For Immediate Release
May 14, 2015
COMMISSIONER RICK CHANDLER ANNOUNCES TRANSFORMATIVE BLUEPRINT FOR CHANGE AT THE DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS
Public Safety Enhancements: New proactive enforcement targeting problematic sites, strengthened litigation and zero-tolerance for endangering the public.
Streamlined Processes: Implementation of new technology to allow completely paperless plan exams, transactions and cross-agency reviews to simplify application process.
Reduced Wait Times: Additional inspectors and examiners, After-Hour Inspections and standardized plan review guidelines will dramatically reduce project approval times.
NYC Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler today announced a new plan that will fundamentally reform the agency to enhance public and worksite safety, slash wait times and delays, and modernize all aspects of the agency to meet the needs of a 21st century city.
The Department of Buildings is responsible for enforcing the New York City Construction Codes and Zoning Resolution on more than a million buildings and construction sites throughout the City. Issuing a record 140,000 construction permits in 2014, the daily operations of the Department impact the everyday lives of those that live, work and build in New York City.
Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio announced the beginnings of "fundamental reform" at the Department of Buildings, and today's action plan delivers on that pledge. With an unprecedented infusion of new resources, including 320 new positions and $120 million over four years, and significant reforms to internal processes and public interactions, the City of New York will ensure its Department of Buildings is second to none in customer service, public safety and efficient oversight.
"This is an agency that underpins almost everything we do. From spurring new construction of affordable housing to achieving our sustainability goals to protecting New Yorkers each and every day, this department is a vital pivot that has to perform at the highest level. We need change that makes its operations safer, faster and more transparent. The package of reforms we are undertaking are going to vastly improve the service New Yorkers receive from the Department of Buildings," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"The Department's highest priority is safe and sustainable development. It is with this at the forefront that we have designed a significant set of progressive and measurable reforms, supported by an historic commitment of staffing and budget resources, that will allow the agency not only the ability to operate more efficiently, resulting in reduced project wait times, but also focus on safety and the ability of all New Yorkers to equitably obtain services from the Department," said Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler. "We are making exciting changes in our safety and development operations, customer service, transparency and our collaborative relationships with other City and State agencies and authorities. I believe these reforms will get projects approved quicker while ensuring safe and code compliant development remains our top priority."
"The New York City Department of Buildings is charged with the challenging task of ensuring the safe, lawful use of more than a million properties throughout the city. As the Administration prepares to build affordable housing at an expedited rate, I am pleased to hear that the Department will significantly enhance and expand various areas of oversight, education, transparency and enforcement. I would like to applaud Commissioner Chandler for his leadership on enacting these welcomed reforms and look forward to closely working with the Administration to build upon them," stated Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Deputy Leader and Chair of the Council's Housing and Buildings Committee.
"The de Blasio administration and the Department of Buildings have put together a solid and comprehensive set of reforms, which has the potential to usher in a new era of transparency, efficiency and enhanced public safety to the building approval and inspection process. The City's upfront investments in new technology and staffing, along with a renewed focus on risk management and construction innovation, will pay huge dividends by increasing the quality of construction work while also reducing the cost and time it takes to build in New York City." said New York Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson.
Since his appointment in July 2014, Commissioner Rick Chandler has led an effort to identify areas where reforms will improve results in agency operations, and ensure the Department is equitably supporting development demands throughout all the boroughs. The transformative initiatives provided in this blueprint, which align with the Mayor's One New York vision, outline significant changes to public safety and integrity enforcement, operational processes, regulatory transparency and customer service. Strengthening and reinvesting in these areas will allow the agency to carry out its core mission of safe and lawful use of buildings and ensure the Department is supporting the creation of a thriving, equitable, sustainable, and resilient 21st century New York.
Enhance Public Safety and Integrity
The agency is improving enforcement methods in public safeguarding and integrity compliance. These changes are intended to promote best safety practices by the development community and allow the Department to proactively assess and mitigate risks associated with construction sites and professionals that may pose a danger to public. Through proactive enforcement and additional discipline of bad actors the Department is strengthening and reaffirming a commitment to its core mission of keeping New Yorkers safe. Public safety and integrity reforms include:
Create a Risk Management Office to Determine Liability: The Department has established its first ever Risk Management Office. This unit is tasked with analyzing the extensive amounts of data maintained by the agency to determine where vulnerabilities exist and devise solutions that eliminate or mitigate risk. Using business intelligence and analytics tools, this Office's efforts will allow Enforcement and other staff to proactively identify and pursue punishment of "bad actors," identify buildings that pose a threat to public safety and root out corrupt behavior in conjunction with the Legal and Regulatory Affairs Division.
Release Industry Code of Conduct: Another first for the Department will be the launch of the Industry Code of Conduct this summer. The document will clarify requirements developers, professionals and other stakeholders that engage the agency.
Enhance Legal Action Against Bad Actors: The Department will increase its legal resources and incorporate new technology to enhance disciplinary enforcement against applicants, owners, licensees and other construction professionals that repeatedly abuse the Construction Codes.
Streamline Department Processes
Building in New York City is an extraordinarily complex undertaking, often involving numerous city agencies and requiring transactions with outdated systems and incongruent processes. The Department recognizes the importance of minimizing bureaucracy to ensure rapid but safe development. In order to support the Mayor's goal of dramatically increasing the development of affordable housing and reducing project delays across all types of development, the Department is deepening its investment in plan review through technological improvements, and by hiring nearly 200 plan examiners and development inspectors. Process enhancements include:
Redesign Plan Review Process and Online Interface to Reduce Wait Times: The technology to review online plan submissions will be in use by examiners in all five borough offices by the end of the year, reducing wait times for virtual reviews. As the Department re-designs its online presence, a new public facing web interface, which will replace the current Building Information System (BIS), will allow customers to conduct any transaction online. Customers will be able to manage more robust accounts, where they can make payments, check the status of their project and have virtual interactions with staff. These changes will eventually eliminate the need for in-person visits. A paperless agency that integrates efficient virtual examinations and electronic transactions will mean certain projects can be reviewed in nearly one-half the current time, and some inspections conducted in nearly one-fourth the current time.
|Indicator||Current State||Future State||Future State Affordable Housing|
|Time to First Review (New Buildings)||15.1 days||10 days||7 days|
|Time to First Review (Alt – 1s*, Borough Office)||12.4 days||10 days||7 days|
|Time to First Review (Alt – 2s and Alt – 3s, Borough Office)||3.7 days||2 days||N/A|
|Average Wait for Low Pressure Boiler Inspectors||22.2 days||5 days||5 days|
|Average Wait for Elevator Inspectors||23.2 days||5 days||5 days|
Implement Online Appointment Scheduling and Optimize Routing: The Department will launch the second component of the DOB NOW: Inspections program. This will allow inspection appointments to be scheduled online and inspectors the ability to conduct more site visits through route optimization and enhanced reporting software. These changes will continue to improve inspection quality and reduce inspection wait times.
Develop an Interagency Working Group to Simplify Development: The development and construction process is, at times, a complex web of agency checkpoints and hand-offs. A new interagency work group - including agencies and utilities critical to the success of development and construction in New York City - will meet regularly to identify and solve problematic touch-points and reoccurring cross-agency issues.
Transparent Compliance Requirements
Regulatory transparency and industry outreach and engagement remain necessary for promoting safe and sustainable development. By clarifying existing regulations and building awareness of best practices within the development community, the Department will be better able to ensure industry compliance with regulations, and reduce delays in the plan exam and inspection process. Transparency change will include:
Consolidate the Building Codes to Enhance Compliance: The Department of Buildings currently administers multiple construction codes applicable to alterations of buildings based on the code in place at the time of initial construction. Developing a unified code for existing buildings will allow the Department to streamline permitting and simplify regulations governing building upgrades and resiliency improvements for the existing housing and building stock. It will also make it much easier for applicants to comply with the Building Code and reduce the need for unnecessary intermediaries.
Standardize the Plan Objection Process to Reduce Re-examinations: The Department is currently reviewing plan exam disapprovals to identify the most common objections and standardize them across examiners and project submissions. By identifying common objections by project type, the Department will be able to educate its customers about code compliance requirements and increase the efficiency of the plan review process. This will reduce the number of reviews required to reach approval.
Commit to Customer Service
The Department, at its core, is a customer service agency. The Department aims to significantly change the way New Yorkers are able to interact with the agency. In addition to the process changes above, the Department will enhance the customer service experience by investing in agency staff and better public offices. Service changes will include:
Offer Project Advocates to Resolve Project Complications: The Department will hire 10 project advocates over the next two years across the boroughs. These individuals will be a free resource that can help New Yorkers navigate the construction process—something for which many New Yorkers currently hire private 'expediters'. Project Advocates will provide a single point of contact within the Department to assist in the resolution of technical and operational issues relating to a project or property.
Provide After Hour Inspection Services: To best serve the City that never sleeps, the Department will begin offering after-hours and weekend inspections for a reasonable fee. The Department will test this initiative using high-rise inspections in the summer of 2015 and will then expand it further. To receive fast service at the times that work best for them, developers will have the opportunity to request early morning, night or weekend inspections.
Develop an Equitable Fee Structure: The Department will seek legislative approval for a more equitable fee structure. Under this concept, larger well-funded projects would pay fees at a rate that is comparable to the scale of development they are undertaking, while fees for small business and homeowners would be structured more appropriately to their scope of work.
Redesign Borough Office Public Spaces: Over the next year, the public spaces in the Department's borough offices will be evaluated for re-design to enhance service and streamline the flow of traffic with a focus on incorporating those modernizations that will occur when additional online processes are incorporated into the Department's business model.
The Department intends to achieve best-in-class service levels for a major city through these transformative changes outlined in this blueprint. A dramatic increase in funding and staffing allocated in the Mayor's Executive Budget will provide the resources to achieve this goal.
The Department will coordinate these reforms closely with external stakeholders, city and state agencies and authorities, utilities, and elected officials throughout the implementation of these initiatives.
Changes have already begun as the Department has deployed multidisciplinary workgroups to start implementing these changes. Further implementation will be supported and directed by a newly created "Change Management Office" that will help the Department achieve its goals and commitments as outlined in this report.
"I thank Mayor de Blasio, First Deputy Mayor Shorris, and Commissioner Chandler for their vision and commitment to addressing the affordability crisis through a comprehensive, multi-agency effort. Making significant investments in the resources necessary to streamline processing, enhance customer service, and ensure compliance are critical to spurring the construction and preservation of affordable housing," said HPD Commissioner Vicki Been. "We look forward to the implementation of initiatives that speed the development of critical affordable housing, and to strengthening our partnership with the team at DOB on these projects."
"I thank Commissioner Chandler for working to address longstanding issues that have faced the agency as well as our city's construction and development industries," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. The highest priority we have in government is to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers, so I particularly appreciate the attention to advancing public safety and mitigating risk. Additionally, I applaud the greater focus on enhancing customer service, improving plan processing, and expediting affordable housing. I look forward to working with the Department of Buildings on matters related to these reforms in the months ahead."
"The reforms identified by the Department of Buildings will enhance the customer experience that the Department offers to a level that all of our City's residents deserve and should expect," said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. "The redesign of the borough offices to heighten their focus on customer service is especially encouraging and will be most welcome. I commend the Department for instituting these much needed improvements that will benefit all New Yorkers who interact with the office on a daily basis."
"I commend the Administration and Commissioner Chandler for undertaking significant reforms at the Department of Buildings. These changes will help improve the operations and efficiency at the Department, increase public safety, and create a more positive environment for New Yorkers when dealing with the agency. I have no doubt that when these bold reforms are fully implemented, the entire city will benefit from having a more transparent and customer friendly DOB," stated Council Member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr., of Brooklyn.
"The Department of Buildings reforms announced today are extremely significant to my constituents, many of whom have become frustrated with the agency's processes over time. I believe that these changes will meet immediate needs and help to restore public confidence in DOB's fairness and accessibility. Commissioner Chandler's leadership in this area is much-needed and much-appreciated," said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., of Brooklyn.
"A well-funded and sufficiently staffed Department of Buildings is a wise investment, leading to safer construction sites and better response times by government to the needs of the private sector. These improvements, in turn, will lead to more economic activity, more jobs and more tax revenue to support vital government services. We applaud Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Shorris, and Commissioner Chandler for making this investment," said Steven Spinola, President of The Real Estate Board of New York.
"The American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY) is tremendously encouraged by these new initiatives designed to bring greater transparency and efficiency to DOB processes and ensure the public welfare. We look forward to continuing a dialogue with the agency about how to streamline the regulatory process so that our city can be renewed and restored with greater speed and economy. Together we can build the common good," said Tomas Rossant, President of AIANY.
"The American Council of Engineering Companies of New York commends NYCDOB for continuing its efforts to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve transparency," said Jay Simson, President of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York. "Our leadership and our members welcome the opportunity to work with the Department to meet the challenges of building and maintaining a 21st Century New York."
"Today's announcement will begin to bring the agency into the 21st century," said Building Trades Employers' Association President Louis Coletti. "From increased transparency and efficient business practices, to a higher standard of ethics and compliance for industry professionals, these are welcome reforms."
"The General Contractors Association members welcome the Buildings Department reforms," said Denise Richardson, the GCA's Executive Director. "We applaud the addition of resources for plan examination and inspections and we look forward to the implementation of the customer service improvements that will go a long way toward increasing the efficiency of the permit process. Many thanks to Commissioner Chandler and his team for leading this effort to improve construction safety and increasing the transparency of the entire DOB process."
"We applaud DOB's efforts to add people-power and state-of-the-art technology to help build a more efficient and effective agency," said Thomas L. Hill, RPA, President of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York (BOMA/NY). "As always, we stand with the Department in these efforts and gladly offer our real world, practical experience in all matters related to building management in New York City to help make these major reforms as successful as possible for both DOB and our members."