Stalling for Time: ‘Stalled Buildings Bill’ Soon to be Law?

In June, a bill was introduced in the City Council that aims to address the numerous stalled construction sites dotting the City’s landscape. The bill would give developers an opportunity to extend their building permits for up to 4 years, if they enter a site safety and maintenance program.

The bill, Intro 1015, was introduced by Manhattan City Council Member Dan Garodnick. It is co-sponsored by several other Council Members and is supported by Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Buildings. It would allow for owners of sites where construction is temporarily suspended to enter their developments into a new safety and maintenance program administered by the Department of Buildings. Currently, there are approximately 400 sites that could benefit from this program. The program would require that property owners submit a detailed safety monitoring and inspection plan. The plan would have to ensure the prevention of access to the site by unauthorized people, create a schedule for site inspections by the DOB, and any other provisions put forth by the DOB Commissioner, once the legislation passes and is in place.

The program’s key benefit is the ability to renew permits. Under current rules, permits lapse on a site where construction has been suspended for 12 months. A site that enters the proposed new program and remains in “good standing” (we understand this to mean meeting the safety and inspection requirements) will have the ability to avoid a lapsed permit for up to 4 years.

This is a major benefit to developers and property owners. The Building Code has recently been revamped and many of the 400 stalled sites obtained permits under the old Code. Entering this program will allow them to avoid losing the permits obtained under the old Code and subsequently having to obtain new permits that meet the new Code, perhaps requiring redesigning aspects of the building.

Additionally, it is time-consuming to obtain new building permits. Losing building permits can also lead to even more problems: obtaining additional financing could be challenging, the zoning could change, the area could become a historic district.

Intro 1015 was introduced in June. It was referred out to the Committee on Housing and Buildings. The Committee held a hearing on September 21st. DOB Commissioner LiMandri spoke in favor of the proposed legislation, as did some real estate and construction organizations. A few neighborhood groups spoke in opposition. The bill was laid over and will be heard again at the Committee level at a yet to be determined date.

Stay tuned…