FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 3, 2007
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG AND BUILDINGS COMMISSIONER PATRICIA LANCASTER ANNOUNCE LANDMARK MEASURES TO MODERNIZE BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS
Enactment of New NYC Construction Codes and Launch of Three-Phase Enforcement Plan Signify Continuing Commitment to Buildings Department Reform
Phase 1 of the Plan Includes $6 Million Investment for Multidisciplinary Enforcement Model
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today signed legislation that enacted the first modernization of the City Building Code since 1968 and announced a comprehensive enforcement plan expected to raise the bar for construction standards in New York City. Built on the expertise and recommendations from hundreds of professionals brought together by the Administration for the revision effort, the New NYC Construction Codes incorporate national standards and rules emphasizing safety, efficiency, and sustainability while broadening the Buildings Department's enforcement tools. As the City's unprecedented construction activity continues, the enforcement plan, the result of the collaborative efforts of the Mayor's office, the City Council and the Council's Department of Buildings Taskforce, will enable the Buildings Department to better facilitate safe development while the new NYC Construction Codes will expand the framework for enforcement and administrative actions. The enforcement plan calls for new operational tactics to be implemented in three phases, starting with new funding and staff for the Buildings Department that will allow it to crack down on repeat offenders and increase inspections of professionally-certified jobs. The Mayor was joined today by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilman James Oddo and Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster.
"Overhauling the building code was such a daunting task that for years no one would even consider it. That's why today is truly a landmark day in New York City construction. I want to thank Commissioner Lancaster, our partners in the Council and everyone in the industry who came together to get this done. We've committed to not only improving and modernizing the code, but also to stepping up enforcement efforts," said Mayor Bloomberg. "For too long the Buildings Department didn't have the resources or the tools necessary to effectively ensure safety and compliance, and over the past several years we've been working to reverse that. Today we are taking another big critical step towards that end."
"The recommendations that came out of the Council's Department of Buildings Task Force will ensure that the DOB has the ability to enforce the regulations that will make both job sites and buildings safer, and that our communities are protected," said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. "With the City in the midst of a construction boom, we need to remain vigilant, and these recommendations will make DOB a more proactive agency. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg and Patricia Lancaster for working in collaboration with the Council on this vital piece of legislation. I also want to thank Council Members Oddo, Dilan and Vacca for their tremendous work on this project."
New NYC Construction Codes Will Promote Safety, Efficiency, and Sustainability
Fulfilling a promise made during the 2001 mayoral campaign, the New NYC Construction Codes will modernize development in the City by enhancing building safety, promoting sustainable design and construction, and facilitating construction through a user-friendly, nationally-recognized format. To improve building safety, the New NYC Construction Codes require sprinklers to be installed in more building types, smoke detectors to be hardwired and interconnected in all residential buildings, and tall buildings to incorporate stronger connectivity to better withstand extreme events and weather. To encourage sustainable building, the New NYC Construction Codes will provide fee rebates for green design, require more efficient heating and cooling systems, require white roofs, and encourage plumbing systems that conserve water. To facilitate compliant development, the New NYC Construction Codes recognize electronic submissions and digital documents, enable online application filing and longer license durations, and accept the use of new materials and technologies, which will make building in New York easier and less expensive.
In addition to outlining the design and construction rules and standards, the New NYC Construction Codes include enhanced enforcement and administrative guidelines that will elevate the quality of construction in New York City. The Codes give the Commissioner the power to adopt standards for participation in the professional certification program, allowing the City to tighten controls over construction document approval and permitting. By re-tooling the building violation scheme, the Codes will enable the Buildings Department to better devote its resources to conditions and buildings that present hazards to public safety. The Codes also provide increased penalties by providing a range for each classification of violations. For example: where the 1968 Building Code calls for the maximum penalty for most violations to top out at $5,000, the New NYC Construction Codes will increase that penalty to $25,000 for immediately hazardous violations and $10,000 for a major violations.
Representing over 300,000 hours of time volunteered by over 400 professionals and experts brought together for the revision effort, the New NYC Construction Codes were tailored to meet the unique conditions that New York's density, small lot size, and its variety of occupancy and building types create. To make sure the Codes never become dated again, the new law ties the Codes to a national three-year revision cycle, enabling the City to take advantage of innovations in new materials and technology.
New Enforcement Plan to Stop Bad Actors, Stop Abuses of Professional Certification, and Stop Repeat Offenses of Construction Regulations
The Mayor's Office, the City Council Speaker's Office and Councilmember Oddo, chair of the NYC Council Task Force on Operations and Improvements of the Department of Buildings, have worked to systematically transform the Buildings Department and today's enforcement plan allocates $6 million and 67 additional staff lines to the Buildings Department to support new operational and enforcement tactics designed to infuse integrity and accountability into the construction process. As part of the plan, the Buildings Department will utilize proactive enforcement tactics to crack down on architects, engineers, contractors, and developers who repeatedly skirt the Zoning Resolution and Building Code. The plan also calls for the Buildings Department to tighten control over the professional certification program by increasing oversight of the construction document approval and permitting process.
"When the Mayor appointed me in 2002, I made a commitment to inject integrity, transparency and efficiency into the operations of the Buildings Department, putting the Buildings Information System online for the public and streamlining processes to make it easier to do business with us. However, our reform efforts must not stop at the permit window," said Commissioner Patricia Lancaster. "With the New NYC Construction Codes and these new enforcement measures, we will be able to disrupt those who intentionally or carelessly put the public and workers at risk and more effectively watch builders to ensure safe and compliant development."
Under the plan, the Buildings Department will adopt Compstat-like concepts employed at the NYPD to identify and deploy focused enforcement resources where acute problems exist. Two multidisciplinary special operation teams, comprised of 21 investigators, lawyers, inspectors, plan examiners, and engineers, will monitor bad actors and utilize Stop Work Orders for all major and minor infractions to ensure safe and compliant development. The special operation teams will identify and track the professionals and developers with patterns of non-compliance and will devise inspection and enforcement plans to closely monitor active job sites. In addition, the Department will publicize escalated enforcement actions taken by the special operation teams against bad actors to send a strong message that repeat offenders will not be tolerated. Comprising of representatives of the Mayor's Office, Buildings Department, and Councilmember James Oddo, the enforcement plan will be implemented in three phases over the next 18 months.
To control and tighten the City's professional certification program, whereby Registered Architects and Engineers can certify that plans submitted to the Buildings Department are compliant with building and zoning regulations, the Mayor's plan provides the Buildings Department with 29 additional staff for inspections and audits. In addition, the plan will expand the Department's current Zoning Review Pilot Program. Under the program, which will be institutionalized in all five boroughs, every professionally-certified application for a new building or alteration type-1 permit will be reviewed for common zoning infractions. Recent legislation enacted by the Mayor in February also requires the Department to conduct full examinations of all plans submitted by any professional on probation by the State Board of Regents and requires the Department to suspend or revoke the privileges of professionals who knowingly or negligently certify false or non-compliant building permit applications or plans.
Pre-qualification to participate in the professional certification program, which will be made possible with the enactment of the new NYC Construction Codes, will place substantive requirements for entry into the program, weeding out bad actors up front and protecting the program for those professionals who earn the privilege. The Department will retain the right to review any professionally certified plan for compliance with building and zoning regulations.
"All of us are committed to leaving behind a much better DOB than we found. Day by day, we are undertaking the technological and operational reforms that will allow this agency to fulfill its critically important mandate" said Councilmember James Oddo. "There is a reason why I have gone from being DOB's biggest critic to one of its loudest proponents and that is simply because we recognize that this agency is more important than ever before and that we need to work together to complete its transformation. The reforms we are announcing today reflect a level of cooperation and dialogue never seen before and our joint efforts are only the beginning."
The first phase of the enforcement plan also allocates funding for 14 field inspectors and engineers to the Buildings Department to proactively inspect and monitor excavation sites to ensure the necessary risk prevention steps are taken to protect adjacent properties from collateral damage. To complement the new proactive enforcement tactics, the City Council has made a commitment to adopt legislation imposing immediate and escalated civil penalties against permit applicants who demonstrate patterns of non-compliance and legislation to enable the Department to utilize civil penalties more widely.
"With the adoption of this bill, we are literally pulling the New York City Building Code into the 21st Century," said Council Housing and Buildings Chair, Erik Martin Dilan. "For 40 years, developers and contractors have been using these outdated codes. This bill finds the perfect balance in mandating safer and more sustainable buildings, while protecting the construction workers who literally risk their lives everyday on the job. It also takes advantage of technological advances by mandating the use of better materials. I have no doubt that this bill will also serve as a model for other cities around the country."
The New NYC Construction Codes will go into effect on July 1, 2008. A transition year will begin upon the effective date, where the City will allow users of the Codes to use either the 1968 Building Code or the New NYC Construction Codes. On July 1, 2009, the New NYC Construction Codes will be mandated for all new construction.
To learn more about the New NYC Construction Codes, please log onto www.nyc.gov and follow the link to the Buildings Department. For each chapter of the new Codes, the website includes a section-by-section document that summarizes key changes from the old Building Code. New Yorkers are encouraged to call 3-1-1 to report unsafe conditions at construction sites.
Stu Loeser/John Gallagher (212) 788-2958
Kate Lindquist (DOB) (212) 566-3473