By Steven Spinola, president,
The city’s Building Department, under the direction of Robert LiMandri, has recently implemented several changes that are beneficial for both the real estate industry and New York City.
Real estate and new development are critical for the economic recovery of the city. At its height in 2008, the construction industry represented nearly $30 billion of activity and employed more than 130,000 people.
Having well-functioning city agencies are critical to ensuring an efficient real estate industry and a thriving city.
In 2008, a study by Deloitte found that administrative delays were increasing project costs by 14 to 17 percent. The Real Estate Board of New York has devoted a tremendous amount of energy to voicing our concerns with the city and fighting proposals that add costs and delays to projects.
As a result of this study and persistent outreach to the department by REBNY members, staff and others in the industry, DOB has undertaken some helpful initiatives that I wanted to share with you.
To keep NYC’s regulations modern, the city is reviewing its building code to keep it up to date with the International Building Code, which is used around the world.
DOB is doing important outreach and inclusive review with representatives from all areas of the industry to reach a consensus on proposed updates to the code.
The state-of-the-art NYC Development Hub allows for DOB plan examination to be conducted online in a streamlined process. It accelerates the approval process for large new development and alteration projects. Approving this work in a timely manner will speed up job creation and allow projects to start more quickly.
The Hub helps to move projects through red tape, saving time and money. NYC is one of the first cities in the country to receive and review digital plans. Getting all of the agencies involved in the plan review process in one room and having them resolve issues and conflicts in cooperation with each other is truly a new and innovative way for NYC to do business.
During the recent State of the City Address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that plumbing, electrical, and construction inspections would be scheduled within 10 days from submission of plans.
This timely and predictable review is critical to keeping a building on track to open, which is good for developers, job creation, residents and the tax base.
These changes are about cutting red tape, not cutting corners or reducing public safety. It is about better and more productive use of our limited resources.
DOB has expanded its eFiling system by moving forms online and simplifying Limited Alteration Applications (LAA) for jobs under $25K (about 12,000 applications per year) which will help get them approved much faster. These jobs involve limited standpipe, sprinkler, plumbing and oil burner work and result in savings of $2.4 million a year to the industry, according to the city.
After Hours Variances (AHV) applications with more than 30,000 applicants per year, can now be renewed online by contractors and tradespersons instead of requiring them to visit one of the Department’s five borough offices in person. This process is expected to significantly reduce labor costs for industry members and offer them greater flexibility in their work schedules; a savings of $6 million a year to the industry, according to the city.
The real estate industry continues to be part of the economic recovery, with real estate related taxes comprising almost 50 percent of all New York City tax revenue and all income producing properties in NYC paying nearly two-thirds of all property taxes.
REBNY welcomes any initiatives by DOB to increase safety and minimize timelines for development to benefit NYC’s economy.
*This column first appeared in the Feb.29 print edition of REW