By Tien-Shun Lee
In an effort to streamline its operations, the Department of Consumer Affairs opened a new office Tuesday in Queens Borough Hall, which will serve as a hub for a team of 10 inspectors as well as the DCA’s Home Improvement Contractor Unit.
“The Queens enforcement office will be able to respond quickly to complaints, businesses breaking license laws, violating regulations,” said DCA Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra. “We know with this office we’ll save time and be able to do more inspections.”
The DCA’s original office is located at 42 Broadway in Manhattan. The agency decided to open three borough offices in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx to allow the staff to work more closely with community boards and respond to complaints more quickly.
“The Department of Consumer Affairs’ office expansion at Queens Borough Hall is a welcome addition to our continuing efforts to make Borough Hall home to a multitude of city agencies and services,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “This added presence will mean quicker responses to Queens-based complaints and hands-on contact with our borough’s community boards.”
The move should not be costly since the borough president is offering the office space to the agency free of charge, said Dykstra.
Unlike some of the inspectors at the DCA’s Manhattan office who are trained only to inspect a limited number of categories of businesses, all inspectors at the new Queens office will be cross-trained to inspect a variety of businesses and enforce a wide variety of consumer protection laws.
Areas of enforcement the Queens DCA inspectors will deal with include routine testing of scales, consumer protection violations, sidewalk cafes, peddlers and license checks.
The DCA’s Home Improvement Contractor Unit, which will work out of the Queens office, will investigate complaints related to unlicensed building contractors and unsatisfactory building work jobs citywide.
“Say your roof is leaking, and you pay a man a deposit to start fixing the roof. He does half the job and leaves with the money. We pose as homeowners undercover to catch the guy,” said Richard O’Hara, the Queens DCA office director. “That’s a huge problem, particularly for elderly people who tend to trust people more.”
The DCA licenses over 60,000 businesses in 55 different categories in New York City. It holds free seminars regularly to educate consumers and businesses about licensing and consumer rights.
Last year the DCA received 60 calls from community boards in Queens, said Dykstra. With the new borough office, Dykstra said she expected to receive 10 times that number this year.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.