INSPECTION DEFECTION

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In budget battles, the City Council can give, but the mayor may simply take away. A look at the numbers reveals that the Giuliani administration has hired only a portion of the city housing inspectors slated in last year’s budget–and plans to let even more leave next year.

Last year, the Council okayed hiring 78 new inspectors. But so far, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development has only brought on 47, according to records obtained by the Independent Budget Office. And the mayor’s preliminary budget shows his future plans: after April 2000, to let another 15 inspectors leave without being replaced.

The inspector brigade is supposed to issue violations to landlords when buildings have leaks, peeling paint, collapsing walls or heat problems. But repeated cutbacks have left the team unable to respond quickly to many tenant complaints. In 1986, the city had an army of 600 inspectors. Today, there are a paltry 237.

“The trend has been, hey, it’s an area we can keep cutting and cutting,” said Joe Corso, president of the inspectors’ union.

To keep cutting the number of inspectors is “outrageous,” said Kenny Schaeffer, vice chair of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, a citywide tenants’ union. He and other advocates report that tenants with no heat or hot water–supposedly an “emergency” violation–must wait at least two to three days for an inspector to show up.

Repeated calls to HPD were not answered.