City official takes new job, keeps old

For Andrew Rizzo, two jobs in New Haven’s government are better than one.

On March 4, Andrew Rizzo became the interim executive director of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative. Rizzo will also remain the city’s chief official at the Office of Building Inspection and Enforcement, a post he has held since December 1999.

City officials are uncertain as to whether Rizzo will become a permanent replacement for outgoing Executive Director Regina Winters ARC ’94.

“Right now, it’s pretty unclear about how long I’m here,” Rizzo said.

In his new position, Rizzo replaces Winters, who announced in late January that she would leave LCI in March to resume private architectural work.

Rizzo will report directly to New Haven’s Economic Development Administrator Henry Fernandez. Because the building department is one of LCI’s divisions, Rizzo had previously reported to Winters.

Rizzo said he will balance the two jobs by devoting 90 to 95 percent of his time to LCI and leave the day to day operations of the building department to Dan O’Neill, New Haven’s deputy building official. O’Neill has 12 years of experience in the building department, Rizzo said.

In 1996, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. formed the Livable City Initiative to replace New Haven’s Office of Housing and Neighborhood Development in renovating the city’s abandoned buildings. That office served primarily as a financial aid, lending money to first-time home buyers. City legislation dating to the 1940s had previously hampered aggressive action against blighted properties.

Rizzo served as New Haven’s assistant building inspector from 1990 to 1993 before heading the building departments in North Branford and Windsor until late 1999. Rizzo is credited with computerizing New Haven’s building division during his most recent tenure in New Haven. He brings eight years of zoning experience to the LCI helm, so it is no surprise that Rizzo intends to pursue aggressive zoning enforcement.

Rizzo also said he will crack down on chronic problems, such as illegal dumpings and trash disposal violations by repeat offenders. In the past, paperwork often has delayed an LCI response to certain problems.

“We’re constantly being called back to the same address,” Rizzo said. “I’ve instituted a policy of addressing issues immediately.”

To improve LCI’s enforcement process, Rizzo hopes to instill improved customer service in LCI and increase the amount of teamwork.

“I believe that by talking to people, 80 percent of violations can be resolved,” Rizzo said.

With his new position, Rizzo intends to make his presence known in the city.

“I will be out there where I feel my position is needed to handle things,” he said.

Winters also began her tenure at LCI as an interim director in March 2000. She was promoted to executive director in May of that year.

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