Tuesday, June 14, 2011

385 building projects get fast green light

New city program to eliminate red tape in construction project approval process results in 52% jump in productivity; $262 million jolt of economic activity seen.

By Amanda Fung

The city Department of Buildings said Tuesday that 385 construction projects were approved last month under a new pilot program designed to speed up the process. In fact, the agency calculated that courtesy of the new program, 52% more construction projects were approved per hour compared to the traditional approval process.

The program dubbed “Get It Done. Together.” took place over 16 nights in May. At these sessions, Department of Buildings' five borough commissioners and representatives from six city agencies met with property owners, licensed architects and/or engineers and filing representatives to resolve project plans and examine projects for approval, a process that is usually complex and burdensome because it involves approvals from multiple agencies acting separately. The 385 approved projects are expected to generate $262 million worth of economic activity.

“More construction projects means more jobs, and that's what this new program is quickly accomplishing,” said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri, in a statement. “By bringing these government agencies together into one room for the first time, we've stripped away the typical back-and-forth that can serve as a roadblock for any construction project, and we're working closely with developers and designers so their construction projects can start as soon as possible.”

More than half of the approved projects are residential, according to the Department of Buildings. Out of all the projects approved, 49 are for new buildings, 56 are for major alterations to existing properties and the rest were for minor work. The new projects include a 100-unit residential building in Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn, and a 20-story apartment project in Richmond Hill, Queens.

During the 16-night sessions, officials from six city agencies—the Fire Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Department of Transportation, City Planning and the Department of Parks and Recreation—joined the Department of Buildings to provide on-the-spot approvals for smaller projects and answered questions about the process.

“Keep in mind that the safety regulations haven't changed, but we're changing the way we regulate—for the benefit of all New Yorkers,” Mr. LiMandri said.

According to the Department of Buildings, construction permits can be issued for the approved construction projects, and work can begin. However, whether these new projects have financing in place to go forward remains to be seen. A majority of the projects were in Manhattan and Brooklyn, with 150 and 114, respectively. Some 76 are in Queens, 29 were in the Bronx, and 16 were in Staten Island.

The pilot was so successful in eliminating the red tape and streamlining the approval process involved that it was extended during normal business hours in each of the Department of Buildings' borough offices earlier this month.

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