ECB dismissed falsified facade report charge

Building’s facade buckled two-and one- half-years after engineer’s report. Richard Lefever, a licensed engineer, examined the facade of a building and filed a report with Buildings in February 2007. In the report, Lefever had the option of designating the facade as safe, unsafe, or safe with a repair and maintenance program (SWARMP). Lefever chose the third option, because he identified facade conditions that required repairs within two years to avoid deteriorating into unsafe conditions. The owner failed to make repairs within the two-year time frame, and in August 2009 a portion of the exterior masonry of the wall buckled. The condition exposed the public to the threat of falling debris.

Buildings issued a notice of violation to Lefever for filing a false statement. According to Buildings, Levefer’s designation of the facade as SWARMP amounted to a false statement given the history of numerous repairs to the building’s facade and Levefer’s knowledge of such repairs. Lefever defended that his SWARMP designation was warranted since the building facade needed only repair and not immediate corrective action.

The hearing ALJ recommended that the NOV be sustained, finding that the building should have been categorized as unsafe given its history and industry knowledge that buildings with these facades had problems. Lefever appealed to the Environmental Control Board.

The Board reversed the ALJ’s decision and dismissed the NOV, ruling that Buildings had failed to prove that Lefever filed a false statement. The report noted that certain facade conditions needed repair within two years to avoid becoming unsafe conditions. The owner failed to repair the conditions within two years, and the facade buckled thereafter, a result consistent with the report’s findings. Furthermore, the Board explained that the mere fact that an unsafe condition occurred after the report was filed did not render the building unsafe at the time of the inspection.

NYC v. Richard Lefever, ECB Appeal No. 1000454 (Aug. 19, 2010).

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