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Robert Abrams
Real Estate
Various Partner Dances
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Reflections on the Reliability of Construction Inspections in New York City and Implications for the Advancement of Dance

by Robert Abrams
March 22, 2008
New York, NY
According to a recent article ("Construction Is Up, Inspectors Down. Guess What?/Building Roulette: The New Victorian Coal Mine", Jim Dwyer, New York Times, 3/19/2008 , p. B1) that offers both richly descriptive data and well considered analysis, building inspections in New York City have declined while construction has increased, resulting in a rise in preventable accidents causing loss of life and property. Something clearly needs to be done about the frequency and quality of building and construction inspections, but that is not the main point of this reflection.

The dance community might be in a position to make a small contribution to this large problem, and in the process make a large contribution to a critical issue that has been plaguing dance for decades. Representatives of the dance community should consult with real estate experts to devise a model program of building inspections. This program of inspections would then be applied to as many buildings housing dance in New York City as possible. It would be the equivalent of labeling a product with the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" or a vegetable as certified organic: a program of inspections that is not required by government, but which is trusted by consumers and thus enhances the value of the product.

A person entering a building or passing a construction site that has the "Dancer Sponsored Certification of Construction Quality" placard on display will feel a little more secure that the building will not fall down around them. More importantly, it would set dance on a higher level, potentially giving us leverage in the ongoing struggle to have New York City's Cabaret Laws repealed or revised.

Just to be clear, I am not proposing that the construction sites be inspected by people whose primary occupation is dance. The program would hire people who are qualified to inspect buildings. This proposed enhanced program of inspection could be applied to any building. The point is that the dance community would specifically invest in enhanced inspections of buildings in which dance occurs, and under such circumstances an argument could be made that dance buildings are safer than buildings in general, which would then contribute to a sort of moral superiority of dance, leading to stronger arguments for the repeal of the Cabaret Laws. If dancers assume a role of pro-active civic leadership on the issue of building safety, people will be more likely to listen to us when we make arguments on other issues. It is a stretch, I admit, but the Cabaret Laws have persisted for decades, repeatedly causing problems for reputable venues, so we need new strategies, however outlandish they may appear at first glance.
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