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DDC, PDC Release Joint Recommendations to Streamline Capital Project Review

New Recommendations Will Improve Efficiency, Lower Costs and Increase Opportunities for Public Input

Announcement Comes After DDC Commissioner Testifies in Albany to Advocate for Capital Process Reform

DDC: Ian Michaels, 646-939-6514,
PDC: 212-788-3071,

(New York, NY – December 15, 2023) The NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the NYC Public Design Commission (PDC) today announced six joint recommendations that will improve delivery of capital projects citywide, including buildings, streetscapes, artwork and infrastructure, by streamlining the design review process for non-complex projects, easing the approval path for complex projects and improving public-facing resources to make the design review process more accessible to stakeholders.


Using design-build, the $141 Million Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center in Brooklyn, as approved by PDC, will be completed two years faster than would have been possible under the traditional system of lowest bidder contracting

Founded in 1996, DDC is NYC's primary capital construction project manager, building many of the civic facilities New Yorkers use every day, including new or renovated structures such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, courthouses, senior centers and more. To successfully manage its portfolio, DDC collaborates with other City agencies as well as with emerging and world-renowned architects and consultants. Since its founding, DDC has relied on PDC as a partner supporting maximum public input and design peer reviews aimed at delivering design excellence equitably across all communities.

In 2019, DDC released A Strategic Blueprint for Construction Excellence to improve capital project delivery for the City of New York and laid out plans to deliver projects faster and within budget through effective partnership with sponsors, consultants and contractors. Since then, DDC has been advocating for additional reforms to get critical facilities into the hands of their communities faster. In 2023, in an effort to continually improve how capital projects are designed, constructed and budgeted, DDC worked collaboratively with PDC to ensure this joint legacy of excellence continues to align with evolving modes of capital project delivery. 

Established over 125 years ago, PDC has been instrumental in shaping how buildings on City property are envisioned, detailed and constructed. PDC commissioners include design professionals, art professionals and lay members who receive agency and public testimony at regular public hearings. As the administration has sought methods to expedite capital project delivery, PDC has spent countless hours soliciting feedback from stakeholders, working with City agency partners and identifying ways to fine-tune its project review procedures—all while carrying forward equitable design principles that have stood the test of time. Efficiency does not need to come at the expense of good design, as well-designed structures are more resilient, more adapted to public uses and require less maintenance.

The six joint recommendations will help streamline the design review process to:

  • Formalize ongoing evaluation of the City’s design review process, informed by agencies’ quantitative and qualitative data;
  • Make the design review process more accessible to designers and agency staff;
  • Clarify the approval path for different project types;
  • Streamline the review process for non-complex projects;
  • Ease the approval path for complex projects; and
  • Amplify opportunities for public input, in addition to PDC’s monthly public hearings, to more holistically include community voices in the process and ultimate design of the city.

PDC and DDC developed the plan following comprehensive working group sessions and the release of a survey seeking feedback from professionals within the broader NYC design community. Throughout the next year, PDC will meet with liaisons from additional capital agencies — including the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks), the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) — and identify ways in which these recommendations can allow for further collaboration and efficiencies that will also benefit them. 

“DDC works with some of the country’s most talented design firms to create the City’s public buildings and plazas,” said DDC Commissioner Thomas Foley. “We deliver top-quality public works to every neighborhood in the City, and we know that great design doesn’t have to come at the expense of meeting our schedule and budget commitments. These joint recommendations will streamline the process and increase interagency alignment, so we can get needed facilities to their communities faster and build on our joint legacy of innovation and excellence in design.”

“The Public Design Commission defines design excellence as championing multi-faceted projects that are representative and supportive of the lived experience of all New Yorkers,” said PDC Executive Director Sreoshy Banerjea. “As the first of what we hope are many pioneering collaborations with our capital agencies, we can continue to work together to shape an urban environment that prioritizes the needs and aspirations of our communities and inspires all those who call New York City home.”

“As new technologies and project management processes evolve over time, we need to ensure how we collaborate across agencies is responsive to that evolution,” said PDC President Deborah Marton. “These recommendations, resulting from months of careful work by extraordinarily dedicated, talented public servants, set the standard for how City agencies can collaborate to deliver capital projects quickly, economically and with design excellence. The DDC/PDC team understands that communities know what they need, and it’s our job to help them get it.”

“Ensuring that the public realm is enhanced through quality and sustainable design that inspires us all is something the Public Design Commission does so well,” said PDC Vice President Jimmy Van Bramer, “And working even more closely with our partners at the Department of Design and Construction will ensure these incredible projects get completed efficiently so that the public can enjoy them. Collaboration is in itself an art form, and these new guidelines will streamline these processes for the benefit of all in New York City.”

"Design is an inherently collaborative process amongst different groups of people who provide viewpoints from multiple areas of expertise and experience: from the regulatory to the imaginative and from the economic to the experiential,” said PDC Secretary Manuel Miranda. “Making space for frank discussion about what’s working and what could be improved in the mechanics of the relational processes across those parties not only leads to better efficiencies, but also creates an atmosphere of empathetic cooperation. The conversation between PDC and DDC over the past several months has clarified a sense of the shared responsibility amongst our agencies to create and equitably distribute design resources for and to all New Yorkers."

“It’s our obligation in City government to fight for New Yorkers; right now, that means fighting to speed up capital delivery for things like libraries, cultural facilities and community centers,” said Meera Joshi, Deputy Mayor of Operations. “Better collaboration between the Department of Design and Construction and Public Design Commission for things like stakeholder engagement and flexibility in contracting could not be more critical in delivering the spaces that New Yorkers inhabit in a way that promotes excellence and is also fair and efficient.”

“This partnership between the Public Design Commission and Department of Design and Construction represents the best of Mayor Adams' ‘Get Stuff Built’ mantra to streamline capital project review without compromising the vision of quality design,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “These recommendations prove we can transform our longstanding systems to focus on equitable, responsive design while simultaneously streamlining the building process.”

“The Public Design Commission’s critical process improvements are grounded in a commitment to quality public architecture and interagency collaboration as well as the recognition that the delivery of large-scale urban projects is changing,” said Kirsten Sibilia, Architect’s Leadership Council Co-Chair, New York Building Congress. “In the spirit of ‘City of Yes’, and informed by extensive outreach that included our members, PDC has developed thoughtful improvements to communications and processes that will result in increased transparency and more effective delivery of the high caliber, design excellence public projects NYC deserves.”

Additional details on each recommendation are below:

  1. Establish a process for evaluating how DDC and other capital agency projects are reviewed:

PDC reviews hundreds of project submissions every year, but currently, there is no formalized process in which City agencies present their internal design review data, best practices and lessons-learned to the PDC.

PDC will establish a recurring process for interagency exchange, in which City agencies may discuss the data on how design review procedures are working within their agencies. This allows PDC to evaluate whether procedural changes may be needed to simplify or refine parts of the process, while also considering the benefits of incorporating technology solutions into the design review process.

  1. Make the design review process clearer and more accessible to designers and agency staff:

The design review process can feel unclear to designers and agency staff; and stakeholders have expressed concerns that it can be difficult to know when feedback and approval will happen and when design changes may be required, creating uncertainty around project schedules and budgets.

In response to stakeholder feedback about challenges that designers face when trying to understand and navigate the PDC review process, PDC will improve public-facing materials and resources available on its website to supplement guidance from City agency liaisons and further clarify the current design review process. PDC will ensure its mission will feature prominently in external communications and at public meetings, to remind people what design review aims to achieve.  

  1. Clarify the approval path for different project types:

Certain non-complex projects related to building systems or minor modifications qualify for a single, consolidated design review. PDC will amplify how to navigate this review path. 

  1. Streamline the approval process for non-complex projects:

PDC will create a single set of submission requirements for non-complex projects, and DDC and PDC will continue to raise awareness of prototypical citywide blanket approvals, such as the installation of standardized rooftop photovoltaic flat-mounted panels citywide or the installation of standardized tank and fueling stations and related equipment citywide. PDC will also raise awareness about its recently expanded PDC staff-level delegated review process that has cut design review time for certain projects in half.

  1. Ease the approval path for complex projects:

Complex projects, on the other hand, require a different set of supports.  Large projects require many approvals  from diverse stakeholders, including other City agencies, technical experts, and community boards. Capital agency project review timelines don’t always line up well with PDC submission deadlines or other milestones. In addition, many applicants do not know about the various ways in which PDC can provide early or informal guidance to ensure a smoother approval process. 

DDC seeks to better align its project schedules with PDC design reviews to get design teams the design feedback they need, when they need it. This includes establishing regular strategy and forecasting meetings, further aligning agency milestones and requirements to PDC’s monthly public meeting schedule and expanding engagement between designers and PDC via agency liaisons to support fast problem-solving and to keep projects moving.

  1. Amplify opportunities for public input to holistically include community voices in the process:

PDC approval represents a guaranteed touchpoint for the public to provide input into capital projects. Opportunities for additional engagement, outside of PDC, may not always be apparent to members of the public, and PDC review timelines at times get extended to allow for public hearings.

To continue to allow for an appropriate public input process, the two agencies will better communicate to the public the various opportunities to engage with the process. DDC will schedule its Community Board reviews earlier in the design schedule, so community feedback is incorporated sooner and will communicate subsequent design changes to the Community Board and schedule follow-up meetings as necessary. The two agencies will clarify for applicants that Community Board meeting minutes may be substituted for formal Community Board letters, or in addition to the letter if the Community Board wishes to provide one.

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 Adams’ long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $24 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

About the Public Design Commission
As New York City’s design review agency, the Public Design Commission (PDC) has jurisdiction over permanent structures, landscape architecture, and art proposed on or over City-owned property. The mission of the PDC is to advocate for innovative, sustainable, and equitable design of public spaces and civic structures, with a goal of improving the public realm and therefore related services for all New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs. The PDC comprises of 11 members who serve pro bono and meet monthly to review and vote on projects that are submitted by City agencies.  Members include an architect, landscape architect, painter, sculptor, and three lay members, as well as representatives from the Brooklyn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Mayor. When reviewing designs, the PDC considers an array of design parameters such as the unique history and context of the site, public realm impact, durability and resiliency of materials, and how to successfully achieve the desired function and programs so that the built project can best serve New Yorkers.