Building Departments

TITLE 19 & YOUR HOME

My name is Gary Spinello and I am an architect in Westbury. As an architect I am obligated to conform to “Title 19“. Title19 is the legislative arm that empowers government to enforce the building code. Of course, we all want codes to protect us, but there is a point of diminished returns.

Over the years title 19 has evolved to ordain government with seemingly unlimited power. This has led to title 19 becoming both un-affordable & unpopular. Today you are required to retain an architect just to add a small window, cover your stoop, finish your cellar, or convert your garage. In fact, you can even be required to retain an architect just to replace or repair anything in or on your home. Government now regulates your sheetrock nails, the spacing of your bathroom fixtures, and every other minute detail in-between. These are only a few examples. The list goes on & on. Over-regulation is rampant. In many cases the regulations cost more than the work itself, making any capital improvements to your invaluable home… cost prohibitive.

Architects spend many years learning how to design the buildings of the future…not replace sheetrock in the basement. The fees for architects & permits are high. Yet the Buildings Department (DOB) forces these fees onto unsuspecting homeowners. We bestow extraordinary power onto the DOB to protect us from real danger, not every possible risk. But government seems unwilling & unable to distinguish between the two.

To make matters worse, touching you home without a permit has just been criminalized. So, if you improve your home without government authorization, you’re just as guilty as the criminal that robs your home. If your car is involved in a crime, government can confiscate it. Will our homes be next?

To add insult to injury, the code has become so complex that it is chock full of language that gives government unlimited discretion. If you ask five different people in the DOB the same question, you can get five different answers. Government can now just make up the rules as it goes along. But essentially, unlimited government discretion gives government unlimited power.

There is still more. If you make a mistake, you pay for it. It’s what we teach our children. But if government makes a mistake you pay for that too. How great would life be if you did not have to be responsible for your mistakes. This is the privilege that government now enjoys. Of course, you can always try to hold government responsible with a lawsuit. But that’s like David against Goliath. Good luck with that. The bottom line is that government authority without responsibility gives government even more unlimited power.

Under the guise of “protecting you from you”, title 19 has summarily dismissed much of the individual liberties afforded us in the Constitution. This dangerous betrayal to our country is akin to treason. Treason is not a mistake or misdemeanor …it’s a capital crime. And as soon as our National Anthem declares America as the “land of the safe”, instead of the “land of the free”…it won’t be treason anymore.

But all of this pales in comparison to the gravest danger we face. We Americans are just not paying attention. We’re all in denial. For our National Anthem to still reference liberty that no longer exists, exposes the denial. If your daughter were in an abusive relationship but claiming that everything was ok, you’d be worried. You would be worried because you know that her denial would compromise her ability to defend herself. And likewise, our denial has left us largely defenseless against title 19.

The power & scope of title 19 grows by the day. Compliance is already un-affordable. The next step will entitle government to just confiscate your home. Private home ownership will one day be extinct like the dinosaurs if title 19 continues unchecked. This dark cloud is on our doorstep today, and our homes hang in the balance.

I’ve been in the building business for 50 years. In that time, I’ve watched title 19 become universally feared & despised… and rightly so. It’s like the land of Oz where a few traitors hide behind a curtain, instill fear in the villagers, and demand the witch’s broom. Except now, the villagers are catching on. Every day more villagers become horrified. And when you encounter title 19…you will be horrified too.

 

THE WARNING SIGNS FOR TREASON

SOLE DISCRETION. Building codes have evolved to become so excessively complicated and even obfuscated that they now require interpretation. In fact, if you ask five different people at the DOB the same question you often get five different answers. Sole interpretation of the building code is at the discretion of the DOB. Government discretion gives government unlimited power. Unlimited power is a betrayal of our country. We call that treason.

AUTHORITY vs RESPONSIBILTY. The DOB has the power of God. But everyday DOBs drive a wedge deeper between this authority and responsibility. For example, many DOBs now require an engineer to finish a basement, convert a garage, or build a tiny porch on your house. Requirements like these make the improvements unaffordable. The DOB is the foremost authority in building safety and if it doesn’t know what it’s looking at then it certainly should not be wielding the extraordinary power of government. Another great example is mistakes. We all make them. And we all teach our children that we must pay for them. But DOBs don’t pay for their mistakes… we do. Government authority without responsibility gives government unlimited power. We call that treason.

SELF PROTECTION. We all want government to protect us from each other but today the government can use its power to protect us from ourselves. In fact, the DOB can enter our private homes and regulate every single nail. These policies are a betrayal of our country. We call that treason.

COST OF PROTECTION. We all want government to protect us but there is a point of diminished returns so that over-protection is just as dangerous & damaging as under-protection. Government is charged with the responsibility to protect us, but it doesn’t pay for that protection… we do. With little to no incentive to keep costs down we the people are subject to being betrayed.

EXCESSIVE LAYERING. We all want protection and basic protection looks simple and easy. For smaller projects and residential work, a basic DOB inspection should suffice. But today there is a growing wave of excessive redundancy in regulation. A host of professionals must take responsibility for every nail. Expeditors, plans examiners, architects, engineers, surveyors, lawyers, outside inspectors, DOB inspectors. The list goes on and on and it never seems to end.

ENFORCE vs DEFEND. It is agreeably the DOBs responsibility to enforce the code, but not to defend it. Those who wield the power of the DOB should disclose whether or not they defend a code that gives government unlimited power. Since no-one should wield unlimited power, every official should also disclose exactly how they are protecting the people from it.

OBSTRUCTION. DOBs can and do obstruct the construction process by being elusive, vague, deliberately unhelpful, or by withdrawing their cooperation altogether. Abuse of power is a betrayal of our country. We call that treason.

DISCRIMINATION. Since DOBs have the power to obstruct, they can pick and choose their friends. Abuse of power is a betrayal of our country. We call that treason.

WHISTLEBLOWING. If you feel harmed by a particular requirement you are obligated as a patriot to question or challenge it. In lieu of satisfaction you can blow the whistle and expose it to the public. May God have mercy on your soul.

DISDAIN & CONTEMPT. If you feel harmed by a particular requirement and you write a letter to the DOB & Town Council requesting explanation or relief you will most likely not get a response. You must respond to government, but it doesn’t have to respond to you. Instead, government looks down on the people with disdain & contempt. The double standard reveals the true extent of government arrogance & superiority, and it exposes the extraordinary danger of government.

CRIMINALIZATION. It has always been a violation to improve private property without a permit. And we all agree to that. But recently it’s become crime. Violators who refuse to cooperate with the DOB have always been summoned into court. So why criminalize? Criminalization is counterintuitive with liberty, and it is solely intended to intimidate & suppress. In an alarming & ever-growing number of cases summonses are issued at the same time as the violations without first affording the opportunity to comply.

FEAR. Every day more people fear the DOB. Their intuition serves them well.

BARRIERS TO FILING.  DOB’s routinely require building permit applications to be perfect or they won’t accept them.  But the DOB can enforce the code with permits so there’s no reason to deny an application.  If government had any respect for the people’s time it would be easy to file an application.  The disregard exposes a double standard.  The quintessential example of arrogance & superiority.

WITCH-HUNTS.  This policy enables the DOB to use a simple issue as an excuse to justify whole property evaluations regardless of threat.  Witch-hunts are routine in a dictatorship but unpopular in America.

STANDARDS FOR MAINTAINS.  Architects are necessary to design new structures but requiring them to draw and certify existing construction is often excessive and damaging.  The DOB is the foremost authority in building construction. It should be qualified to determine if residential & light commercial work meets the code. If it’s not qualified, then it certainly shouldn’t be wielding the extraordinary power of the DOB.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY.  Plan reviews are becoming increasingly inefficient as examiners increasingly issue objection in series, instead of performing a thorough review and addressing deficiencies as a group.  As a result, the examination process goes back and forth excessively, wasting everyone’s time & money and putting applicants in multiple jeopardy.

MAINTAIN FINES.  Fines are routinely imposed on applications to maintain work done without a permit.  Fines are necessary to enforce cooperation, but an application demonstrates cooperation.  As such fines on applications are nothing more than a deceptive form of tax or theft.

BLANKET REGULATION.  This regulation takes away everyone’s rights because of the transgressions of a few, thereby hurting innocent people.  One of the costs of freedom is that we don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.  (example – TNH CDA)

ATTITUDE. DOB officials are among the nicest people in the world. Until you question or challenge them. In many cases you can literally watch them transform into demons right before your very eyes. There is an infestation in DOBs of officials who simply refuse to be questioned or challenged, and who will use their power to punish you if you do.

 

TOWN OF NORTH HEMPSTEAD – liberty grade F

A SUBTLE ATTACK

Are the good people of North Hempstead being subtly attacked by the Department of Buildings?  We all want government to keep us safe but there’s a point of diminished returns.

Building codes get more onerous by the day and today are almost impossible to comply with.  When the DOB reviews a permit application and determines the application to be incomplete it notifies the applicant by a letter entitled as an “Omission”.  The town could choose a title that acknowledges the onerous bureaucracy but instead it carefully crafts language that’s blatantly condescending & derogatory to the applicants.  An “omission” is an imperfection or deficiency.  Obviously, the town would never use this kind of language if it were humble enough to recognize its own deficiencies.  The choice of language reveals a double standard whereby the town views itself as supreme and the people as beneath it.  Any respect for the people has given way to disdain & contempt or the town would choose more respectful language. 

To make matters worse the use of condescending & derogatory language isn’t necessary to enforce the code.  And to add insult to injury the use of this insulting & offensive language, right on the face page of public documents, reveals arrogance so bold that it doesn’t even make any attempt to conceal itself.  America’s amazing stature was certainly not achieved with an arrogant & unpopular government like this one.

 

TOWN OF ISLIP – liberty grade F

The Towns “Plan Review Notice” is a statement that the DOB requires architects to affix to drawings stating that the architect is responsible for everything, and the DOB is responsible for nothing.  This is a deliberate and deceptive attempt by the DOB to avoid any responsibility for its authority and this would obviously give government unlimited power.  Since the required “notice” is issued in writing it’s another great example of arrogance so bold that it doesn’t even make any attempt to conceal itself.

 

THE VILLAGE OF WESTBURY – liberty grade A

It’s important to note that some DOB’s work hard to honor the balance between regulation and liberty.  The Village of Westbury is one such example.  May God bless Mayor Cavallaro, the Village Trustees, Commissioner Bill Mello, inspectors Joe & Harix, and the Village staff.  May they continue to be a model for America.

 

THE VILLIAGE OF ISLAND PARK – liberty grade F

THE TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD – liberty grade C

TOWN OF OYSTER BAY – liberty grade C

WHAT CAN YOU DO

If you trust government, you don’t have to do anything.  If you’re concerned, visit our “voting info page” to learn more.