Buildings Commissioner Lancaster Felled by Criticism After High-Profile Construction Accidents

The city’s commissioner of the Department of Buildings, Patricia Lancaster, today resigned from her post, more than five weeks after a major Upper East Side crane collapse killed seven people.

Ms. Lancaster, credited with overhauling and cleaning up a department noted for corruption, led numerous efforts to modernize the regulatory agency and increase penalties for developers as the amount of construction in the city soared.

But in the end, the building boom proved to be her undoing, as a number of high-profile deaths at construction sites in recent months brought on piles of public attention and numerous calls by lawmakers for her resignation.

Garnering the most attention was the crane collapse on East 51st Street, and last week, Ms. Lancaster acknowledged that the building of that size should never have been approved in the first place for that site.

Critics have charged that the Department of Buildings cannot handle the high level of construction in the city, allowing developers to cut corners at the expense of safety. The Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, has let loose a constant stream of scathing statements about the city’s management of the construction industry, as have a number of other local legislators.

The criticism seemed to prove too much for Mayor Bloomberg, who initially stood by Ms. Lancaster after the crane collapse, and rarely buckles to public pressure to oust his staff.

Statement from the mayor’s office below.

MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ACCEPTS RESIGNATION OF BUILDINGS COMMISSIONER PATRICIA J. LANCASTER

Statement by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg:

“This morning, I met with Patricia Lancaster at Gracie Mansion and accepted her resignation as New York City’s Buildings Commissioner. Over the past six years, Patricia has moved the Department of Buildings a long way forward by fighting corruption, strengthening inspections and oversight, increasing the public’s access to information, and bringing increased levels of professionalism and integrity to all levels of her agency. Patricia led a comprehensive overhaul of the City’s byzantine building code, the first in 40 years, which will make the construction of homes, schools, stores and offices in New York City safer, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly for years to come. Patricia leaves a strong foundation of reform and improvement for her successors to build on, and I thank her for her dedication to making New York City a far better place to live, work, and visit.”

Statement by Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster:

“Today I submitted my resignation, which Mayor Bloomberg accepted. It has been an honor serving in his Administration and I thank the Mayor for this opportunity. After six years in public service, I made this decision because I felt it was time to return to the private sector. I am proud of the groundbreaking work the department has done during my tenure to root out corruption, increase transparency, overhaul the building code, and increase safety for workers and the public alike. My message today to the talented and capable staff at the Department of Buildings is to keep up the hard work: you’ve made so much important progress. It has been my distinct pleasure working with you.”