The New York Department of Health was recently lauded by Mayor Bloomberg for its forward movement in protecting the safety of the public. Specifically the mayor cited the tiny decrease in salmonella cases after a restaurant-inspection frenzy that took place around the city but it appears that not everything is as it seems when it comes to safety in the city.
The Department of Health provides one inspector for roughly every 160 restaurants. Conversely, the Department of Buildings which monitors the safety of locations and properties has only one inspector for every 3,075 properties under its watch. While food poisoning cases may be on the slight decline, it appears that bigger issues are at stake, especially when it comes to elevator inspections throughout the city.
The tragic death of a Midtown advertising executive is a recent example of what the understaffing at the Department of Buildings means to New York. There are not enough inspectors to deal with the properties they oversee. There have been a rash of injuries and deaths in the city stemming from sidewalk bridges and buildings collapsing on top of passerbys. Construction cranes are also a concern such as when heavy loads during the building phase has fallen stories below onto city streets and construction sites.
There is a lot of criticism of the priorities of City Hall when people are dying because of faulty elevators and falling buildings but there seems to be a greater focus on the many restaurants in the city and whether or not they are up to inspection. Some cite the massive fines collected from health code violations as the reason for the keen focus on salmonella cases throughout New York City.