Assemblymember William Colton Announce the Formation of a Campaign Against Rapid and Dangerous Overdevelopment

photo Assemblymember William Colton supported by community leaders and residents discusses the need for greater scrutiny of new development projects. "There is an overdevelopment rampage going on across this borough and it is time for the city to take an aggressive approach to counter it," said Colton.
On Sunday, December 5th, 2004 at 11am, Assemblymember William Colton (D-Gravesend/Bensonhurst) along with the Quality of Life Committee, a grassroots organization located in Southern Brooklyn, headed by its president Lorraine Lapetina, held a press conference calling upon the city to implement a series of proposals that will help preserve and maintain the character and quality of life of neighborhoods in Gravesend, Bensonhurst, and the rest of Brooklyn. The press conference was held at the lawmaker's district office, 211 Kings Highway.

"There is an overdevelopment rampage going on across this borough and it is time for the city to take an aggressive approach to counter it," said Colton, who has galvanized and spearheaded the community against overdevelopment for years. Recently, the City Planning Department proposed a downzoning plan for portions of Bensonhurst and Gravesend communities in order to deal with the ballooning number of high-rise condominium developments. However, Quality of Life President Lorraine Lapetina points out that the downzoning plan does not address the recklessness of developers whom continue violating building codes. "There are greedy and unlawful developers twisting building codes, demolishing homes without permits, and this is all occurring at the expense of everyone's safety and quality of life," said an outraged Lapetina.

In one of the proposals, there is a call for action by community residents and the Gravesend/Bensonhurst legislator calling upon the city administration to put together a task force comprised of various city agencies to carefully place a magnifying glass on all desired residential building permits in the Gravesend and Bensonhurst area. "The developers have enjoyed a bright green light for far too long and it is now time for their building wish lists to undergo strict scrutiny under the law," asserted Colton.

photo Quality of Life Committee President Lorraine Lapetina states, "There are greedy and unlawful developers twisting building codes, demolishing homes without permits, and this is all occurring at the expense of everyone's safety and quality of life."
The Building Department, Health Department, Planning Department, Environmental Protection Department, Transportation Department, community organizations, architects, and other concerned parties would partake in such a task force, similar to the one formed in Staten Island in the summer of 2003. In a July 22, 2003 press release announcing the formation of the Staten Island Growth Management Task Force, Mayor Bloomberg was quoted "Today's announcement underscores our commitment to comprehensively address the problem of rapid development, infrastructure support and quality of life issues that are facing the communities of Staten Island." Now, it is time for that very same commitment shown by the city to span across the Verazano Bridge and into the communities of Brooklyn.

Recognizing the shortage of staff and resources in the Brooklyn Department of Buildings office, Colton and the Quality of Life Committee are calling for additional resources to be provided to increase the number of building inspectors in the borough. "Too often I hear that there are not enough inspectors to inspect all of these developments, which are popping up everywhere your head can turn," said Lapetina. "Then the only sensible solution would be for the city to recognize this sore spot and fix it by providing additional inspectors because clearly the amount of current staff is not enough to lead an effective pursuit of building safety." she added. Agreeing with that assessment, the State Lawmaker stated, "If there are only 20 residential building inspectors compared to hundreds, if not, thousands of developments, then we have a grave deficit of building safety inspection in this borough."

In addition to more resources, Lapetina and Colton are calling for a steeper penalty for those developers who break with the law. "It is outrageous how developers that put a community's safety at risk by demolishing a home without a permit get away with only about a $1,500 fine," said an angered Lapetina. "That is like taking a small crumb off of their million dollar loaf of bread," she continued. Assemblymember Colton stated: "I cannot envision an effective campaign against overdevelopment with a glaring green light for developers being shown by city agencies, a shortage of building inspectors, and an alarmingly weak penalty for builders who drift from the law." He went on to add, "One of my constituents had her home severely damaged by a reckless and careless developer working next to her house. It was damaged to the point where she is looking for a temporary shelter for her family and herself because her house is currently uninhabitable. If the neighboring builder's plans and work were more strictly scrutinized by city agencies and inspectors, I believe that incident could have been prevented."

Various community residents, civic activists, and leaders from the Gravesend and Bensonhurst communities joined Assembly Colton and Quality of Life President Lapetina in a show of strong support for the proposals sought.

Quotes From Various Southern Brooklyn Community Leaders

photo Community Leaders Jeanette Givant and Charles Ragusa discuss call on the city to form a task force to deal with the problem of overdevelopment and unscrupulous developers.
Charles Ragusa (Community Leader): "I have lived in Bensonhurst for over 50 years and I have never seen anything like this. These greedy, money-thirsty developers are aiming to destroy a wonderful neighborhood with a rich history. I strongly urge the city to immediately implement these important proposals."

Jeanette Givant (Community Leader): "I am willing to work day and night with a task force to scrutinize each and every desired residential building permit in this community."

Pat Dellamura (Quality of Life Committee Vice-President): "Lorraine and I are deeply dedicated in ensuring that the safety and quality of life of our neighborhood are both well-maintained. I am confident that by working with our organization, Assemblyman Colton, and the city, we can reach a positive result. That is, only of course if the city joins us with this fight."

Tony Eisenberg (Southern Brooklyn Community Leader): "We have seen enough. We are calling for stronger enforcement of building code safety and we want to see careless developers pay more of a price for putting a community's safety in harm's way."

Chiu Leung (Bensonhurst resident): "This community is not opposed to development, but we are opposed to careless and dangerous development. We believe that if the city gets involved and keeps a close eye on permits, then we can see more sensible development in our neighborhood."