Posts tagged with "law":

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Lawsuit against San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter tossed, for now

Tensions stoked by the increasing wealth inequality of San Francisco have become the subject of a heated (and well documented online) legal debate over the last several months. After it was announced this April that opponents to the city’s largest homeless shelter, the Embarcadero Navigation Center, were determined to undermine the project through a lawsuit they had crowdfunded for, the overseeing San Francisco Superior Court judge decided not to issue a halt to its construction. The project in question, a 200-bed homeless shelter, is already underway on 2.3 acres in The Embarcadero, the strip of land along the city’s eastern shoreline facing Berkeley, and it is projected that it will be finished by the end of this year. The center's construction first caught the attention of the non-profit group Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA), which argued that the construction of homeless housing in that location would cause “irreparable harm” to the residents of nearby condominiums (one SEFA attorney cited an act of assault against a Watermark resident on August 11th of this year to prove their claim). They then filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Planning Commission, the state of California, and the city’s Homelessness and Supportive Housing division. Despite their efforts, Judge Ethan P. Schulman claimed that their charges were unfounded and dismissed their case last Monday. The judge found that the construction and operation of the building would not cause harm to the wealthier residents of the neighborhood, as SEFA’s attorneys claimed it would, but instead would provide the homeless community with a safe environment to call their own. In response to several other issues SEFA have taken against the project, Deputy City Attorney James Emery stated that “the project is temporary” and “should the courts ultimately determine the project is unlawful, the site can be restored to its prior use.” Though the future of the homeless shelter remains unclear, the judge’s recent decision makes its completion much more likely than it has been in several months. However, with the sixth-highest income inequality of any U.S. city, tensions between housing shortages and increasing homelessness rates in San Francisco will likely inspire similar litigation as other homeless shelters are considered in its future. Additionally, SEFA may still get there day in court; although the motion to stop construction on the center was denied, the judge has scheduled a follow-up hearing for September 23.
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NYC Department of Buildings fines owner who split two condo into 20 apartments

This week, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) busted a Lower East Side landlord who had divided part of a building into hobbit-like warrens with ceilings as low as four-and-a-half–feet. Owner Xue Ping Ni subdivided his 634-square-foot condo on the fourth floor of 165 Henry Street into 11 tiny units by splitting the space with a new floor. DOB photos show a male inspector kneeling beside one lilliputian door, his head just below the top of the frame. The illegal units, home to nine people at inspection time, were climate-controlled with double-stacked window-mounted air conditioners. It almost goes without saying that the SROs lacked adequate egresses as well. During a later visit, a reporter noticed from the street that the air conditioners in the windows on the floor above were installed in a similar pattern. When inspectors entered the fifth-floor apartment, they found another nine diminutive single room occupancy units that looked like those in the first apartment. All tenants in the micro micro-units were evacuated. According to one, the closet-sized dwellings rented for $600 per month. The New York Post reported that the DOB slapped Ni with over $144,000 in fines for the sprinkler-less rooms and a lack of permits for plumbing, electrical, and structural work. According to paperwork on file with the DOB, the five-story building is supposed to have just 27 apartments.

Councilmember Ben Kallos likened the firetrap half floors to the 1999 film Being John Malkovich where John Cusack's character takes a job at Lester Corp, which is on the short-ceilinged seven-and-a-half floor of an office building in Manhattan. (Kallos does not represent the district that includes the building in question)

"It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life," he told the Post.

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Man faces fines after falsely claiming to be an architect

A U.K. man and his firm have been ordered to pay hefty fines after being found guilty of impersonating a licensed architect. Paul Lyon and his company, Lyson Architecture of Warwickshire, Coventry, and London, were served with a $5,111 (£4,222) fine for misrepresenting himself as an architect on the firm's website and Twitter (there were no architects are employed by his business, either). The conviction didn't come out of nowhere. The Architects Registration Board (ARB), the body that regulates architects in the U.K., had ordered Lyon and his firm to refrain from using the "architect" to describe themselves on their website and social media pages. The Birmingham Magistrates’ Court District Judge described Lyon's approach to removing the term from his online presence as "slow and ineffective."
According to a release from the ARB, the judge added that the public should not be deceived about the type of services they are purchasing and that architects are "entitled not to be in competition or undercut by those who are not architects." Lyon and Lyson Architecture have a little under a month (28 days) to strike "architect" from their web pages and other materials—and to clarify, Lyson's is run by Lyon, it's not a misspelling. The ARB said it "will continue to monitor their trading style and take further appropriate action as necessary." The British case is eerily similar to that of the fake architect who scandalized the profession stateside. In 2017, an upstate New York man by the name of Paul Newman pleaded guilty to felony charges for providing architectural services when he was not a registered architect. Newman admitted to using a fake stamp to sign off on plans and to defrauding businesses and government agencies. Then–New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office brought the charges under "Operation Vandelay Industries," a reference to the ersatz company George Costanza establishes on Seinfeld to score unemployment benefits.
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AIA speaks out against rolling back license requirements

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has issued a statement denouncing the growing trend of states removing architectural licensure requirements. In its first Where We Stand statement of 2018, the AIA came out strongly against a practice that they consider as contrary to their commitment to securing the "health, safety and welfare of all who occupy and visit the structures that they design." The past few years have seen a rollback of professional licensure requirements across the United States, including architecture, in the name of lowering barriers to entry and fostering competition. This is a shortsighted, the AIA argues, as rigorous education and licensing keeps consumers safe. To emphasize their point, the AIA has also produced a map indicating states where through either legislation or executive orders, licensure requirements have been threatened or rolled back from 2015 to 2018. As a counterpoint, the institute has put forth ideas for strengthening license requirements across the country, as well as allowing architects to operate across state lines in times of crisis. While proponents of such rollbacks can cite a few examples of overreach, the AIA has put out this statement to remind the public that licensure requires passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) and a familiarity with local conditions and laws. Just last summer, the highly-publicized arrest of an architect who was practicing without a license in upstate New York brought a dose of well-deserved attention to the issue. "The essential purpose of licensing architects is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and shield consumers from unqualified practitioners," said AIA President Carl Elefante. "This is a responsibility our profession fully accepts and takes quite seriously, and we will fight any effort to minimize the requirements for professional licensure in architecture."
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“Operation Vandelay Industries” fake architect faces jail time after pleading guilty to charges

Dubbed a "fake architect," Paul Newman, from Troy, New York has pleaded guilty to his crime of fraudulently claiming to be an architect on more than 100 properties. Paul J. Newman, 49, president (and sole employee) of architecture firm Cohesion Studios was arrested in late April this year. The story caused a stir when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office dubbed the investigation “Operation Vandelay Industries,” a nod to the fake company George Costanza invents on Seinfeld to collect unemployment benefits. During his career, Newman was paid in excess of $180,000 for his services. This included drafting architectural renderings and signing off projects for more than 100 properties in Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady counties. Some projects were even sizeable housing complexes. In addition to this, Newman submitted foundation inspections, field reports, energy compliance certificates, AIA documents, and engineer letters to a number of municipal agencies. As he did this, he falsely certified that he was a registered and licensed architect. Newman, in his trial, admitted defrauding construction firms, businesses, and local government agencies across the three aforementioned counties of more than $115,000. In total, he pleaded guilty to six felony charges and faces between two and seven years in jail. Newman submitted these architectural renderings, as well as foundation inspections, field reports, energy compliance certificates, and engineer letters to various towns and cities—falsely certifying on the documents that he was a registered and licensed architect and affixing a forged New York State Registered Architect Stamp or Professional Engineer Stamp. "Throughout the course of his fraudulent career, the defendant repeatedly demonstrated a disregard for the public safety of New Yorkers and a determination to cheat the system," said Schneiderman in a statement. "The state law is clear—no license, no architectural work for you. No one is above that standard." According to prosecutors, Newman procured the license number of a registered architect online and used this to create a fake Registered Architect Stamp that displayed the real architect's number but Newman's name. He then applied this stamp to his work (documents and letters) which he gave to state and city authorities. Newman then advertised his supposed architectural services on social media. After a complaint to the New York State Education Department, he removed any reference to “architecture” in his ads and replaced it with “design.” A statement from Schneiderman's office details the felonies of which he pleaded guilty to:
Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, in Saratoga County Court before the Honorable James A. Murphy, III. Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree in Albany County Court before the Honorable William A. Carter. Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony, in Rensselaer County Court before the Honorable Debra J. Young.
A list of the projects he fraudulently worked on was also listed:
  • The Pastures Project, Town of North Greenbush, Rensselaer, New York
  • Between 2010 and 2015, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 70 townhouses, receiving in excess of $50,000 for his services.
  • The Livingston Project, City and County of Albany, New York
  • Between 2012 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $40,000.
  • The Lofts Project, Town of Malta, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2014 and 2016, Newman was the Project Architect for the construction of a 214-unit multifamily apartment community, receiving in excess of $35,000.
  • The Vistas Project, Town of Clifton Park, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2011 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 25 townhouses, receiving in excess of $35,000.
  • The Hannoush Jewelers Project, Town of Colonie, Albany, New York
  • Between 2011 and 2012, Newman was hired as the architect on a renovation project for a jewelry store, receiving in excess of $20,000.
  • The Ballston Senior Living Project, Town of Ballston, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2012 and 2013, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $8,000.
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Fake architect faces jail time after practicing without a license

In an investigation dubbed "Operation Vandelay Industries," Paul Newman, from Troy, New York, has been arrested for practicing architecture without a license with his firm "Cohesion Studios." Newman, 49, faces up to 15 years in prison. The New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office referenced Seinfeld in the operation name—a nod to George Costanza's falsely proclaimed occupation as an architect.* Newman also shares his name with another character on the comedy, however, the joking stops there. Unlike Costanza, Newman will be facing the consequences of illegally signing off plans on more than 100 projects. "I'm indicting alleged fake architect Paul Newman on 58 counts as a result of our 'Operation Vandelay Industries,'" Schneiderman said in a tweet linked to a video from the 1992 episode of Seinfeld he was referencing. https://twitter.com/AGSchneiderman/status/855071505293733893 Newman is facing charges in three counties and has been accused of defrauding construction firms, businesses, and municipalities over the course of seven years. The projects he illegally worked on, pretending to be registered and licensed, were mostly housing, ranging from townhouses to senior living communities. Schneiderman's two-year investigation found that Newman had been practicing illegally since 2010. In the process, Newman had been paid almost $200,000 for his fraudulent services. ($200,000 over seven years: testament that crime does not pay, in this case at least.) The Attorney General Office's review of the Livingston Project—a 50-unit senior housing complex—turned up instances where Newman had forged certification stamps used for permit applications when he approved that the building had been constructed according to his plans. Even though Newman was breaking the law, Robert Magee, Albany's director of building and regulatory compliance, said the Livingston Project was "all done up to code." "Our inspectors had eyes on the project as it was happening," he told the Daily Gazette. "We didn't find a reason to revoke the certificate of occupancy we had issued." “For over seven years the defendant has pretended to be a registered architect, deceiving hundreds of New Yorkers—including families and senior citizens—with the sole goal of enriching himself,” Schneiderman, meanwhile, said in a statement. “By allegedly falsifying building plans, code compliance inspections, and field reports, the defendant jeopardized the safety of those who resided in and frequented the buildings he was contracted to work on.” As Nicholas Korody of Archinect notes: In just Rensselaer County, Newman, 49, faces the following charges: Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, nine counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, three counts of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, and thirteen counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. All are felonies. *For the Seinfeld aficionado's out there, you are not mistaken: Vandelay Industries is not George Constanza's company when he is an architect. Art Vandelay is, in fact, that firm. Vandelay Industries, however, is the company Costanza uses to sell latex.