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Lunch and Learn: DDC's In House Law Unit

On Wednesday, August 5th, 2020, David Varoli, Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel at the NYC Department of Design and Construction presented during the STEAM Virtual Lunch and Learn Series on the work of the In House Law Unit. Lunch and Learn is a one hour interactive presentation by DDC professionals speaking about their current role, career path and education. Mr. Varoli and his team of lawyers provide legal services and guidance to all DDC divisions. They also work with the City Law Department on standard contract forms like the City standard construction contract. The Law Division is responsible for ensuring that DDC contracts are compliant with the desires of the agency and the law.

“The Law Department at DDC focuses on laws that address procurement, contract administration matters, bids and requests for proposals, insurance, legal challenges, default proceedings, copyright matters, property rights, property acquisition, and matters pertaining to environmental law,” stated Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel David Varoli.

Mr. Varoli discussed several critical projects, including the Borough-Based Jail Program, which aims to create a network of modern and humane borough based jails to make good on the City’s commitment to closing Rikers Island. This smaller jail system, built upon a foundation of dignity and respect, would reflect the reality that both crime and the number of people in jail have continued to fall. The borough-based system is intended to strengthen connections to families, attorneys, courts, medical and mental health care, and faith and community-based organizations. Being closer to home and transit will enhance the network of support systems for people who are detained, and help prevent future returns to jail. The ultimate goal is to reimagine these jail facilities as civic assets that would provide a better life for those who are detained and work in them, support smoother transitions back home, and serve as a resource for the community.

Renderings of a modern jail building

Renderings of modern jail housing units

Mr. Varoli also discussed his work lobbying for the passage of the Design Build law, a legal mechanism that allows New York City to save millions on public construction projects in that it allows government agencies to combine design and construction project bids into one contract to save dollars and time. Construction projects can easily be side tracked by any number of issues, often resulting in delays and exponential budget costs. He encouraged students to watch School House Rock, a short video from the 1970’s that explained the structure of the United States government and how a bill becomes a law ("I'm Just a Bill"). He also spoke about the importance of finding mentors to help guide students on their journey.

Mr. Varoli is native New Yorker and the first lawyer in his family. During his college years at Fordham University he double majored in Accounting and Finance but found something was still missing. During a business law class, he had what he described as a “lightbulb moment” when he realized he wanted to pursue a career in law. Mr. Varoli went on to PACE University Law School. After practicing a few years and pursing different opportunities, a mentor encouraged him to apply for a position working on contracts in the Dinkins administration. It was in the world of contract law where he found his passion, and through his work has been able to help New York City improve how it delivers on major construction projects.

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit