For Immediate Release
February 13, 2008
BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT EXPANDS
SPECIAL ENFORCEMENT PLAN TO
ENHANCE CONSTRUCTION SAFETY STANDARDS CITYWIDE
Phase II of the Plan Includes $1 Million Investment to Advance Proactive Operational and Enforcement Tactics
Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster today announced the launch of Phase II of the Department's Special Enforcement Plan to raise the bar for construction standards citywide. Building upon the foundation laid during Phase I of the Plan, Phase II includes a $1 million investment to dedicate 21 staff lines to advance operational and enforcement tactics developed and tested over the past year to increase oversight and accountability throughout the construction process. The Buildings Department will utilize the additional staff lines and new funding to crack down on illegal after-hours construction, ensure contractors adhere to safety standards during interior demolitions, and increase proactive inspections of low-rise construction sites. Today's announcement included a progress report on implementation of Phase I of the Plan.
“Our Special Enforcement Plan is designed to disrupt the business models of those who intentionally or carelessly put the public and workers at risk by defying the Building Code or Zoning Resolution. With new resources from Mayor Bloomberg and support from the City Council, we were able to implement Phase I to take action on critical issues affecting New Yorkers: repeat offenders; unsafe excavation work; and abuses of the professional certification privilege. We've taken a significant step in the right direction, but the results from Phase I demonstrate there is much more work to be done. Our work during Phase II will build upon this foundation to bring us closer to reaching our ultimate goal of ensuring safe and compliant development by making it cost effective to play by the rules,” said Commissioner Lancaster.
As part of Phase II, the additional enforcement resources will be allocated to cracking down on illegal after-hours construction, unsafe interior demolitions, and low-rise site safety, building upon the new enforcement and operational tactics implemented during Phase I. The 21 staff lines will be divided into three enforcement teams and one research group: the After-Hours Inspection Team, the Interior Demolitions Team, the Low-Rise Site Safety Team, and the Professional Certification Qualifications Group.
After-Hours Inspection Team. Complaints related to illegal after-hours construction constituted 5.3% of the 134,427 complaints the Buildings Department received in 2007. However, the Department has, until now, lacked a permanent after-hours force to combat this illegal construction. As part of Phase II, six inspectors will be dedicated to cracking down on contractors and developers who work after normal business hours without obtaining a variance from the Department to do so. Once formed, the After-Hours Inspection Team will immediately respond to after-hours construction complaints and issue Stop Work Orders for illegal construction.
Interior Demolitions Team. Last year, the Buildings Department issued 5,316 permits for major alterations to existing buildings, a number that has remained relatively constant since 2002. To further increase enforcement oversight on major alterations to existing buildings, Phase II allocates three new inspectors and three new structural engineers to review plans for and proactively inspect interior demolitions. Once formed, the Interior Demolitions Team will focus on stopping unsafe construction and demanding contractors employ safe means and methods throughout the demolition process.
Low-Rise Site Safety Team. There were 22% more low-rise buildings under construction in 2007 than in 2006, with 4,587 permits issued citywide. Phase II allocates six new inspectors to proactively inspect low-rise construction sites and demand contractors abide by site safety standards. The inspections performed by the Low-Rise Site Safety Team will complement the accountability scheme among contractors that was expanded recently with the enactment of the new NYC Construction Codes and the promulgation of the Construction Superintendent Rule. Specifically, Buildings inspectors will be proactively monitoring low-rise construction sites to ensure registered Construction Superintendents are discharging their responsibility to ensure construction proceeds in a safe and compliant manner.
Professional Certification Qualifications Group. The Department currently provides any architect or engineer holding a license and current registration with the State the privilege of waiving a plan examination at the Buildings Department by professionally certifying with their signature and seal that applications and plans for permits comply with the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. Data indicate that many licensed architects and engineers utilize this privilege; in 2007, licensed architects and engineers professionally certified 37,383 applications for building permits. Phase II allocates three new staff positions to develop groundbreaking qualifications that licensed architects and engineers must meet and maintain to enter and participate in the City's professional certification program. Made possible with the enactment of the New NYC Construction Codes in July 2007, the qualification standards will be designed to infuse integrity into the professional certification program by preventing repeat offenders from participating in it.
Under Phase 1 of the Special Enforcement Plan, $6 million was allocated to the Buildings Department to create 67 additional staff lines to support the Department's new multidisciplinary enforcement model. The additional resources and staff lines were distributed among three new units: the Special Enforcement Team, the Excavations Team, and the Professional Certification Review and Audits Team. Since the launch of Phase I in July 2007, the Buildings Department has laid the foundation upon which the Special Enforcement Plan is built. Since the Plan's inception, the three new Special Enforcement teams have inspected 2,438 construction sites, identified 62 individuals or companies for possible disciplinary action, and reviewed 1,040 professionally-certified plans for compliance with the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. Since September 2007, the three teams have issued 773 Stop Work Orders and 1,617 violations.
Phases I and II of the Special Enforcement Plan are complemented by recently-enacted legislation that enables the Buildings Department to further deter abuses of the professional certification program and hold repeat offenders accountable for their actions. The New York State Assembly signed Assembly Bill 7746 into law on August 17, 2007, bolstering the Department's enforcement and operational tactics by empowering the Buildings Commissioner to refuse applications filed by professionals who, after due process, are found to have filed false or fraudulent documents.
The Special Enforcement Plan is the result of a collaborative effort by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Housing and Buildings Chair Erik Martin Dilan, City Councilman James Oddo, and Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster to support the continual transformation of the Buildings Department. The Special Enforcement Plan is being implemented in three phases.
Since 2002, the Buildings Department has worked aggressively to streamline its processes, improve transparency, and infuse integrity and accountability into the construction process. With new enforcement models like the Stop Work Order Patrol and the Scaffold Safety Team, Buildings inspectors are conducting more proactive inspections of construction activity across the five boroughs than at any point in the Department's history. New regulatory schemes, such as the requirement for construction superintendents to register in order to obtain building permits for low-rise construction projects, have increased accountability on job sites. Building on these accomplishments, the Special Enforcement Plan will further the Department's mission of ensuring the safe and lawful use of all of New York City's 950,000 buildings and properties. To view the Progress Report on Phase I of the Special Enforcement Plan, visit the Buildings Department website at www.nyc.gov/buildings.
Contact: Kate Lindquist/Carly Sullivan (212) 566-3473
The New York City Department of Buildings ensures the safe and lawful use of buildings and properties by enforcing the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. We facilitate development with integrity, efficiency and professionalism.