City Councilman Jumaane Williams is hoping that Mayor Bill de Blasio appoints a new Department of Buildings commissioner “as soon as possible” in the wake of a catastrophic East Harlem building explosion.
“I think the mayor, we all know is taking steps to appoint people … the Department of Buildings is one of the ones that are leftover,” Mr. Williams, the chair of the council’s housing and buildings committee, told reporters this afternoon in the City Council chambers.
“Obviously I would like that post to be filled as soon as possible. And I think that this happened is again going to push it to the forefront of everybody, including the mayor,” he added.
This morning’s apparent gas explosion near the corner of East 116th Street and Park Avenue destroyed two buildings, sending debris into the street and killing two and wounding at least 22 others. Many more remain missing, officials said. Records show the buildings where the explosion occurred have been slapped with multiple violations in recent years.
Former First Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fariello has been serving as acting commissioner since former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last commissioner, Robert LiMandri, departed at the end of his term.
But Mr. Williams made clear he rejected the notion that a new commissioner running the agency could have prevented today’s devastation.
“I don’t think there’s a connection between an appointment of a commissioner and what happened today,” he told the Observer. “I’m going to focus on what happened and make sure that we can do our best to not let it happen again. Obviously a commissioner in place can help move that forward but the two things aren’t connected.”
Mr. de Blasio has been under fire for the slow pace of his appointments and has yet to name heads to numerous agencies, nearly two-and-a-half months after his inauguration. Mr. Bloomberg named his buildings commissioner on February 28 of his first term in 2002, according to a report from the time.
Asked today whether he regretted having failed to appoint a new commissioner, Mr. de Blasio said he had “full confidence” in Mr. Fariello and everyone working at the agency.