311 and complains about it.
  3. She is told they have permission to do it. Yet…
  4. no variances are posted.
  5. Her complaint is not logged. It is (seemingly) thrown out.

This is a very inefficient way to do business, Ms. Lancaster. Had this woman known your agency gave these chaps permission to make such a racket, she probably would have taken the matter up with the Department of Buildings, not 311. Perhaps this is the intent: if she does not know about the variances issued for 60 Java, she is barred from taking the matter up with you or your higher ups. Like so many other people in Greenpoint nowadays, she has been effectively removed from the process.

Conversely, I don’t care if this woman called to report that giant bunny rabbits (from 60 Java Street) were attacking her vegetable patch; it should be logged. I wonder how many other complaints such as hers have been (mis)handled in this fashion?

There was much more content in the packet I made for Ms. Lancaster’s edification than I have covered here, dear readers. 48 Box Street was included, as was 53 Java Street. The issues were very diverse and yet I found myself asking the same question over and over:

Ms. Lancaster, what in god’s name are you doing?

I strongly suspect I speak for a number of Greenpoint residents when I ask the above question.

Miss Heather

Post Script: Today my buddy Rachael visited me at work. I told her that I got a picture of the mayor, but I didn’t think it was very good. She asked me why. I told her he had a deer-caught-in-headlights expression on his face. She said, and I quote:

Everyone who leaves Greenpoint has that look on their face.

You know what?


She’s right.


2 Comments on Anybody Home?

  1. Spanky on Fri, 5th Oct 2007 12:51 pm
  2. Basically, what’s good for business is good for NYC. Not that I agree with that staement, it’s just that it holds true.

  3. Rebecca11222 on Sat, 6th Oct 2007 2:59 pm
  4. On behalf of all of us who were not able to attend, thank you for at least trying to get a response from a half-empty (it ain’t half-full) bottle of water.

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