VGN residents bash building inspector for alleged lack of knowledge on village code

Robert Pelaez
Great Neck residents expressed concerns surrounding the village's building department on Tuesday night. (Screenshot by Robert Pelaez)

Several residents of the Village of Great Neck criticized certain members of the village’s Building Department and accused them of not having a full understanding of village code and of a lack of enforcement.

The comments, made during Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting, were heavily directed towards building inspector Robert Mordecai. Longtime village resident Jean Pierce was blunt in saying that Mordecai should be replaced immediately. Pierce said, in her personal experiences with him, Mordecai has shown “incompetence and threatening behavior.”

“You need to hire a good, knowledgable inspector who knows the code and will not turn a blind eye to construction errors,” Pierce said. “He really needs to be replaced, period.”

Pierce said Mordecai’s alleged lack of knowledge of the village code led to “devastating results” on driveway construction done for the residence at 46 Arrandale Ave. Pierce said construction on the driveway, which is connected with Pierce’s at 44 Arrandale, began over the summer, with neighbors wanting to pave over some of their backyard to create space for more cars.

Pierce said she expressed concerns to Mordecai regarding the project and future rainfall,  but said village officials told her that the driveway would be pitched west so water would run off that way.  Now, Pierce said, every time a warning for excessive rainfall arises, she and her husband prepare to wear their rain boots to trek out to their cars while navigating through excessive puddles.

“[Mordecai] got nasty about it and said that [the excessive rainfall] was my fault,” Pierce said. “I told him that it was certainly not my fault. [He] saw the site, [he] saw the amount of work that was going to be done, and [he] signed off on it. It has nothing to do with us.”

Pierce claimed permits for gas work were not granted prior to construction commencing, and that certification of occupancy was already granted by the Building Department. Pierce said she notified the department about this, and the certification was later deemed “void.”

Efforts to reach Mordecai or the Building Department for comment were unavailing.

Village Mayor Pedram Bral said it is inappropriate for anyone to berate another person not on the call and that he had not heard the other side of the story.

“This matter needs to be presented from both sides,” Bral said. “These matters are private … if any problem or policy needs to be brought up, it should be in the right channel, but this is not the proper channel.”

Resident Judy Rosenthal also spoke about what she called the Building Department’s lack of enforcement of a moratorium period for gas leaf blowers from June 15 to Sept. 15.

According to the village code, commercial landscapers are prohibited from operating any equipment which “emits excessive fumes” or emits noise which “to a reasonable person of normal sensitivities would be deemed unusually loud.”

The village also prohibits any commercial landscaping aside from the permitted times of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and public holidays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

“There were specific instances of harassment from people with leaf blowers where the police had to show up and get involved,” Rosenthal said. “The police told us to contact our local government about this, and I don’t know what to tell them anymore.”

Rosenthal also said it has taken nearly six months for the Building Department to address a request to analyze a potential hazard caused by residential shrubbery. According to Rosenthal, the residence at 19 Baker Hill Road has privacy shrubs that affect pedestrian and vehicular safety.

“One morning around 7:30 a.m., I got a call from my husband who said he was almost killed one block away from our home,” Rosenthal said. “Does the building inspector know the village code and how to enforce it?”

Mordecai’s home also drew the ire of resident David Zielenziger, who took a picture of the front of Mordecai’s home and said it was in violation of village code due to paint peeling on the façade.

According to village code, surfaces of buildings and structures not inherently resistant to deterioration must be periodically treated with a protective coating of paint of other suitable preservative.

“I urge the board to take a look at [his home] for peeling conditions of the property,” Zielenziger said. “It is just totally outrageous.”

Pierce also expressed concerns that Superintendent of Buildings Stephen Haramis “has had too much work on his plate” and suggested the village should budget for a new inspector as well as a qualified assistant to help Haramis and other inspectors manage their workloads.

Pierce said she did not want any comments about Mordecai to reflect her positive interactions with Haramis, inspector Dennis Fromigia, and other members of the Building Department.

Pierce and Rosenthal said other residents have expressed concerns to them regarding the capability of the Building Department with larger projects looming in the near future, including two new Middle Neck Road projects.

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