Media Coverage 2020

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Revocation of license upheld

City Land
December 31, 2020

William Harvey held a master plumber license and a master fire suppression license. Following an investigation the Department of Buildings moved to revoke Harvey’s master plumber and his fire suppression piping contractor licenses. Buildings alleged that Harvey repeatedly allowed non-employees to perform plumbing work on sites for which he had a permit. Harvey also allowed his employees to conduct work without a permit, and he failed to perform a work inspection before requesting sign-off. Buildings alleged that Harvey conducted “a vast plumbing operation with little knowledge of the work being done under his license.” After a hearing at which Building’s inspectors and investigators testified, Administrative Law Judge Kevin F. Casey held that Harvey displayed “negligence, incompetence, lack of knowledge, or disregard of applicable laws, and submitted a false or misleading statement to the Department of Buildings.

NYC Now Requires Energy Efficiency Grades For Big Buildings, And Most Are Getting D’s and F’s

December 27, 2020

Just as restaurants are required by the city Health Department to post letter grades announcing the results of their most recent cleanliness inspection, many NYC building owners must now post letter grades regarding their energy efficiency. The new policy is intended to compel building owners to take a closer look at their properties’ energy use, and although there are currently no fines attached to the grades, some property owners with low grades are already worried about their reputations. That may be exactly what the City wants. Roughly half of the approximately 40,000 buildings that had to post the grades received a D or lower (F scores were only given to buildings that failed to comply). Gina Bocra, chief sustainability officer for the Department of Buildings, said that although building owners have been required to disclose their property’s energy and water consumption for years, not many people saw it because it was in a database on a city website.

NYC Council Smooths the Way to Get Tenants into Buildings

JD Supra
December 18, 2020

As a small year-end gift to building developers, the NYC Council passed Int. 2033-2020 to ease the move-in process for owners and occupants. This bill allows the Department of Buildings (DOB) to issue Interim Certificates of Occupancies (ICOs) to authorize the occupancy of specific portions of a building—deemed safe for occupancy—prior to completion of all permitted construction work comprising the project. Importantly, no further DOB approvals are required following issuance of an ICO. As a further benefit, the ICOs do not have to be renewed which means commercial and residential tenants can move in and not have to worry about the certificate expiring.

New York City Clears the Path for Permitting of Energy Storage Systems

JD Supra
December 17, 2020

In a significant move to smooth permitting of energy storage systems in New York City, on December 15, 2020 the City Department of Buildings (“DOB”) established criteria for classifying stationary storage battery systems and fuel-cell power systems as “accessory uses” under the City’s Zoning Resolution, and outlined the filing procedures for such systems. This is an important step that provides developers with the concrete guidance they need to identify viable sites and streamline project permitting in the City where the process for energy storage siting is unique, more challenging than in the rest of NY State, and has consistently stunted deployment progress.

Department of Buildings Announces Reforms to Sign-Permitting Process

Brooklyn Paper
December 16, 2020

Roughly two years after a bevy of Brooklyn businesses were hit with steep fines for boasting non-compliant signs above their storefronts, the Department of Buildings has released a slew of recommended reforms to the permitting process that will reduce headaches for small shops struggling amid the pandemic-related recession. “We are always looking for opportunities to better serve our fellow New Yorkers,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “Cutting red tape and streamlining enforcement will help support small businesses across the city.”

Historic nearly 300-year-old bell will ring again after surviving NYC church fire

December 14, 2020

A nearly 300-year-old bell that survived a Manhattan church fire earlier this month will ring once again. The six-alarm blaze gutted the Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 5, starting in a vacant five-story building and spreading to the historic structure. You can now see right through the building on Second Avenue, but at the top of the steeple, the New York Liberty Bell remains intact. Reverend Jacqui said he was awed by the photos taken by a Department of Buildings inspector over the weekend. The bell was cast in Holland in 1731, and in the centuries since, it has rung in momentous events from the birth of the United States in 1776 to the attacks on 9/11.

Council passes bill to speed up opening of new and renovated properties

The Real Deal
December 11, 2020

Just in time for the holidays, the City Council delivered a gift to developers and their contractors: fewer trips to the Department of Buildings. The Council on Thursday voted to approve a bill that creates an interim certificate of occupancy for parts of certain buildings where construction has already been completed. The interim measure would replace temporary certificates and would not have to be renewed every 90 days, as is currently required. Instead, it will expire once a permanent certificate of occupancy is issued. “There’s no time to waste when it comes to helping our neighbors safely move into new apartments or get their businesses up and running,” Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca said in a statement.

How you can help boost your NYC building’s energy efficiency grade even if you're a renter

Brick Underground
December 7, 2020

New York City’s new energy efficiency grades are being posted in residential buildings, but who is responsible for improving a low rating or keeping a high one up—management or residents? And what exactly is the rating measuring? Because the grade is based on the overall energy and water consumption of your building, not just common areas and amenity spaces, what you do in your apartment as a renter or apartment owner also impacts the rating. Gina Bocra, chief sustainability officer at NYC’s Department of Buildings, which oversees the program says getting a good score “takes the effort of both building owners and tenants.”

NYC fines construction firm $25K after worker killed in Arverne in 2019

Queens Daily Eagle
November 30, 2020

The NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings has fined a NJ construction firm $25,000, more than 15 months after a falling wall killed one of its workers in Arverne by the Sea. The Department of Buildings issued more than a dozen other violations to the site’s general contractor and construction superintendent, with OATH hearings scheduled for late December. Construction worker Jose Martins, 67, was crushed and killed by a piece of a building near Beach 67th Street in July 2019. Martins, from Warren, NJ, was a site manager for a team constructing a 126-apartment complex at 68-04 Tides Road. The city fined the company Extreme Construction Inc. $25,000 for failing to make sure laborers were certified to perform hoisting operations at the work site.

New York City Gas Piping System Inspection And Certification Deadlines Approaching

JD Supra
November 24, 2020

While many believe that 2020 can’t end fast enough, there is an important upcoming deadline before the Times Square ball drop for owners of buildings, except one- or two-family homes, in certain Community Districts that, if missed, could lead to a significant civil penalty. Pursuant to a local law passed in 2016 (a lifetime ago in these challenging COVID times), gas piping systems in all buildings except those classified in occupancy group R-3 must be inspected by a Licensed Master Plumber or a qualified individual working under an LMP’s direct and continuing supervision at least once every four years. If you own a building subject to this law located in Community Districts 1, 3 and 10 in any of the five boroughs, then an LMP must conduct the inspection and report the findings by December 31, 2020. DOB notes that the failure to file the appropriate forms by the corresponding deadlines will result in a civil penalty of $10,000. Where can I find more Information About this Law and what I Should Do? You may review the guidance posted by DOB on its website.

Mayor De Blasio Signs Bill To Expand Green New Deal, Combat Income Discrimination And Provide Online Access To Rental Assistance

Canarsie Courier
November 17, 2020

Mayor de Blasio today signed into law a package of bills that will expand NYC’s landmark Green New Deal, increase access to online rental assistance and strengthen income discrimination laws. “New Yorkers understand that climate change is an existential threat, especially in a city of islands like ours," said Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca. "Buildings are our largest source of emissions, and we look forward to continue educating and working with buildings owners on the necessary changes they must make to meet this threat head-on. We remain committed to implementing NYC's Green New Deal, and appreciate the continued support of the Council to do so."

New York’s Local Law 97: What to Know

Commercial Observer
November 2, 2020

New City Council regulations require that most buildings 25,000 square feet or larger reduce their carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and by 80 percent by 2050. This, in turn, is supposed to help the city itself reduce its overall emissions by similar levels. These regulations are part of what’s called the 2019 Climate Mobilization Act’s “Local Law 97.” Expect to hear more about it in the coming years if you’re a building owner or part of an ownership team. The city Department of Buildings is the enforcing agency, and is slated to begin enforcing the law in 2024.

New York City jobsite injuries down 20% since 2017

Construction Dive
October 29, 2020

The New York City Department of Buildings announced today it has issued 100,000 Site Safety Training cards to date, a milestone that indicates the training requirement, mandated through local legislation passed in 2017, has buy-in from the building community. Building department officials said that the safety training has contributed to a more than 20% decrease in jobsite injuries, the first such reduction in injuries in nearly a decade.

DOB Launches Online Service Levels Tracker for Checking Wait Times

City Land
October 28, 2020

On October 14, 2020, the Department of Buildings launched an online Service Levels Tracker which allows New Yorkers to see average wait times for Department of Buildings Services. This tracker centralizes information that had previously been available to New Yorkers while also clearly setting forth the different Department of Buildings metrics allowing the public to better understand expected timelines for projects both citywide and by borough. These metrics are quarterly running averages that are updated monthly. As the City continues to rebuild following the COVID-19 pandemic, this Service Level Tracker will help support safe development citywide. (– 10/28/20)

Homeowners can now view status of city Building Dept. approvals, permits

SI Advance
October 14, 2020

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) is launching a new online tool on Wednesday that will allow homeowners to see all active construction projects, permit approvals and more in real time. Too often, homeowners and the public don’t have the tools necessary to understand where DOB fits into the timeline of a project. For this reason, the new Service Levels Tracker allows News Yorkers to see average wait times for DOB services all in one place. “Our friends and neighbors need clarity from us about how our inspections and approvals impact the timelines of their projects,” said Melanie E. La Rocca, DOB commissioner. “Everyone living in our city should understand their construction timelines so they can plan smartly and safely.”

How to Get Your Energy Score Rating

October 9, 2020

In this seven-minute instructional video, Mark Levine, principal at the management company EBMG, walks boards and property managers through the steps they need to take to navigate the Department of Buildings website to perform a new mandated task: finding, printing and posting their building’s Energy Efficiency Rating. For the first time, buildings larger than 25,000 square feet will be awarded a letter grade for energy efficiency, from A to D, that must be posted in a conspicuous place in the building by October 31. Every year, a new grade will be awarded and it, too, must be posted by Halloween.

DOB's Energy Efficiency Grading Program Launches

October 8, 2020

According to an email sent out by the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) the city’s annual energy efficiency letter grade sign program, which was instituted by 2018’s Local Law 33, officially went into effect on October 1. Going forward, all NYC buildings over 25,000 sq ft will receive a letter grade reflecting their DOB-verified energy efficiency; high or low, that grade must be printed and displayed at every public entrance of the building by Oct. 31, 2020. The program is similar to the letter grading system applied to NYC restaurants by the Department of Health, which requires dining establishments to post their inspection letter grade conspicuously in a window or on an entrance door. According to the DOB press secretary Andrew Rudansky, this legislation will affect approximately 40,000 buildings across the city. “This marks a big change in how New Yorkers think about building sustainability in our city,” he says, “and will affect large residential buildings throughout all five boroughs.”

Building code ‘hackers’ use new tech to solve old problems

Real Estate Weekly
October 5, 2020

The New York City Department of Buildings has announced the winners of the agency’s first ever “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge for ideas on how to improve building safety and modernize the development process in NYC. Launched earlier this year in partnership with the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the Urban Tech Hub @ Company, the challenge put out an open call to the design, construction and technology industries, inviting ideas on ways to improve our city’s built environment.

DOB Extends Amnesty for Overdue Facade Inspections

September 30, 2020

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has extended the amnesty period for its Facade Inspections and Safety Program (FISP) to October 31, 2020. The amnesty program is open only to building owners who failed to file a report for Cycle 8 before their deadline. The amnesty program, which will not be extended any further, allows owners to close Cycle 8 with their Cycle 9 report.

Four Innovators Win NYC Buildings Dept.'s First Green New Deal Competition

Engineering New-Record
September 24, 2020

NYC’s Green New Deal law set ambitious deadlines for its largest buildings to reduce carbon emissions, spurring the city Dept. of Buildings to debut a competition that attracted a range of potential solutions in energy generation and use. The department announced on Sept. 22 four winners of its first Carbon Neutrality Innovation Challenge, geared to provide solutions for buildings of more than 25,000 sq ft in meeting new green requirements that include cutting emissions from 2005 levels by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The competition received submissions from a wide range of design, construction and technology companies and groups for new ideas in sustainable technology and retrofits of existing building systems. “As part of our first ever digital conference, I am thrilled to congratulate the winners of our sustainability innovation challenge,” Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca said. “We are proud of our continued partnership with industry to confront this critical issue.

DOB Announces New Energy Efficiency Ratings Posting Requirements

City Land
September 24, 2020

On September 8, 2020, the Department of Buildings announced that starting on October 30, 2020, all NYC Buildings 25,000 square feet or larger will be legally required to post energy efficiency letter grade signs at their entrances. Similar to restaurant health grade signs, these energy efficiency signs will create greater transparency for the public about how each building operates.

New York Eyes Technologies for Buildings’ Emissions Compliance

September 21, 2020

New York City will support changes to its building code to include four private companies’ technologies as it rolls out its landmark law limiting greenhouse gases from buildings. The city, in an announcement to formally be made Tuesday, also will consider offering technical support and “prioritized assistance” to help the technologies gain traction in the market, Andrew Rudansky, a spokesman with the NYC Department of Buildings, told Bloomberg Law. “Climate change is an existential threat to a coastal city like ours, and innovative technologies will help us meet this challenge head on,” said New York Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca.

City reports decline in construction-related injuries, deaths

The Real Deal
September 18, 2020

The city reported a nearly 19 percent decrease in construction-related injuries in the last fiscal year, a drop the Department of Buildings partially attributes to a new construction safety law. There were 534 construction-related injuries between July 2019 and June 2020, a drop from the 646 seen during the same time period in the previous year, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s latest management report, released Thursday. Eight workers were killed in construction-related incidents, down from the 11 recorded the previous year, according to the report. The data collected by the DOB is limited to construction-related incidents at sites overseen by the agency. It does not include other emergencies on. If going by the regular calendar year, the DOB recorded 12 deaths in 2019 and five so far in 2020.The decline can be attributed in part to the shutdown of non-essential construction from March 27 through June 8. The DOB also implemented Local Law 196, which requires construction workers to complete either a combination of training courses known as OSHA 10 and OSHA 30, or a 100-hour program approved by the DOB. “Through aggressive, proactive inspections, new safety training requirements for workers, and the industry’s greater commitment to a culture of safety, we have been able to continue driving down injuries,” Andrew Rudansky, a spokesperson for the DOB, said in a statement. “But we can do better, and are committed to further making construction sites safer for workers and the public.”

Drones could soon be used for inspecting NYC buildings

Real Estate Weekly
September 16, 2020

The city’s Department of Buildings could soon be using drones to carry out building façade inspections. New York City Council today gave the go-ahead for the DOB to study the feasibility of using drones to inspect buildings. Building façade inspections are intended to ensure that the façades of buildings higher than six stories are safe and secure. They often involve erecting costly scaffolding around the buildings for inspectors to take a proper look at the façade. Supports say the use of drone technology may be a way to improve inspections, enabling more thorough examinations and protecting pedestrians, but there are concerns about safety, privacy and federal rules. “Today’s vote by the City Council was an important step forward toward creating a safe and sensible system for commercial drone use in NYC,” said Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress.

DOB has issued 550 Covid violations at construction sites since July

September 4, 2020

Covid-19 safety violations at NYC construction sites have not been especially prevalent so far, according to data from the Department of Buildings. The agency began inspecting sites on July 8, one month after work on nonessential construction projects was allowed to resume with safety guidelines in place as part of phase one of the city's reopening. Between then and Sept. 2, the DOB issued stop work orders at 330 of the city's roughly 40,000 active construction sites due to Covid-related problems. It issued 550 Covid violations at 531 sites overall, as some sites were found to have multiple problems, and it has conducted more than 82,000 inspections so far.

DOB to hold virtual Build Safe conference

Real Estate Weekly
September 3, 2020

The Department of Buildings announced that registration is now open for the agency’s first-ever virtual New York City construction industry conference taking place September 21-25, 2020, Build Safe | Live Safe Digital 2020: Safety, Innovation, & Sustainability.

City moves to speed opening of new and renovated properties

The Real Deal
September 1, 2020

A proposed City Council bill aims to streamline how new and renovated buildings are opened. The measure, sponsored by Council member Cornegy and backed by the de Blasio administration, would create an interim certificate of occupancy for parts of buildings where construction is complete. The certificate would take the place of temporary certificates for certain buildings but with a key difference: It would not have to be renewed every 90 days. That would reduce owners’ paperwork and avoid violations for failing to renew the temporary certificate. “Along with our partners in the Council, we have been hard at work making common-sense changes to cut red tape at the department,” said Melanie La Rocca, the buildings commissioner, in a statement. “This new type of certificate of occupancy would reduce paperwork, free up staffing resources at the department, and streamline the development process, all without diminishing safety.”

City clears path for delay in construction safety training

August 19, 2020

The Department of Buildings is helping pave the way for a bill that would give construction workers more time to complete their 40 hours of safety training, saying they had no objections to pushing the deadline from September to March at a hearing on Tuesday. “We have no objections to this extension but I urge our construction workforce not to delay this potentially lifesaving training,” said DOB Commissioner Melanie La Rocca. “The sooner this training is completed, the better for both workers and the public. ”The bill, which is sponsored by Councilman Robert Cornegy, Councilman Carlos Menchaca and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, would give construction workers until March 1, rather than Sept. 1 to comply with Local Law 196.

NYC launches free no-penalty inspections of home, small business structures

SI Advance
August 2, 2020

New York City is launching a program that will allow small business owners and homeowners to obtain free inspections of their structures -- like business accessory signs, decks, porches and retaining walls -- without the risk of penalty to determine if they comply with city safety regulations. The mayor’s administration recently announced the start of the new No-Penalty Business Accessory Sign Inspection Program and the return of the annual No-Penalty Deck and Porch and Retaining Wall Inspection Programs. The city Department of Buildings (DOB) will start accepting business accessory sign inspection requests from small business owners until Sept. 15 under the No-Penalty Business Accessory Sign Inspection Program.

Buildings to Receive Energy Efficiency Ratings

July 28, 2020

According to a recent notice from New York City-based firm RAND Engineering & Architecture DPC, following the precedent set at NYC’s restaurants, building owners will now have letter grades posted outside their entrances as well. According to RAND, “Owners of buildings that are subject to NYC's Benchmarking Law (Local Laws 84/09 and 133/16) will be required to post energy efficiency letter grades issued by the city, starting October 31, 2020 per Local Law 33 of 2018 as amended by Local Law 95 of 2019.” The NYC Benchmarking Law mandates that owners of buildings over 25,000 square feet are to submit an annual analysis of their energy and water consumption to Energy Star Portfolio Manager, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s online benchmarking tool. Buildings will then be assigned energy efficiency scores from A to F, based on the findings of that analysis. According to RAND, “Building Energy Efficiency Rating labels will be available in the NYC Department of Buildings' DOB NOW Public Portal annually on October 1.

DOB to start issuing violations to COVID scofflaws

Real Estate Weekly
July 8, 2020

New York City’s Department of Building’s inspectors will start issuing tickets to contractors who aren’t keeping their workers and sites COVID-safe today. 30 days into the phased reopening of the city and the resumption of non-essential construction activity in all five boroughs, the DOB said the grace period for instituting mandatory health and sanitation regulations for work sites is over.

DOB looks to real estate, tech sector for next big thing

Real Estate Weekly
July 1, 2020

The Department of Buildings has launched the first-ever “Hack the Building Code” Innovation Challenge. The contest is part of a partnership with NYC Economic Development Corporation and Urban Tech Hub @ Company. The agency invites ideas on the best ways to improve the city’s 1.1 million buildings, keep construction workers and the public safe, and modernize the construction process. In April, DOB announced the Carbon Neutrality Innovation Challenge to solicit ideas to increase energy efficiency among NYC’s buildings. Both challenges are open to all members of the public and entries must be submitted by August 21, 2020. Winners will be announced this fall.

Construction Resumes, Penalties Will Be Enforced

June 23, 2020

As New York City continues to reopen, the Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued guidance and mandated protocols to promote safety and health on all job sites. After launching a citywide inspection sweep of every permitted site to verify compliance with State and City Phase 1 restart requirements, DOB inspectors have observed, per its emailed announcement, that while “the industry is working hard to be in compliance with the requirements, it is clear that there is room for improvement.” To assist worksites in complying with the required measures before fines and summonses start kicking in on July 8, the DOB offers a Do’s and Don’ts document.

Queens, City Slowly Re-open

The Forum
June 13, 2020

After nearly an entire spring spent sheltering-in-place and monitoring morose virus models, Queens and the rest of Gotham reopened this week. Industries permitted to restart in Phase 1 of the City’s reopening were able to do so beginning Monday, June 8. The Department of Buildings, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection and Small Business Services will educate and conduct outreach to businesses as they reopen for Phase 1.

NYC Restarts Non-Essential Construction

Construction Equipment
June 9, 2020

The NYC Department of Buildings released new COVID-19 safety guidelines for property owners and contractors as 33,556 non-essential construction sites get back to work as part of NYC’s entrance into Phase One of New York State's reopening plan, which started June 8, 2020. These new required safety measures for construction sites were developed in partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and are being implemented to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus to workers and the public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "The pandemic is slowly receding because New Yorkers did what we do best — we came together and made the necessary sacrifices to protect our families and neighbors," said Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca.

City provides remote training, license renewal for construction workers

Real Estate Weekly
May 29, 2020

Thousands of city construction professionals will be able to get their safety certificates online under a new program just launched by the city’s Department of Buildings. For the first time, plumbers, electricians, riggers and site safety workers will able be able to renew their licenses online. The online expansion includes classes that will be delivered live and adhere to DOB’s accreditation standards. and what restrictions they will have to observe.

US COVID-19 Real Estate Legal Developments: Federal, California, Florida, Illinois, New York

May 1, 2020

The City of New York has issued additional best practices guidance for social distancing at construction sites. This includes maintaining physical and operational distancing to the greatest degree possible, monitoring temperatures, requiring handwashing, use of personal protective equipment (“PPE”), use of temporary barriers, and shutting down construction sites where physical distancing cannot be maintained. This guidance would apply in addition to any OSHA guidance. The NYC Department of Buildings has issued additional guidance on the EO 202.6.

Think Global, Act Local: New York's Carbon Policy

Architectural Record
April 30, 2020

Advocates of New York’s Local Law 97 refer to it as the most ambitious climate legislation for buildings enacted by any city in the world. The claim might sound like hyperbole, but John Mandyck, CEO of the Urban Green Council, a nonprofit that helped shape the regulation, points to its scope and scale. It applies to 50,000 existing buildings—any that are 25,000 square feet or larger. These structures amount to 60 percent of the city’s floor area and are responsible for 40 percent of total greenhouse-gas emissions. By 2030, the law is expected to reduce emissions from large buildings by at least 40 percent compared to a 2005 baseline, which means cutting 5.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from current levels, the equivalent of San Francis­co’s citywide emissions…The first set of regulations go into effect in 2024, targeting the most carbon-intensive 20 percent of buildings, while the 2030 limits target the most carbon-intensive 75 percent. (Subsequent limits will be set by the Department of Buildings to achieve an 80 percent reduction in emissions citywide by 2050.)

New York City Buildings Commissioner Notes Agency Role In COVID-19 Project Curbs

Engineering News-Record
April 24, 2020

About 90% of construction sites are not currently active, said New York City Dept. of Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca in an April 23 live-streamed Q&A, adding detail on the process to get projects certified as "essential" during the state's COVID-19-sparked shutdown. She also discussed why her inspectors repeatedly visit closed sites and how agency changes may help the industry get back up to speed after all work resumes, which now is set for May 15 but not assured...During the Q&A, sponsored by the New York Building Congress, La Rocca also explained why DOB inspectors continue to visit sites whether they are certified or closed. “Just because you’re essential does not mean the department is never coming by again," she said. "We have to make sure you’re doing it correctly, and if you’re essential because of an emergency, we have to make sure you’re doing it to the scope" of the emergency.

DOB launches competition to find green building ideas

Real Estate Weekly
April 23, 2020

Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca today announced the launch of the Carbon Neutrality Innovation Challenge, DOB’s first-ever competition to solicit ideas to increase energy efficiency among NYC’s buildings. As part of Mayor de Blasio’s historic Green New Deal, NYC plans to be carbon neutral by 2050. Innovative companies from the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s Urban Tech Initiative will work directly with DOB to propose ideas to achieve this goal. Five semifinalists will be asked to present their proposals at DOB’s Build Safe / Live Safe conference on September 25, 2020.

DOB Announces Amnesty for FISP Inspections

April 23, 2020

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has announced an Amnesty Program for building owners who failed to file a Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) report in the 8th Cycle, which ended on February 21, 2020. While most construction work in New York state has shut down due to Governor Cuomo's 'New York State on Pause' Executive Order during the current COVID-19 outbreak, FISP inspections are considered essential work because their purpose is public safety. Under the program, non-compliant owners can administratively close their 8th Cycle filing requirement by filing a 9th Cycle report between June 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020.

Managing Coronavirus Risk On An Active Jobsite

JD Supra 
April 15, 2020

As we have described in our blog posts here and here, construction in New Jersey and New York is curtailed, but all ongoing projects face the same practical issues. No matter where your project is, on-site the current circumstances present unique challenges. For the safety of on-site workers and the general public, site management personnel should make all efforts to enforce best practices to limit the spread coronavirus. The New York City Department of Buildings posted some tips applicable to any site on Preventing and Remediating the Contamination of Germs on Construction Site, including staggering any required in-person meetings to minimize the number of people together in one place. The physical isolation methods described in Industry Best Practices for: Dust Mitigation/Control in Occupied Buildings with Active Construction, including sealing around doors are also useful for controlling an airborne disease.

City presses on with Green Deal plans

Real Estate Weekly
April 9, 2020

Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca today announced that, starting in May, DOB will be convening eight new Climate Working Groups to help develop best practices for building owners to comply with the building mandates legislation (Local Law 97 of 2019).Local Law 97 takes effect in 2024 and requires all buildings larger than 25,000 s/f to cut their emissions or face hefty fines. By 2030, the level of emissions will be cut further and the fines increased. The new advisory groups – which will meet remotely if the city’s COVID-19 shutdown is still in effect – are tasked with working out the feasibility of various retrofits, strategies and technologies for hospitals, commercial buildings, and large multifamily buildings.

New Map Tells You Whether That Construction On Your Block Is Essential Or Illegal

April 3, 2020

Last week, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo halted all non-essential construction, with the exception of certain emergency infrastructure projects. Still, some New Yorkers say that work has continued on non-essential sites anyway. Now, a new tool from the city will help you determine whether that ear-splitting jack-hammering next door belongs to a desperately needed emergency hospital or a luxury developer trying to skirt the ban. On Friday, the Department of Buildings published a "real-time map" of all essential and emergency work that's still allowed to happen under the order. Such projects include construction of healthcare facilities, affordable housing, and utilities, along with emergency work to repair buildings and restore essential services, like heat and electricity. As of Friday, the city had identified a total of 887 construction sites deemed essential.

How New York Changed After the Worst Tragedy No One Remembers

NY Times
March 25, 2020

He was alive, though, one of only six survivors. The fire at the Happy Land Social Club on March 25, 1990, resulted in the largest loss of life in New York City since the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire: 87 people at the club died that day. The club had been operating illegally. It had no sprinklers and several exits were blocked off with roll-down security shutters...A generation later, much of the landscape that shaped the tragedy and its aftermath has changed. The New York City Department of Buildings immediately stepped up investigations of illegal clubs, and just last year, it put mandatory regulations in place for escape-room businesses to guard participants from being trapped during a fire.

DOB Moves Online

Real Estate Weekly
March 22, 2020

DOB is moving nearly all of its in-person transactions to either our web-based portals, over the mail, or through drop-boxes in borough offices. Starting on Tuesday, March 24, the Department will no longer be conducting in-person appointments for standard plan reviews, and that all plans to be reviewed by the Department must be submitted online through its eFiling system. See the latest service notice for more details about this change.

DOB issues new virus protocols for contractors

Real Estate Weekly
March 18, 2020

The city’s Department of Buildings has set up a coronavirus protocol for contractors and is moving to reduce foot traffic at its offices through its online infrastructure. In a message this issued this morning, DOB commissioner Melanie La Rocca said, “The engineers, architects, inspectors, plan examiners, and support staff at the Department play a critical safety function in New York City, which is why the Department offices will remain open. From conducting structural stability investigations to incident response, facade safety inspections to emergency work plans reviews, DOB operations must continue for the safety of all New Yorkers. “As of today, March 17, the Department has taken the steps to reduce foot traffic in our offices, and to notify construction sites in New York City about proper work site safety.”

The Most Important Thing to Know About NYC SST Training Deadlines

March 4, 2020

The last days of November 2019 caused an enormous stir among the supervisors at job sites who planned to receive SST training for getting SST card. Many of them did not succeed in doing it because Site Safety Training companies could not manage the number of queries from those who were interested in getting the necessary certificate. Therefore, lots of supervisors did not have the possibility and time to receive 62 hours training course and did not get a Supervisor SST Card. According to Local Law 196, the supervisors at construction sites have to pay penalties as high as $5,000 if they do not satisfy all requirements of the New York City Department of Buildings.

Big changes to NYC Local Law 11 Façade Inspection and Safety Program for Cycle 9

New York Real Estate Journal
March 3, 2020

In December 2019, terracotta fell from a Manhattan tower, killing a passerby and prompting the New York City Department of Buildings to step up enforcement of the Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP). A new rule in effect this month makes substantial changes to the inspection and reporting requirements…With penalties at four and five times what they were in the past, and the reputation of a building hanging in the balance, the incentive to inspect thoroughly, file on time, and make repairs promptly couldn’t be clearer. New Yorkers are worn down by reports of citizens struck by façade debris, and the drive to make buildings safer has reached a tipping point.

New energy code gets tougher on NYC construction

March 2, 2020

Beginning in May, construction in NYC is going to have to meet stricter sustainability and energy efficiency standards now that the 2020 NYC Energy Conservation Code passed into law last week. Part of the city’s version of the Green New Deal, the new code is just one of several construction regulations that the Department of Buildings is revising, with further updates expected to roll out later in the year. Under the new code, new construction projects will have to implement better performing walls and windows to prevent heat loss, provide continuous insulation on balconies and parapets, meet increased energy efficiency requirements for heating and cooling systems, interior lighting and elevators, in addition to other measures.

Bichotte, Louis, Menchaca Laud City’s Elimination of Fines For Small Businesses

Kings County Politics
February 21, 2020

Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush, Ditmas Park), and City Council Members Farah Louis (D-East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park, Midwood) and Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook) yesterday lauded Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement the city is eliminating several fines for first-time violations and expanding the universe of violations that will have cure periods for small businesses. Fines subject to relief include select Department of Buildings, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation, Department of Sanitation, and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection violations. The city will work with the city council to review more than 75 violations. DOB and DOT can implement their own rule changes, and will begin providing additional relief in the fall.

Tough New Facade-Inspection Rules Kick In Today

February 20, 2020

Major changes go into effect today with the city’s Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP), on the eve of Cycle 9, which begins on Friday, Feb. 21. Co-op and condo boards should get ready for stricter rules, stiffer penalties – and a rise in the cost of the inspections and repairs that must be undertaken every five years in buildings taller than six stories, under a program previously known as Local Law 11, and originally as Local Law 10…Stiffer Penalties. Failure to correct unsafe conditions in a timely fashion will trigger increased penalties unless owners file for, and obtain, Department of Buildings-approved time extensions. These new penalties rise on an annual scale, with base penalties for each year set at $1,000 a month, but with the second year adding a $10 per linear foot of sidewalk shed charged monthly, the third year increasing that to $20 per linear foot, and $10 per linear foot increases for the fourth and fifth years of the cycle.

Gjonaj, La Rocca provide relief to small businesses in district

Bronx Times
February 19, 2020

Along with NYC Department of Buildings commissioner Melanie La Rocca, Councilman Mark Gjonaj visited small businesses in his district to conduct outreach regarding relief provided by Local Law 28, a moratorium on violations and the programs to help provide relief to business owners.

An Inside Look at How NYC Inspects Building Facades to Ensure Safety

February 18, 2020

New York City’s building façade inspection process begins with a high wire act. Engineers, dangling from ropes, hundreds of feet in the air inspect the exterior of high-rise buildings. “You’re looking for readily visible deficiencies,” said Jason Coleman, an engineer at O’Donnell Nacarrato. And he is one of only about 500 engineers qualified to do this job. Harnessed and lowered by ropes, Coleman checks the exteriors of buildings, brick by brick. “You’ll be looking for brick or stone,” said Coleman, “where water can crack or penetrate.” Dangling from ropes hundreds of feet in the air is the first step in New York City’s building façade inspection process. All 14,500 buildings in the five boroughs taller than six stories need to be inspected by an engineer like Coleman every five years…Since the tragedy in December, the Buildings Department has taken action by increasing their penalties and doubling the number of inspectors on the ground.

Experts warn owners not to dawdle as city lays down local laws

Real Estate Weekly
February 18, 2020

Building experts are warning the city’s owners they don’t have time to dawdle over monumental new carbon emission and façade laws. With just four years until Local Law 97 requires all buildings larger than 25,000 s/f to cut their emissions or face hefty fines, and 10 years until the level of emissions is cut further and the fines are increased, Erin Fisher, director of engineering services with CANY, warned, “This law is going to sustain and it is going to hurt – there’s no way around it. “Buildings that are in terrific shape in terms of energy usage right now may be facing fines by 2030. It is important to plan ahead and have qualified professionals come in early on to develop a long-term plan for your building’s energy usage.” Fisher was speaking at the first of a series of planned seminars hosted by CANY along with partners MG Engineering and Apogee, with input from the city’s Department of Buildings, aimed at helping owners navigate the rules surrounding the biggest enforced greening program in the world… Tim Lynch, chief engineer for Enforcement Bureau, NYC DOB, reminded the group that the façade legislation rule is as much a public safety issue as it is a contributor to energy usage. While the department has tightened its scrutiny of experts qualified to inspect city buildings, he said owners have an obligation not to cut corners on inspections.

City Brings Criminal Court Case Over Busted Subway Escalator

The City
February 10, 2020

Safety inspectors are so fed up with a Manhattan subway escalator that’s been busted since last January that the building’s manager and owner have been hauled into criminal court, records show. THE CITY reported last week that the escalator leading to the E and M train platform at the Lexington Avenue-53rd Street station, under the famed Lipstick Building, had the system’s worst performance record, operating less than 5% of the time in 2019. In October, the city Law Department issued criminal court summonses to 885 3rd Avenue Realty Owner LLC and John Perdios, a senior manager for the real estate giant CBRE. “The owners of 885 Third Avenue entered into an agreement with the city to properly maintain this escalator at the Lexington Avenue-53rd Street station,” said Andrew Rudansky, a Department of Buildings spokesperson. “We have taken these owners to criminal court to enforce that agreement.”

To solve NYC’s housing crisis, city wants to legalize basement apartments and ADUs

February 6, 2020

As New York City struggles to address its affordable housing and homelessness crises, the de Blasio administration plans to take creative steps to up the number of low-cost apartments in the five boroughs. The latest: Legalizing basement apartments and even accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—also known as granny or in-law flats—throughout the city, which Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to address in his State of the City speech tonight. According to The City, the mayor will announce a program that will help homeowners legally add these types of units to their property. It’ll require zoning changes (to address parking concerns) and a buy-in from the city’s Department of Buildings, but the de Blasio administration believes the relaxed rules could add as many as 10,000 new units to the city’s housing stock.

NYC sending 24 more city workers to Puerto Rico after earthquakes

January 14, 2020

NYC sending 24 more city workers to Puerto Rico after earthquakes // After a series of devastating earthquakes struck Puerto Rico last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that New York City will send 24 additional city workers down to the island to help with ongoing recovery efforts. The city's new response team consists of 15 more building inspectors and structural engineers and seven more emergency managers and two mental health professionals, a statement from the mayor's office said. The total number of city personnel deployed to Puerto Rico now sits at 28, after a smaller group was sent last week to help. The initial team of NYC personnel, one from the NYPD, two from NYC Emergency Management and one from the Department of Buildings, was deployed last Thursday. (Full Article Here).

New York’s Ambitious New Sustainability Laws

Commercial Observer
January 14, 2020

In May of 2019, New York City passed the Climate Mobilization Act, a nine-bill package representing some of the most ambitious climate legislation enacted by any large municipality in the world to date. The centerpiece of the act is Local Law 97 (LL97), which will require some of the city’s largest landlords to begin cutting their properties’ carbon emissions by 2024, with cuts of 40 percent required by 2030 and cuts of 80 percent by 2050. Building owners who fail to hit these benchmarks could face millions of dollars in annual fines…Tasked with working out many of those details will be the freshly minted members of the New York City Climate Advisory Board, a group of 15 area muckety-mucks including Empire State Realty Trust’s Anthony Malkin and Jaros, Baum & Bolles’ Scott Frank, whose know-how the city will put to work fleshing out and implementing the new legislation… “The board is tasked with addressing a number of really difficult issues that weren’t completely sorted out in the law and that need a lot of consideration,” said Gina Bocra, chief sustainability officer at the Department of Buildings and chair of the advisory board.

NYC now requires solar panels, green roof systems on new homes

Staten Island Advance
January 12, 2020

Want to add a family room to your home or build your dream house? There’s a good chance you’ll have to factor in the cost of solar panels for your roof, thanks to a new city law aimed at creating a “greener" city. Local laws 92 and 94 took effect in November, mandating that any roof undergoing major construction be covered in either solar photovoltaic (PV) panels or a green roof system (covered in vegetation). Construction projects affected include new construction, vertical and horizontal extensions, and major modifications to the roof requiring a permit… Though the law provides exemptions for certain homes, like those with very steep roofs and those that aren’t structured to create the required 4 kilowatts of energy, it’ll cost builders and residents money to research that, and the required paperwork will delay their projects, said Victorio. “The exclusions must be calculated by the architect or engineer and submitted to the DOB (Department of Buildings) on a premise-by-premise basis,’’ he said, noting that his office hasn’t processed any such requests yet. “It will require additional cost to determine the feasibility.’’

NYC stepping up building inspections after architect’s death

WNYW Fox 5
January 2, 2020

It’s been less than a month since architect Erica Tishman was struck and killed by a chunk of façade that fell from a high rise in Midtown Manhattan. Now, the Department of Buildings is taking new measures to protect the safety of the public with more inspections and follow-up audits. “Our goal is to make sure that all owners are reminded what their legal responsivities are already and that we as a department are ensuring that we hold owners who are bad actors accountable,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca. Inspections have already begun, with the city issuing 220 new violations after inspecting more than 1,300 buildings. (Full Article Here).

Real estate industry bulks up green team

Real Estate Weekly
January 2, 2020

The city’s new Climate Advisory Board is weighted with experts from the real estate industry. Empire State Realty trust boss Tony Malkin as well as architect Jill Lerner and engineer Fiona Cousins have been named to the group of 16 experts who will help guide New York towards carnon neutrality. “With New York City’s Green New Deal, we are leading in the fight against global warming. These appointees to the Climate Advisory Board will ensure we are realizing our goal of reducing building emissions and making New York City carbon neutral by 2050,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio… Local Law 97 was included in the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA), passed by the City Council in April 2019, and part of the Mayor’s New York City Green New Deal. Other provisions of the CMA aimed at reducing emissions from buildings include establishing an Office of Sustainability within the Department of Buildings requiring most new building projects to have solar panels or a green roof covering 100 percent of unoccupied roof space, and requiring all buildings over 25,000 s/f to post energy efficiency grade signs by mid-2020.

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