On Friday, inspectors from the city’s Department of Buildings (DB) swooped down on building 541 145th Street in Upper Manhattan where the Dominican Commissioner of Culture in the United States (CODOCUL) operates, closing the building for multiple violations of the municipal housing and building code.
To the concern of cultural managers, community activists, political leaders and elected officials including Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, Commissioner of Culture Lourdes Batista Jakab called a press conference Monday afternoon to explain the situation.
She said that the closure of the building which includes a Pentecostal church and several businesses owned by Dominican merchants, will not affect the staging of the First Cultural Fair and the XII Dominican Book Fair scheduled for October 15,16 and 17, 2021 at George Washington High School in Upper Manhattan.
He presented the authorities’ report specifying the violations, among them the use of the basement for a school in which both CODOCUL and the church offer music and Bible classes to the children who attend.
The inspectors also state in the report that they could not gain access to enter through the front door when they went to conduct the inspections, among many others in which they cite illegal structural modifications.
The commissioner denied the report’s accusations, saying that the building was registered in 1963 and that this situation is occurring now, coinciding with the preparation of the cultural events, the first massive ones organized by her administration, which has been in office for a year.
“The cultural fair and the book fair, they go,” she assured being long applauded by a large team of men and women working in the assembly of both events.
“Officials from the New York City Department of Buildings went to the building where the commissioner operates and posted signs on the door advising that the place is partially closed,” the commissioner explained.
“What I did was to refurbish part of the space occupied by the commissioner but not any modification to the building,” she added.
She related that she contacted Dominican architect José R. Díaz, who investigated what the violations are about.
“He sent me the certificate of occupancy of the building dating back to 1963, when I was not yet born,” the commissioner maintained.
“We came to the commissioner on September 3 last year and the only thing we did in the structure was to refurbish the place and the people who have gone there, including the press, can see that we did not alter anything there, we painted and changed a deteriorated carpet for a wooden floor, so the place is as we received it,” he said.
“We didn’t do any infrastructure or build on the place, we simply refurbished and we want to make that quite clear,” he added.