EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

The objective of this audit was to determine whether the Department of Buildings (DOB) is in compliance with Local Law 25, which is intended to make City agencies, and ultimately the City as a whole, more accessible to foreign-born residents whose primary language is not English. Our audit of DOB is one in a series of audits we are conducting on the City’s compliance with Local Law 25.

Most City agencies have a significant presence on the internet and rely on agency websites to both provide information to and interact with the public. Accordingly, in 2016, Mayor de Blasio signed Local Law 25, amending the City’s Administrative Code in relation to citizens’ ability to access translation of City websites. Local Law 25 requires that every website maintained by or on behalf of a City agency include a translation service enabling users to view the text of that website, wherever practicable, in languages other than English. It also requires that the translation service be identifiable in a manner that is comprehensible to speakers of the seven most commonly spoken languages in the City. As determined by the Department of City Planning, the seven most commonly spoken languages in New York City amongst residents with limited English proficiency are:

  1. Spanish
  2. Chinese (includes Cantonese, Mandarin, and Formosan)
  3. Russian
  4. Bengali
  5. French Créole (also called Haitian Créole)
  6. Korean
  7. Arabic[1]

Results

Our audit found that DOB generally complies with Local Law 25. DOB’s website, found at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/index.page, includes a translation feature for viewing text and essential information in various languages, including the above-noted top seven languages. DOB’s website also provides important information regarding its functions and services, which includes but is not limited to information pertaining to DOB’s various divisions, office locations, contact information, benefits, forms, brochures, paying or disputing fines, tenants’ rights, worker-safety, OSHA requirements, buildings information, codes, updates, guides and searching property records. All information can be translated and viewed in each of the top seven noted languages.

DOB’s most frequently requested documents can be translated and downloaded in the seven most-requested languages according to DOB’s Language Access Plan August 2015 and Draft Language Access Plan 2018 (Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, Haitian Créole, Korean and Arabic[2]). We reviewed and successfully translated the following documents into DOB’s seven most requested languages:

 

  • Tenant Resources
  • Building Codes
  • OSHA Requirements
  • Experience is Not Enough (Campaign Brochures for Construction Workers)
  • Extension Cord Safety
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Construction Safety
  • Harness Safety Brochures
  • Safety Brochures

DOB provides translation and interpretation services in all of its locations that interact with the general public, including its five Borough Business Centers located in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

In its response, DOB agreed with the report’s recommendation that the agency continue to maintain its compliance with Local Law 25 to ensure it effectively meets the needs of residents with limited English proficiency when accessing city services online. DOB stated that it “will continue to maintain its compliance, and provide language access in accordance with the Local Law.”

 

 

[1] According to the DCP report, issued in March 2016, entitled Top Languages Spoken at Home by Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Universe: Population 5 Years and Over.

[2] City agencies determine which documents are key, essential, frequently used and translated on City websites in the top languages for its business purposes