Sunday, October 31, 2010

Building Inspectors from Hell, Part 1: The Undertaker

We cut our teeth on the worst building inspector in the world. He was so bad he was a major contributor to the economic downturn in Hudson when he was working here, effectively Hudson's personal undertaker.  There were so many reasons why improvements “couldn’t be done”, that nothing ever was.  And with all the Monday morning quarterbacking about why Hudson suffered a horrible slump in the ‘70s & ‘80s, nobody ever puts his name into the mix.  Yet it should be.

X was one of those people who are frozen into inactivity by their demand for perfection.  They’re so afraid to do something wrong, they can’t do anything at all.  They push their weight around in insignificant areas, but can’t sign on the dotted line for anything big.  He would routinely nitpick and put off actually giving a building permit or C.O. until it was impossible not to. The relief must’ve felt like a big poop when he finally did something decisive.   

People couldn’t fix anything unless they brought everything up to code.  The word "repair" wasn't in his vocabulary.  He made no allowance for the section of NY Building code that gives the building inspector latitude to find acceptable options when dealing with historic buildings.  X had no options.  You want to use that store and apartment above?  Impossible.  The third floor apartment?  Don’t make me laugh.  That inflexibility, no, inability, stalled projects all around town for years.   All the while he hid under the cloak of "civil service"(an oxymoron if I ever heard one), and although everyone agreed he was a liability, they simultaneously insisted it would be near-impossible to fire him.

Our first Hudson project consisted of six derelict buildings, vacant and off the tax rolls.  We hired an architect, jumped through all of the federal and state government’s hoops, and even dealt successfully with the State Historic Preservation Office.  But X wouldn’t issue a building permit, nor would he unlock his office door so we could retrieve our blueprints for the closing the next day.  We had to do an end-run to get a building permit.  The mayor unlocked the door, the Urban Renewal director issued the building permit, and we were able to close.  Even though X should’ve been grateful that somebody else “took the blame”,  he never forgave that incident, and every chance he had after that, he made our lives hell.

While he bit around the ankles for years, one day he finally got his revenge. 


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