Council to Vote This Week on Legislation to Increase Safety with More Stringent Site Monitoring Requirements Local Law to Expedite Restarting of Stalled Construction
Brooklyn – City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Council Members Dan Garodnick, Gale Brewer, Letitia James, and David Yassky today announced the Council will vote this Wednesday to adopt legislation allowing developers to quickly restart stalled construction sites by agreeing to increased safety standards while construction is suspended. The legislation will create a new program through the Department of Buildings in which participating builders will be required to notify the Buildings Department when work has stalled and to develop and submit a detailed safety monitoring and inspection plan to ensure the site is secure.
Developers participating in the new program would be allowed to renew building permits at stalled sites for up to four years, as long as the program’s safety requirements are met, providing a significant incentive to participate in the program and increase safety at stalled sites. Permits at stalled sites often expire, forcing developers to start the permitting process from the beginning after new financing is secured, which delays restarting construction and depresses economic activity.
The Speaker, Council Members, and community residents made the announcement at 150 North 12th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the site of a new building application for a 7 story, 39 unit apartment building. Work at this location was stopped in January 2009 during the foundation stage. The property owner has been diligent in maintaining the site in a code compliant manner.
“This week the Council will take action to address unwanted quality of life effects that accompany stalled construction projects scattered in neighborhoods throughout our City,” said Speaker Quinn. “If these sites are not properly maintained, they can become safety hazards to residents and even havens of criminal activity. Our legislation will require enhanced site maintenance while construction is halted and allow projects to avoid delays when economic conditions improve.”
“No one is served by half-built structures and unsecured construction sites,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “This law will make these sites safer, improve the neighborhoods around them for local residents, and ensure that opportunities for economic development are not lost while we weather this storm.”
“Property owners have a responsibility to maintain their job sites in a safe manner, regardless of whether construction is ongoing or stalled,” said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “This new legislation will encourage them to better safeguard their stalled sites so they can resume work quickly once financing is secured and complete their construction projects, which will benefit the City’s communities and its economy. I would like to thank Speaker Quinn and the City Council for supporting this bill.”
“Stalled construction sites expose a community to increased risk of illegal trespassing, rats, improper postering and various other quality of life concerns,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “Incentivizing permit renewal through safe site planning will increase the City’s awareness of ongoing development and neighborhood tranquility.”
“Even during difficult financial times, residents deserve safe, well-maintained construction sites,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin. “Too often, that doesn’t happen. This bill will ensure that it does.”
“New construction is often positive, but not if it becomes an eyesore,” said Council Member Letitia James. “Abandoned projects shouldn’t become a neighborhood’s problem. This legislation will ensure developers respect the neighborhoods in which they build.”
“My district has been hit with a high concentration of stalled construction sites,” said Council Member David Yassky. “I applaud this legislation as way to not only ensure development can resume quickly once funding becomes available but also as a way to protect our neighborhoods from the hazards that accompany stalled job sites.”
Under the legislation, the safety monitoring plan required for developers to participate in the program must include: proposed measures for preventing access by unauthorized persons and monitoring such measures; schedules for inspecting equipment on the job site; details for implementation of fire and building safety measures required to protect New Yorkers and first responders; and any other provisions the Department deems necessary to ensure safety at the stalled site.
Currently, construction permits expire and become invalid if the work authorized by the permit has not begun within 12 months of permit issuance or if work is suspended or abandoned for a period of 12 months. Further, if work is suspended for a period exceeding two years, a developer may not be able to achieve any reinstatement of the permit. By agreeing to the increased safety standards, developers can avoid the delays and negative consequences of permit expiration. Participating developers can have permits renewed for two two-year cycles.
“This bill will at least partially address a problem that every outer borough community has experienced,” said Council Member Lewis A. Fidler. “To the extent that it serves the dual purpose of incentivizing proper safe and aesthetic maintenance of the site, and a faster completion of work, it is a win win for communities.”
“Stalled construction sites are growing in number as the impact of Wall Street’s economic crisis is felt on neighborhood street corners,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This legislation will confront the problem of neglect at stalled sites and will position New York for increased job growth when projects are ready to restart.”
“Abandoned or unfinished construction projects can quickly undermine the quality of life in any of our city’s neighborhoods,” said Council Member Annabel Palma. “This bill is a great accomplishment in that it not only permits developers to more easily resume stalled construction projects, but it encourages improved safety measures at these sites as well.”
Inspectors from the Department of Buildings have identified 541 construction sites across the five boroughs that are inactive. The Buildings Department regularly inspects the stalled sites and developers are required to immediately address any safety issues that arise from the lack of activity, such as deteriorated fences, damaged safety netting or loose construction debris. Developers who fail to maintain safe conditions on their job site are subject to violations carrying penalties as high as $25,000.