Jimmy Oddo tapped for buildings commissioner

Former borough president accepts notoriously hard-to-fill job

Former Staten Island borough president Jimmy Oddo
Former Staten Island borough president Jimmy Oddo (Getty)

Mayor Eric Adams has found his next Department of Buildings commissioner.

Former Staten Island borough president Jimmy Oddo will assume the post, City & State reported. Oddo is moving from his role as chief of staff to Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi, a position Oddo had called his “dream job.”

No one has described the buildings commissioner post that way. Mayors have struggled for years to fill the largely thankless job, even after the requirement that the person be a licensed architect or engineer was changed in 2008.

The permanent job has been vacant since Eric Ulrich resigned in November, only six months into his tenure, after it was reported that he was questioned by investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office investigating illegal gambling. Ulrich hasn’t been charged with a crime.

First deputy commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik has been serving as acting commissioner of the department. Vilenchik has been front and center since the April 17 collapse of a Lower Manhattan garage killed its manager.

Oddo, a former City Council minority leader, is experienced in politics but not construction. But the challenge of running buildings is more about administration and ethics. Modestly paid inspectors can shut down projects that cost millions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars, a power that has led to bribery scandals over the years.

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Also, the process of pulling permits was so tedious that it gave rise to a thriving industry of expeditors, which remains despite improvements by the agency.

Oddo has found himself at odds with the development industry in the past, particularly during his time in charge of Staten Island, coming out against multiple major projects — usually because of traffic concerns. But he is regarded as a pro-business Republican with no patience for foolishness.

One of the biggest issues Oddo will face at the department is the implementation of Local Law 97, which caps large buildings’ carbon emissions. Fines for violators will begin next year, and the real estate industry has been pushing for reforms before that happens.

Adams is also keen to have the department take fire safety inspections over from FDNY, where bottlenecks have slowed developments, driving up their cost. But the Department of Buildings is not known for speed either, and 18 percent of its staff positions are reportedly vacant.

Holden Walter-Warner

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