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PR- 187-08
May 18, 2008


$5.3 Million Added to the Department’s Budget to Fund 63 New Positions for Phase Three of Special Enforcement Plan and General Contractor Registration

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Acting Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Robert D. LiMandri today announced that $5.3 million has been added to the Department of Buildings budget to fund 63 new positions to enhance oversight and enforcement of construction safety.  The additional resources are part of the Mayor's FY2009 Executive Budget.  Fifty-six of those positions will allow DOB to implement phase three of its Special Enforcement Plan (SEP) announced in July 2007 and will enable the Department to launch three new SEP initiatives: the construction monitoring program; the violation re-inspection team; and the sidewalk shed electrical safety team.  The funding also adds seven positions to enable DOB to implement Local Law 36 of 2008, which requires general contractors who build one-, two-, and three-family homes to register with the Department so that their safety record can be tracked and unsafe contractors can be held accountable for violations and, if necessary, suspended or prohibited from doing business.  The $5.3 million investment brings the total number of Buildings Inspectors to 461, up from 277 in 2002. Today's announcement follows a $4 million commitment announced two weeks ago to perform a comprehensive analysis of high-risk construction activities.

"The Buildings Department has a critical responsibility to protect the public from construction hazards and to protect the lives and guard the safety of the City's more than 125,000 construction workers," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Today, we are furthering this mission by investing resources in making sure that the City's diverse and talented construction industry takes responsibility for worker and public safety at construction sites throughout the five boroughs-from high-rise construction to single-family homes. We are in the midst of a historic building boom and the added development demands that we devote sufficient resources to aggressively enforce site safety."

"The allocation of this funding is welcome news," said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn.  "The Council has long believed that there is no more sure-fire way to increase safety around construction sites than putting more well-trained inspectors in the field.  By giving the agency added ability to perform unannounced inspections, we will raise the bar at job sites across the city and increase the safety of thousands construction workers."

"The Buildings Department and construction industry must do better at making construction sites safe," said Acting Buildings Commissioner LiMandri. "Today's investment puts more Inspectors on the ground to conduct more surprise inspections and substantially increases the incentive for developers and contractors to comply with safety regulations. Construction safety is first and foremost about maintaining safe job sites, and by implementing the third phase of the Special Enforcement Plan, we are continuing to enhance the Department's ability to hold developers and contractors accountable for safety lapses."

"With development projects on practically every street corner, we have to give the Department of Buildings the tools it needs to make the construction industry as safe as possible," said Housing and Buildings Chair Erik Martin Dilan.  "By adding 63 new positions, we will give DOB the flexibility to examine more projects, both large and small.  This additional funding is welcome news, and will hopefully improve the Agency's enforcement capability."

Expansion of the Special Enforcement Plan to Improve Construction Safety

The Department of Buildings will hire 56 additional inspectors and administrators to launch Phase Three of the Special Enforcement Plan.  The Special Enforcement Plan, which was launched in July 2007, is a multi-phase initiative to increase the Department's presence on construction job sites, increase audits and unannounced inspections, and tighten oversight over the professional certification program. Today's investment brings the total number of staff dedicated to the SEP to 144. As part of today's expansion, 56 new employees will be deployed to implement new SEP initiatives and to expand programs that have been launched since the SEP was first announced last year. 

  • New Construction Monitoring Program. Consisting of ten inspectors, one engineer, and one manager, the program will bolster the City's oversight at milestone points in the construction of new buildings and major alterations by increasing the number of audits performed at different intervals in the progress of major construction.  Supported by new requirements in the New NYC Construction Codes, Buildings Inspectors will conduct more safety inspections during the course of construction for any given building to verify that actual construction matches approved plans and complies with code and zoning regulations.

  • New Violation Re-Inspection Team. Consisting of five inspectors, three managers and support staff, the team will conduct follow-up inspections of properties where individuals fail to certify that the violating condition has been corrected.  The Violation Re-Inspection Team will also audit sites through unannounced visits where individuals have certified that the violating condition has been corrected in order to verify that the necessary work has been completed properly. Individuals found to have fraudulently certified that action has been taken to correct violations will be referred to the appropriate parties for further investigation and may be subject to criminal court summonses.

  • New Sidewalk Shed Electrical Safety Program. Consisting of two new electrical inspectors for the Department's Scaffold Safety Team, this program will focus enforcement resources on sidewalk shed safety. The Building Code requires that sidewalk sheds be equipped with electrical lighting to illuminate pathways for pedestrians at night. In years past, there have been incidents of stray voltage emanating from sidewalk shed piping which have led to injuries of people and their pets. Inspectors will conduct unannounced spot checks of sites with sheds to verify contractors have installed electrical lighting according to the Building Code. This new program will build upon the Safety Analysis and Field Evaluation (SAFE) Scaffold & Shed Initiative launched in February to crack down on unsafe supported scaffolds and sidewalk sheds. As part of the SAFE Initiative, a 30-day citywide inspection sweep of 1,243 sidewalk sheds resulted in 449 violations, and inspectors found that 36% of the sites were not in compliance with electrical lighting requirements.
  • Expansion of Program to Develop Professional Certification Qualifications For Architects and Engineers to Enter or Stay in the Program . Three additional positions will be added to a group developing qualifications that architects and engineers must meet and maintain to utilize the professional certification privilege.  The ability to allow architects and engineers to qualify for professional certification is made possible by the enactment of the New NYC Construction Codes in July 2007.  These qualification standards will enable the Buildings Department to tighten oversight over the professional certification program by establishing standards for those who wish to participate and by preventing bad actors and repeat offenders of code and zoning regulations from professionally certifying altogether. Before the enactment of the New NYC Construction Codes, any engineer or architect holding a New York State license was legally allowed to professionally certify.  The additional staff will join three existing staffers to further develop the analysis. Working with other City and State agencies, the team is analyzing statistics and assessing historical data, reviewing existing regulations and operational changes needed, creating a database to track professionals and producing a rule that will formally establish the future qualifications.

  • Expansion of Program to Increase Audits and Inspections of Professionally Certified Jobs .  Sixteen new staffers will be added to the Professional Certification Review and Audits Team, which was created in 2007 to catch scofflaws and repeat offenders of zoning and code regulations. Using data gathered from the audits, the Team identifies patterns of abuse, develops deterrents for noncompliance, and recommends professionals for discipline. As of March 31, 2008, the team has inspected 1,158 sites and issued 1,524 violations at 1,158 job sites. Of the 1,091 plans audited, the team raised objections to over 50% of these jobs.
  • Expansion of Program to Raise Safety Standards at Excavation Sites. Fifteen new staff will join the Excavation Team to increase the number of inspections of excavation operations citywide. Excavation operations are a particularly challenging area of construction in New York City given the proximity and risk to neighboring properties and equipment. If not executed in accordance with properly engineered plans, excavations can injure or kill workers and seriously undermine the structural integrity of neighboring properties. In 2006 and 2007, excavations and trenching operations accounted for 13% of all construction incidents, which totaled 101 incidents; 16 of them resulted in an injury or fatality.  The Excavations Team consists of specialized inspectors and engineers who strategically identify and inspect excavations sites to force contractors to employ the proper means and methods for excavation so that workers and adjacent properties are adequately protected. As of March 31, 2008, the Excavations Team has inspected 1,672 job sites, stopping unsafe work at 508 sites and writing violations to 1,564 individuals.

Registering General Contractors to Hold Them Accountable to Their Safety Records

In addition to expanding the Special Enforcement Plan, the Mayor's $5.3 million investment will provide the Buildings Department with the necessary staff to implement Local Law 36, recently enacted to register general contractors building one-, two-, and three-family homes.  Today's investment allocates seven new staff lines to implement the new mandate, which was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on August 2, 2007. This registration requirement enables the Buildings Department to track these general contractors by their safety record and hold them accountable for their performance across job sites. The seven new staff lines will screen applicants, perform field inspections, investigate complaints of un-registered companies, and build cases against repeat offenders. General contractors seeking permits to erect one-, two-, or three-family homes must register with the Buildings Department by October 31, 2008.  Unregistered individuals or entities found building one-, two- or three-family homes after October 31, 2008 will be subject to violations, Stop Work Orders, criminal charges, and the seizure of vehicles and construction tools.

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 the Buildings Department to build upon agency reforms established over the past six years.  Under the first two phases of the plan, the City has dedicated $7 million to the Buildings Department for 88 additional staff lines to create six new multidisciplinary enforcement units and one research group: the Special Enforcement Team; the Excavations Team; the Professional Review and Audits Team; the After-Hours Inspection Team; the Interior Demolitions Team; the Low-Rise Site Safety Team; and the Professional Certification Qualifications Group.  Since the Plan's inception, these new units have inspected over 3,800 construction sites, identified approximately 85 individuals or companies for possible disciplinary action, and reviewed over 1,700 professionally-certified plans for compliance with the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. Since September 2007, these teams have issued over 1,000 Stop Work Orders and nearly 3,000 violations to sites in all five boroughs.  Today's announcement brings the City's total investment in the Buildings Department's Special Enforcement Plan to $12 million for 144 dedicated staff members for nine new programs.

New Yorkers are encouraged to call 3-1-1 to report non-compliant conditions or 9-1-1 to report emergencies at construction sites.



Stu Loeser / John Gallagher   (212) 788-2958

Kate Lindquist / Caroline Sullivan   (Department of Buildings)
(212) 566-3473

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