RHBA tackles DOB issues

One week after the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center shut its doors due to a lack of funding, Richmond Hill Block Association (RHBA) president Wendy Bowne made it clear that the latter’s service to the community will carry on.

“The RHBA owns this building and will continue to do all the things that we’ve offered this community,” said Bowne, referring to the annual park fair, Thanksgiving dinner donations and Santa Day. “The community center, which offered free tutoring programs, video conference technology programs, Mommy and Me, and help for low income people to get energy assistance are not going to be readily available.”

At their final meeting until the end of September, the RHBA invited Byron Munoz, the Department of Buildings (DOB) intergovernmental and community affairs liason for south Queens, to answer questions regarding illegal conversions, driveway safety concerns and the amount of power the DOB actually has.

He explained that currently, the DOB does not have any warrant powers to enter a home suspected to be in violation of building code. Once they are denied access by a resident, they must leave.

“Your staff should have a little bit more authority,” said Nick Comaianni, Queens School Board President and candidate for the state Assembly. “Building inspectors should have more of a police officer status.”

Munoz agreed with this statement.

“That would have to be brought up by the City Council and modified to the Charter if possible,” he said. “As of now, we can only check [residences] externally. If you call us, we will go out there and check again.”

“You’re dealing with something that is very sacred, which is essential to the foundation of this country, which is your privacy,” Munoz continued. “It’s very difficult to gain access into someone’s private property because the judge does not want to set any precedents.”

For inquires and information about the Department of Buildings, call 3-1-1 or go to NYC.gov.

Up next for the RHBA is the annual Park Fair, which will be held on September 11 at Forest Park, at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South. There will be entertainment, dance groups, vendors, pet adoptions and food.

To learn more, call the RHBA at 718-849-3759.

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