Dept. of Buildings accused of allowing unpermitted gas work at four Bronx buildings: lawsuit

York Studios in Hunts Point was one of more than 100 NYC locations included in a lawsuit that accuses city Department of Buildings of allowing hazardous gas piping installations while violating a 2020 local law.
Photo ET Rodriguez

This article was updated on Jan. 30 to include a statement from the Department of Buildings.

After deadly gas explosions in Harlem and the East Village in 2014 and 2015, the City Council explored massive changes to construction with legislation aimed to provide a stricter regulation of hazardous fuel gas work.

In 2020, Local Law 150 went into effect, restricting who can perform such hazardous “gas work” without city Department of Buildings-issued qualification, thus limiting the pool of candidates to only the most experienced, skilled and highly trained welders.

But a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court last month alleges that the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) bypassed those requirements at more than 100 city addresses since the law went into effect —  including four in the Bronx — and allowed hazardous gas piping installations to be performed by unlicensed or improperly qualified laborers.

Those buildings include a single family Riverdale home (670 W. 261 St.), a single-family home in City Island (25 Hawkins St.), an industrial warehouse in Mott Haven (1349 E. Bay Ave.), and a building owned by production company York Studios in Soundview (1410 Story Ave.).

“Hidden flaws in a pipe weld can also be seen as time bombs which can fail unexpectedly at any point in the future,” said Arthur O. Klock, Jr., who has more than 40 years expertise in training, welding, pipefitting and gas fitting.

1349 E. Bay Ave. is one of four Bronx addresses identified in a lawsuit against the city Department of Buildings for allegedly allowing unlicensed laborers to perform gas work. Photo ET Rodriguez

Nineteen organizations are city-approved and qualified as pipe welders, including two from the Bronx, Certified Testing Laboratories, Inc and Vibranalysis, Inc. dba VTI.

In response to the allegations brought forth in the lawsuit, DOB officials said they are reviewing the lawsuit, and that DOB only issues permits for gas-related work to licensed master plumbers.

“These plumbers are legally responsible to ensure that the permitted gas work is performed by themselves or by qualified individuals under their direct and continued supervision,” said DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky. “New and modified gas piping work undergoes inspections and pressure testing in the presence of a DOB inspector prior to gas service being authorized.”

The legal complaint filed by the Plumbers Union Local 1 identified that the DOB approved at least 431 additional gas authorization requests between Nov. 19 and Nov. 30, 2022, which do not contain any supporting documentation at all, or which identify an unqualified welder as having performed the work.

The suit also includes examples of DOB’s approval of illegal gas work on taxpayer funded public projects, evidence of unlicensed workers performing piping installations, cases of unverified “inspections” by contractors, and affidavits by licensed plumbers showing improper welds along with a refusal by DOB officials to follow up.

The union said DOB is following a “see no evil, hear no evil” stance in granting hundreds of gas approvals to unlicensed contractors, particularly in large buildings throughout the city, such as the recently opened Ritz-Carlton New York, Nomad Hotel and the all-girls Catholic grade school Marymount on the Upper East Side.

With New York City and New York state officials looking for a boon in housing construction, Mayor Eric Adams has recommended a plan to “relax” certain measures to speed up construction of some 500,000 new housing units.

The mayor’s plan aims to reduce bureaucratic obstacles for builders, including eliminating environmental reviews for some residential buildings and simplifying the approval process for many new projects, in an effort to expedite project timelines by 50%, and reduce building costs.

‘Get stuff built’: Latest Mayor Adams initiative aims to supercharge housing construction in New York

The mayor’s package of 111 reforms would also expand the DOB’s portal for coordinating construction projects across city agencies and streamline fire safety inspections.

“If DOB is not adhering to rule and regulations governing workmanship inspections on gas piping, as well as the enforcement of licensing requirements, how can the agency possibly be expected to take on new responsibilities handled by the FDNY?” said Michael Apuzzo, a now-retired business manager of Plumbers Union Local 1, based in Long Island City. “To me this smells like a case of really bad gas.”

Next month, the City Council is holding a joint hearing of the Housing & Building Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Investigations headed by Manhattan Councilmember Gale Brewer on Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. to look into this issue.

This article was updated on Jan. 30 to include a statement from the Department of Buildings.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes