The Search for a Licensed Engineer for Yonkers Building and Housing Commissioner May No Longer Be a Requirement Hezitorial
Minority Leader Breen’s Proposed Legislation Coming Before the Yonkers City Council Tuesday, November 9th Exposes Liability Concerns to Which the City May Not Be Able to Financially Survive
YONKERS, NY — November 8, 2021 — The dismissal of Yonkers Buildings and Housing Commissioner Vincent Pici has had implications that may heretofore not been contemplated. The crisis unfolded when Mayor Mike Spano rightfully questioned Lion’s Gate Studios as to why their buildout was approximately a year late in opening. They in turn advised that the Yonkers Office of Buildings and Housing had dropped the ball. Following up on the allegation a heated confrontation escalated to Mr. Pici offering to quit and to wit, Mayor Mike Spano accepted.
What became evident after learning of this confrontation was that the Yonkers Building and Housing Department had fallen behind in its capacity to okay projects that required Commissioner Pici signing off on those many languishing projects that came to his desk for approval. He was the only qualified, licensed engineer who could do so based on the City of Yonkers defining the requirements for a Commissioner presiding over the department.
It would be foolhardy to speculate why projects had languished. What has been learned is that former Commissioner Pici was sick for some 3 months time. That may have had something to do with a languishing array of projects not gaining approval with greater alacrity. While Lions Gate is a huge project, there has been a swell of voices not previously known that define the department being slow in approving projects contemplated by private homeowners as well. The silence of all the parties concerned reveal that there was a backlog of projects that were not managed sufficiently toward completion, suggesting the failing oversight by the only person who was legally permitted by Yonkers Code requirements to sign off on any and all projects.
The shame of it all may be that businesses and people who found delays in gaining approval did not find an avenue to address such delays so as to gain a response from the Buildings and Housing Department and evidently did not advise Yonkers City Hall. The culprit may be “silence’ itself. Why or if a tardy response continued unabated with respect to interested parties awaiting approval undermines the integrity of the conduct of the City of Yonkers to all future developers as well as homeowners to Yonkers’ shame and loss of integrity and proficiency. It is a given that while former Commissioner Pici was sick for three months, unapproved projects languished during that time but the scuttle butt heard was that delays began before his first attending to his health concerns.
Once Mr. Pici quit, a replacement was sought. Sam Borelli who had advised all who knew him that he was a qualified engineer was designated Acting Yonkers Buildings and Housing Commissioner. Alas Mr. Borelli’s bona fides were found to be deficient. Once recognized, the City of Yonkers (CoY) was in search for a replacement for Mr. Pici immediately after his departure. Mr. Borelli was made Acting Commissioner on his word that he held an engineering degree. Whether he still presides in the department is unknown to this reporter. When I called him last week he advised he did not know who I was and hung up on me, disconnecting me in the process!
Once it was recognized that Mr. Borelli did not hold an engineering license his being made commissioner of the department was moot because he could not sign off on any projects because he lacked the qualifications to do so. He did not possess an engineering license.
Now it turns out that someone in the Buildings and Housing Department who is said to have the knowledge that an engineer needs to know is being contemplated, to wit, the Yonkers City Council Minority Leader Michael Breen’s proposal to redefine the position of a future acting or permanent Commissioner that would no longer require having attained an engineering license. One must logically reflect as to why the position will, at least until November 9th no longer require an engineering license when is has in the past, as well as during the three years under Pici. Why was a license required in the past and no longer does? Minority Leader Breen’s proposal would expunge the rationale of the past by accepting a future commissioner that had not earned an engineering license which was heretofoe considered pertinent. Even if a person with the required knowledge, such as an individual in the CoY’s Department of Buildings and Housing Department presently employed, whose name has not been divulged, does not hold an engineering license. If this person has the knowledge, why doesn’t CoY demand he/she take the exam and earn the licensing credentials that has been required all these years? Why the urgency? Can Yonkers not await this person gaining accreditation as a licensed engineer if he/she is so knowledgeable?
As an aside, some people may know that I am under medical care for some very serious issues. Not only do I attend to a General Medical Practitioner in Yonkers, but I also attend to specialists in the fields to which I require attention. Toward that end I see specialists, that is, doctors in many disciplines all accredited and working at New York Presbyterian Hospital. In fact a Registered Nurse collects test readings from me every day to apprise my doctors to the condition that I find myself. They decide, not I. And that is the point, even the Registered Nurse whose only specialty is what ails me is not qualified to prescribe medication to me or anyone else since that can only be prescribed by my cardiologist. The team that oversees me is overseen and directed by my cardiologist and none other. His reputation is such that he is accredited and knows best practice for all the issues that ail me. While he may be replaced by another licensed cardiologist, he cannot be replaced by the Registered Nurse, even if she knows all that which the Cardiologist knows. If that were the case, you can be assured that she would take and get her accreditation as a cardiologist without delay.
If the logic has in the past demanded a licensed engineer for the position, why reduce the qualifications so a licensed engineer is no longer a requirement? Whether Mr. Borelli or this other individual being contemplated, neither one has the license that the CoY has adhered to all these years, including the 11 years under this administration.
It is just as easy finding a licensed engineer as it is to find someone who claims to know, but should he/she ever falter in any way over a project he/she signs off on, the issue of his/her credentials being less than demanded under his/her oversight now will likely bring about a lawsuit if construction of any kind cause harm or at worst death. In fact, if this person is so knowledgeable, why not suggest to him/her that CoY will await their taking the exam and earn their license as an engineer?
Should CoY await this non-licensed individual to become licensed there is no tribulation whatsoever that Lions Gate Studios will be departing any time soon. That reality should not lessen every effort, bar none, in search for a qualified individual to maintain a smooth transition from projects that have been permitted to languish and move them post haste to qualified personnel to create an exuberant department that serves homeowners, businesses, among other developers with the most qualified personnel. Yonkers deserves nothing less.
No one should even consider to overlook the fact that a non-licensed individual, one not holding an engineering license, may disapprove a project that a developer who engages an architect holding an accredited engineering license, if overruled, may very well instigate a lawsuit against the CoY due to the fact that a non-licensed engineer “Commissioner” does not hold a degree equal to one they hold. The developer who realizes that their accredited engineer was overruled by someone who is not licensed may move the firm employing an accredited engineer likely sue CoY.
While Mr. Breen’s proposal will first be divulged before the Yonkers City Council this Tuesday, November 9th, it it would be foolhardy to believe there can be a vibrant discussion of the concerns expressed in this Hezitorial. An analogous concern is that a call for immediate approval by the Yonkers City Council may and can be demanded without deliberation over all the contentious issues revealed herein and elsewhere. I fear that immediate passage will be a legal ploy that once passed will not be remedied to CoY’s detriment. At issue is what is the rush to approve diminishing the qualification of the yet to be designated Commissioner of the department?
Lest anyone believe this is a challenge to the concept being presented by Minority Leader Michael Breen, it is not. The issues raised herein need to be considered and answered with the same integrity the issues have been presented. The remedy is to find a licensed engineer to be the next commissioner and not someone who simply professes knowledge, yet is not licensed. If this issue is dismissed, when a future lawsuit is argued before a court, the outcome will cost CoY a pretty penny, as well as a diminution in the integrity of conduct by the Yonkers City Council, to its shame and eventual deleterious outcome.