Dems offer building dept. reforms

Dan Glaun

Democratic County Legislators Judi Bosworth (Great Neck) and Wayne Wink (Roslyn), who are competing for town-wide offices in November’s upcoming elections, announced a series of measures to reform the Town of North Hempstead’s troubled building department at a press conference Thursday.

Bosworth, who is running for town supervisor, and Wink, who is seeking the town clerk’s office, laid out a seven-point plan that they said would improve the experience of residents seeking information or permits from the department. Public officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties have cited problems with the department, including long wait times and unresponsiveness.

Bosworth said the administration of current Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman had made strides on improving the department’s ethics and integrity, but that more had to be done.

“The town needs to continue to work to minimize and ultimately eliminate the difficult and challenging situations that so many town residents have experienced,” Bosworth said. “We believe so strongly that making the building department more user friendly will be a big step towards achieving this goal.”

Wink, who said he had experience working with a range of building departments as a real estate attorney, emphasized the importance of improving service.

“Certainly the more transparent and user friendly a building department is, the better the experience for not only homeowners, but practitioners – for lawyers, architects and others who are involved,” Wink said.

Town Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio (R-Port Washington), who is running for town supervisor against Bosworth in the fall, dismissed the Democratic candidates’ proposal as too little, too late.

“What they are doing is like trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Building Department is broken because the administration that Bosworth and Wink represent is broken,” De Giorgio wrote in an e-mail. “I have been advocating wholesale change in the Building Department since I ran for Town Council. Residents can be assured that it will be business as usual if this administration remains in power, because Bosworth and Wink are just tools of the same North Hempstead Democratic machine.”

Bosworth said that while the building department still needs fixing, the Kaiman administration had made progress in restoring accountability to a department sullied by a kickback scandal last decade.

“That’s been done with great detail and great effort,” Bosworth said. “You could almost say that’s phase one.”

Improving service, Bosworth said, is the next phase of reform.

Among the proposals listed by Wink and Bosworth was the creation of an online system to provide residents with specific information about their homes, including possibly tax and certificate statuses. The candidates said such a system could make accessing information more convenient for residents, and Bosworth added that residents could stay abreast of code changes that could affect their plans to sell or modify their property.

“Many of the complaints we hear about on a day-to-day basis as legislators are about the fact that there is either an unresponsive or nonresponsive setup in the town building department or it just takes forever to get any kind of information,” Wink said.

The proposal also included the establishment of off-site building department hours throughout North Hempstead and evening hours to expand access to the building department. Wink and Bosworth suggested the creation of an “applicant advocate” position in the town to help guide residents through the bureaucratic process, the extension of a reconciliation period for homeowners to bring unpermitted work into compliance and the fast-tracking of small home-renovation projects.

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