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Mayor de Blasio asks real estate industry for its support

Mayor de Blasio touted infrastructure projects while asking for support for design-build projects from a room full of members of the real estate industry on the eve of the city releasing its 2018 fiscal year budget.

De Blasio was the keynote speaker at the New York Building Congress’s (NYBC) annual membership meeting and construction industry luncheon at the Pierre Hotel Monday.


The NYBC’s new president, former Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce president Carlo Scissura, praised New York governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Chuck Schumer, and De Blasio for their efforts to build more infrastructure in New York before introducing the Mayor. “On every level we will make it happen,” Scissura told a packed room of real estate professionals.

De Blasio told the room that they would be happy with the ten-year capital plan his office would be releasing the follow day as part of an $84.7 billion spending plan under the new budget.

“You’re going to see a lot of things you like,” he said, including provisions for the re-paving of 1,300 lane miles of roads and highways, and investment in 40,000 more school seats in the city’s public school system.

“That is another indicator of extraordinary growth in this town that the demand in our school system keeps growing and we’re going to match that,” said de Blasio.

He also touted the Brooklyn Queens Connector, or BQX, the proposed trolley car system that would run north and south along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront, calling it “transcendent,” and the citywide ferry service that will start later this year.

De Blasio asked for support from the industry for design-build authority to be enacted at the state level.  “There is a lot of reach in this room, there is a lot of firepower in this room,” said de Blasio. “We need all your voices to be heard in Albany in these next months because getting Design Build Authority is going to allow us to create a better city for all.”

Richard Cavallaro, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Carlo Scissura. Photo by Bob Wallace
Richard Cavallaro, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Carlo Scissura. Photo by Bob Wallace

Design-build is a project delivery system that would allow the Department of Transportation (DOT) to hire a contractor that would be responsible for both design and construction of the project, a departure from the traditional design-bid-build method, and a move intended to save time and money.

Though the federal government and several states use the method, under New York State procurement law the design-build system is off-limits to most public entities, including city agencies like DOT. Governor Cuomo expanded design-build authority as a pilot program to a few state agencies in 2011, including the DOT, Bridge Authority, and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The pilot program expired in 2014 and was renewed the following year, but the state did not pass a bill in 2016 that would have expanded the design-build authority to all public entities, including in New York City.

In his state-of-the-state address, Governor Cuomo proposed expanding design-build statewide, but not in New York City. Resistance to the design-build system has come mostly from upstate construction groups and public employee unions, according to Crain’s.

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