February 15 2023, Mr. Codio invited me to attend a New York City Department of Building’s presentation. At first I was nervous because I had a feeling that this would be completely different from the presentation I attended my freshman year. Coming back to this building was a different feeling from last year such as the difference in room, my age, and the purpose for being on that trip. Thanks to my connections with Mr. Codio from freshman year, having put myself into these situations has helped with my anxiety, my social skills, and my networking skills.
This year, I sat in the same seat as the inspectors in training. Knowing that everyone started somewhere and being in the same environment as those who turn out to be assistant commissioners dazzled me. I felt at ease knowing that I didn’t have to know everything to be in a position that I loved. The first speaker was Elizabeth Spring, chief plan examiner. Ms. Spring has been at the DOB for eight years after attending Howard University for architecture. Throughout her process of ending up in this position she has faced many obstacles while raising her children. One of the many challenges that Elizabeth faced was at the start of her career, coming from New York State the codes were different when she moved to New York City. There are many codes that are placed on a building and even more that are constantly being updated and or created. One of my many concerns was the management of all these codes that needed to be looked at. I was quickly reassured that there is no requirement to memorize every code in the book, but instead know how they relate to a problem and how to find codes that relate to the building’s violations or necessities. Ms. Spring discussed additional challenges about how codes and zonings were based on the people and their safety and how new codes were being added and or reevaluated. For instance, every new building must have at least a green roof or solar panels or a building with more than a certain limit of stories needs to have windows that open to a restricted degree. Ms. Spring’s expectations resembled my first thoughts on what it meant to be an architect, someone who just listens to a client and draws the client’s dreams on paper. I would have never thought that becoming an architect isn’t just drawing but a process that allows you to see others using your work. Ms. Spring ended her presentation by telling us that hard work and deep dedication can pay off and to be true to your passion.
The second presenter wads one of DOB’s Assistant Commissioners, Mr. Richard Whint. Richard started off as a carpenter and joined the DOB as a building inspector. He makes sure that any hazards to the flow of traffic get recognized and are fixed. From 2016 to 2019 Richard became a supervisor who helped many get their homes fixed as fast as possible when Hurricane Sandy hit. He then became Assistant Commissioner of Quality Assurance 6 months. This role required him to go out and help enforce different regulations that require people to fix or improve on certain necessities in a building. Richard’s job also enforces the American Disability Act that makes sure that all wheelchairs and disabled individuals have access to a building. One highlight of Richard’s career was the work he did in Times Square. Richard was in charge of the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. Before the ball drops, Richard does a Temporary Place of Assembly which makes sure that the stage and public vicinity is safe for civilians.TPA ensures that the stages and general area is up to code and follows every safety protocol for a fun yet safe experience. Richard also worked on the Barclays Stadium in Brooklyn, where his work included inspections and enforcement of regulations while the building was being erected. Working in the environment of the DOB, Richard had faced many challenges and difficulties during his early years. Richard had applied for the position of supervisor eight times before he could truly move up. He trained new inspectors and these new inspectors would become Richard’s supervisors in the long run. This was very challenging for Richard, but he didn’t give up. Instead Richard decided to keep working hard and push through. Coming from Grenada in the Caribbean was hard enough and his opportunities were limited. He chose to work in Civil Services because of the feeling he received from helping others, the money nor the benefits mattered to Richard when deciding what position to strive for. Lastly, the factor that continues to push Richard is the end result of the buildings he oversees.
The last speaker today was Renaldo Hilton, another Assistant Commissioner for Enforcement and Inspection. Mr. Hilton has a 31 year career working for New York City and became an Assistant Commissioner after college. But what was interesting about Mr. Hilton is that he received a degree in mathematics yet didn’t have the slightest clue about what he wanted to do in life. For a percentage of human beings this might be a similar case, whether it be a senior in high school or a college student who dumped hardwork and effort into your major just to find out that your school work doesn’t line up with your career. This was the same route for Mr. Hilton, who was still figuring out what he wanted to do with all that knowledge. He encourages people like us to not get frustrated over your future and instead take the time that you have to think of what you want to do with your life. His career started when he saw a fire inspector poster for the New York City Fire Department in 1992. He decided to take his chances and applied. He was tasked with checking boilers and the air conditioners that we use. By applying for the Fire Inspection Academy he gained many benefits that lead to him learning how to write violations. From there he eventually became a supervisor in legal enforcement.
After getting through enforcement he became the Fire Department’s legal supervisor at the time of 9/11. Right before this Mayor Giuliani was planning to merge the Fire and Buildings departments. He then was a part of the team that started the process of merging these two departments together. Because of the factions and how large the Department of Building was, it often dwarfed the Fire Department. Having touched over one million buildings it was often reasonable that the DOB was the older brother to the Fire Department. When 9/11 occurred, the major at that time scrapped the plan to merge. But while in the Fire Department Mr. Hilton increased his network across the Department. He got to know many individuals during his career all because he took the opportunity that he stumbled across. Because of the connections and performance he left an impression on the DOB. After his interview, Renaldo was employed with the title of Director of Administrative Enforcer. This position was larger than his previous position because there are many other enforcements. He stayed in this position for eight years until he was asked to be appointed as an assistant commissioner in 2016. Renaldo has learned things throughout his 31 years of experience.
Mr. Hilton believes that life has its courses for everyone, and he would have never thought with his degree in mathematics he would become a part of the Department of Building family. His military experience has allowed Renoldo to develop leadership skills and fluent communication. Renaldo never really liked to draw and has no experience in much of the AutoCAD software but through the opportunities that he took, he was able to acquire an irreplaceable role in the DOB.
Being a part of this amazing presentation, I had the opportunity to learn a great deal that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. One key piece of information I learned was that if you purchase a property with an overlooked violation, you become responsible for any violations as the owner of the property.