The Buildings Department inspector who went ballistic on a passerby for taking photos of a construction site in Brooklyn has been suspended for 30 days without pay and required to attend anger management classes. To recap:
Carroll Gardens resident James Veronico was walking back from the laundromat on the morning of Sepetmber 8th when he noticed construction had begun again at 395 Clinton Street, between Union and President streets. Work on the new four-story townhouse started back in September of 2013, but had stalled, and Veronico snapped a few photos, thinking he'd send them to a real estate blog. That's when DOB plumbing inspector Jose Nuñez rushed him. Veronico started filming because, he said, "I thought, if this guy gets out of hand, we need something to show what he did."
Nuñez swatted at Veronico's phone but, Veronico said, hit his hand instead. All told, according to Veronico, Nuñez hit his hands twice, and once grabbed his arms and pushed him off of some landing steps. Here are the videos:
After publication of our article on Nuñez's outburst, the Department of Buildings opened an internal investigation. Now, according to DOB spokesman Joseph Soldevere, he has been punished.
"The employee’s behavior was unacceptable," Soldevere said in an email.
Reached by phone, Veronico said he hopes the anger management sticks.
"Hopefully he does better at controlling himself in those kind of situations," he said. "As long as I didn't blow the lid off some kinda giant Mafia building conspiracy and then I end up in the Gowanus, I guess I'm happy."
It's still not clear what exactly got Nuñez so upset, or why the contractors on the site seemed eager to discredit Veronico to the police. Contractor BBM Construction Corp. previously paid $1,231.07 to settle a $6,000 fine for failure to notify the Buildings Department that excavation had begun at the site, and the firm still owes $2,500 for lacking handrails on stairs to the basement level, city records show.
Reached by phone, building owner Neil Schraeger said there's no story here.
"I don’t understand what you guys are doing this," he said "This isn't news."
Asked if he knew Nuñez or understood why he acted so erratically, Schraeger said, "You're asking if we were bribing him at the time?" He noted that a commenter on Gothamist's earlier story suggested Nuñez had been paid off. He denied that was the case.
"I’ve never seen him before, never knew him before, hope never to see him again," he said. "You guys are looking for a smoking gun here."
Schraeger made it clear he sympathizes with no one involved in this situation:
I have no idea who this guy is was taking the pictures, why he was taking the pictures. I have no idea why this idiot from the city got so nutty. I have no idea why—is this guy looking for his 15 minutes of fame? Because he took some photographs of a guy, he maybe cost the guy—the guy’s got some problems—but what, maybe he cost him some pay and his kids are going to have a little more problems this year? Or something like that? He’s a hero?
Asked if work had stopped on the house, as Veronico observed walking by recently, Schraeger said it had not. The "stupidity" of Nuñez's actions, and the subsequent publicity only made the process harder, he said.
"Dealing with the city is tough enough when you got a guy who’s here to do a job and he makes it more difficult," he said. "It’s tough enough without having a guy standing there taking photographs."
"You want a story," he said, then cut himself short. "You know what, I can't be bothered."
He then hung up.