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De Blasio Administration Unveils Plan to Improve Capital Project Delivery at the Department of Design and Construction

January 24, 2019

NEW YORK—The de Blasio Administration announced a comprehensive plan to improve capital project delivery at the Department of Design and Construction, the City’s leading construction management agency. This plan will decrease construction costs and project timelines to deliver projects faster and within budget, making more efficient use of City resources and delivering essential public works projects faster for New Yorkers in neighborhoods across the city.

“We are overhauling operations in order to deliver City capital projects more efficiently and within budget. This plan will ensure critical infrastructure projects are finished faster and with less disruption to our neighborhoods,” said Mayor de Blasio.

“In just 100 days, the DDC team was able to lay out a comprehensive plan to address challenges and prepare for future projects. Lorraine’s experience at the School Construction Authority was invaluable in guiding this blueprint for action,” said Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin.  “This bold interagency plan will streamline processes so that municipal projects can be built faster and better for all New Yorkers.”
“DDC is an essential part of the City, adding new infrastructure and public buildings in every neighborhood, and it plays an important role in addressing the challenges posed by growth and climate change,” said DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo. “The vast majority of DDC’s projects are completed on time and on budget, but delays are too common and we can address them. Our Strategic Blueprint gives us the tools to be better project planners and managers, to get more out of the outside services we pay for and better negotiate the City’s highly structured capital budget process and regulatory environment.”
A Strategic Blueprint for Construction Excellence addresses issues in early project stages that can undermine a project’s success and provides flexibility to work around the most common causes of project delays. The plan provides more incentives for contractors to meet ambitious construction schedules while also allowing for better evaluation of contractor performance. It also invests in DDC staff, giving project managers the tools and decision-making capability to be more nimble and responsive.

Strategies outlined in the plan include:

Modernize Procurement – The procurement of services can take more than nine months, and some projects go through multiple procurement cycles. DDC will work with the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services to delegate more independent authority to DDC, propose rule changes to the Procurement Policy Board, and expand the efficient use of contractor pre-qualified lists. DDC will also create a new Business Development Unit to create more opportunities for M/WBE firms.

Use Innovative Project Delivery Methods – The agency will continue to advocate for the expanded use of  effective tools like the Design-Build method of contracting, while exploring alternative project delivery methods such as CM-Build, CM-at-Risk and insurance reforms with the State Legislature.

Streamline Change Order Approval and Payment – Change orders, project modifications that occur during construction from changed conditions, can delay projects for months while payment for the changes is processed. The City will streamline processing by creating allowances in project budgets for common project delays to give DDC the ability to pay contractors as soon as change order work starts, a benefit that will reduce project costs and particularly aid smaller and M/WBE contractors who work with the city.

Get Projects Approved and Started Faster – DDC will improve its internal business process to move projects through preliminary review more quickly, and coordinate with OMB to advance project review and shorten the time to get a Certificate to Proceed, the critical approval that allows work to start on a project.

Plan Projects Better and Minimize Mid-Stream Scope Changes – More than half of DDC’s projects are delayed by late-stage modifications. DDC will enhance its innovative Front End Planning units and work with sponsor agencies to establish realistic project scopes and budgets before work begins.

Work With Utilities More Effectively – Interference with utilities under City streets is a leading cause of delays to infrastructure projects. DDC is working to establish early, regular coordination with utility companies so that schedules are clear and delays avoided. DDC will expand the use of joint bidding when utility work and City work can be performed simultaneously, eliminating months of potential disruptions and saving valuable time.

Empower DDC Project Managers – DDC project managers have extensive responsibilities to ensure projects are built on time and on budget. DDC will provide managers with better training and more support to ensure professional development around the most innovative project delivery and management methods.

Become More Active Community Partners – DDC will take a more proactive approach to community outreach and communication with project stakeholders, and expand the use of borough-specific liaisons to better manage public concerns.

Transform Information Technology – DDC will upgrade aging systems and create new tools to better manage projects including new mobile technology that gives staff access to project management information in the field. DDC will work with MOCS to integrate new systems with its PASSport payment system – ensuring speedy electronic payments to vendors.

A Strategic Blueprint for Construction Excellence can be viewed and downloaded here.

“Leadership is the everything. Leadership improves. Leadership creates. Leadership inspires. Leadership innovates. Leaderships changes the culture. Leadership takes you from 'dysfunction' to efficient and successful. This strategic plan is the latest evidence of the new leadership at DDC. It was badly needed and is most welcomed. I look forward to the agency continuing to improve because the projects it undertakes impact the lives of Staten Islanders," said Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo.

“Streamlining the process. More efficient use of City capital funds. Modernizing internal systems. Reducing the amount of time New Yorkers wait for essential public works. Lorraine Grillo. These are some of my favorite things,” said Council Member Justin Brannan. “As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Contracts, I take jurisdiction over New York City’s procurement policies very seriously. Often, something as simple as getting one side of the building to talk to the other side of the building can be a herculean task. To successfully navigate a bureaucratic safari, your scythe must be sharp. This DDC Strategic Plan is giant leap in the right direction.”

"I am pleased to see that the DDC is looking at how they can improve service delivery, including speedier implementation of construction projects," said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Finance.  "New Yorkers rely on the DDC to beautify our communities and to make them safe and accessible.  I am happy to see that the Department takes this charge seriously.  I remain committed to working with Commissioner Lorraine Grillo and the rest of DDC's leadership to move this effort forward."

“I applaud Commissioner Lorraine Grillo of the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) on her announcement of a comprehensive plan to improve the delivery of capital projects at DDC, which oversees construction management for over 20 city agencies. As the Chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Budget, it is exactly these efforts that we are striving for at the City Council and NYC as a whole. Reforming out antiquated capital process is long overdue and this is a firm step forward in those efforts. I thank DDC and Commissioner Grillo on leading these changes and look forward to many more improvements to come,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson

“New York’s construction boom is still going strong, and with increases in public sector spending across the board, DDC’s strategic blueprint is welcome news to the building community,” said Carlo A. Scissura, President and CEO, New York Building Congress. “This plan will streamline the project delivery process, making it faster and more efficient, and provide real benefits across the five boroughs. The Building Congress commends Commissioner Lorraine Grillo and the de Blasio administration for this forward-thinking blueprint and we look forward to working them to build the future of New York.”

Elizabeth Velez, Chair of DDC’s External Advisory Board, and President of the Velez Organization said, “The strategic blueprint creates a pathway that strengthens not only DDC, but the construction industry as whole by streamlining operations, and increasing competition by maximizing procurement opportunities, a win-win for New York City.”

“Commissioner Grillo's proposals, if driven down through the project management ranks, will radically change the way things get built in New York City,” said GCA Executive Director, Denise Richardson.  "GCA Members are always ready to build smarter, faster and less expensively. These initiatives will help us achieve those goals for the benefit of New York taxpayers."

“This is a much-needed step to improve the performance of the City’s capital project system, and to make the schedule of important projects more predictable and more reliable,” said Louis Coletti, President and CEO, Building Trades Employers’ Association. “We’re happy to work with Commissioner Grillo as she implements the plan and we look forward to the benefits the plan will bring.”

“This is such a refreshing attempt to make a key part of New York City’s government bureaucracy more efficient. The plan has enormous potential to reduce the time and cost of city-managed construction projects, which for too long have been out of control. I commend DDC for these reforms, and I urge all of the agency’s partners in government to get behind their plan,” said Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of the Center for an Urban Future.

“On behalf of the professional engineering community, the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC New York) believes that the DDC's plan to improve procurement, streamline processes and reduce delivery time is beneficial for the City, the public and design professionals.  We look forward to our continued partnership with DDC to support quality design and to make this vision a reality,” said Jay Simson, President & CEO, ACEC New York.

Executive Director of AIANY Center for Architecture Benjamin Prosky said, “We are pleased to hear about DDC's efforts under Commissioner Grillo to improve procurement practices, reduce costs, and expedite construction. We hope these changes will  encourage more architects to work with DDC, under better conditions that will foster design excellence in NYC facilities for their clients, the public."

"The Strategic Plan correctly focuses on addressing the procurement rules and procedural delays that cause public projects to take too long to complete. Given the size of the City's capital budget and the importance of infrastructure to the City's competitiveness, we look forward to DDC establishing and publishing metrics to show how these important reforms are working to accelerate project timelines and reduce costs," said Andrew Rein, President of the Citizens Budget Commission.

The plan was created in conjunction with the Office of Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin, and includes input from elected officials, construction industry groups, sponsor agencies, local utilities and entities charged with oversight of DDC and the City capital budget, including the Office of Management and Budget, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services and the Office of the Comptroller.

DDC is organized around two main construction divisions. Its Infrastructure Division works mostly with the NYC Department of Transportation and NYC Department of Environmental Protection to upgrade and expand streets and water and sewer systems. The Infrastructure Division also builds public plazas and oversees the City’s large coastal protection programs such as East Side Coastal Resiliency. The Public Buildings Division works with agencies and non-profits funded by the City to renovate and create structures such as firehouses, police precincts, marine transfer stations, community health centers, courthouses, libraries, homeless shelters, museums and theaters.

The agency employs over 1,300 people, and since it was created in 1996 has completed more than 4,000 capital projects valued at over $20 billion. DDC’s capital commitments have more than doubled in the last ten years as its responsibilities have grown, to more than $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2018.

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