NYS Seal




The Effectiveness of the Regulation of Construction and Development in New York City and the Enforcement of the Building Code and Compliance with the Zoning Resolution


The purpose of this hearing is to explore the powers, duties, obligations, and accountability of New York City's regulatory system for construction, development, and zoning enforcement.

New York City
Thursday, September 7, 2006
10:00 AM
Assembly Hearing Room
250 Broadway, Room 1923
19th Floor

There has long been public concern about the effectiveness of New York City's regulatory system for assuring construction and building safety and for preserving the integrity of the Building Code and the Zoning Resolution.

Low interest rates have created a construction boom in New York City in the past few years, and development pressures have never been greater. Construction accidents and building collapses are reported regularly, and local communities express frustration with developers and contractors who flout building and zoning rules. The practice of self-certification of building plans by architects and engineers without a DOB plan examiner's approval has led to abuses of the Building Code and Zoning Resolution that may go unchallenged. While the New York City Department of Buildings has been attempting to strengthen its performance through the new 311 system, its BIS website, physical layout improvements to its offices and emphasis on staff integrity, questions remain about the City's capacity to enforce its building and zoning laws.

In 2001, a Task Force appointed by former Mayor Giuliani recommended major overhaul of the enforcement system of the New York City Department of Buildings, the primary City agency responsible for construction, building, and zoning enforcement. More recently, the New York City Construction Industry Partnership and the New York State Trial Lawyers Institute have documented the existence of a "scofflaw" construction industry operating in parallel with law-abiding construction and development firms. In addition, the New York City Council has been holding hearings about the effectiveness of the Department of Buildings and related enforcement agencies.

The health and safety of the public in New York City is a matter of State concern. Notwithstanding some improvements in the performance of the Department of Buildings, there remains intense public concern about construction and zoning-related law enforcement as development pressures in the City continue to surge. This public hearing will explore the powers, duties, obligations, and accountability of New York City's regulatory system for construction, development, and zoning enforcement.

Please see below for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony.

Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes duration. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. Two copies of the prepared testimony should be sent to the committees a week in advance of the hearings.

In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committee's interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

James Brennan
Member of Assembly
Committee on Cities
Joseph Lentol
Member of Assembly
Committee on Codes
Vito Lopez
Member of Assembly
Committee on Housing


  1. What is the current backlog of complaints and violations? How are complaints, violations and enforcement actions prioritized, categorized and imposed? How many hazardous violations of the building code are outstanding and what is their status?

  2. How often and in what circumstances does New York City enforce the Building Code and the Zoning Resolution through more aggressive tools, i.e., criminal court actions, padlocking, tax liens, and what are the dispositions of such actions? Is staff at the DOB and related agencies sufficiently trained to prepare court-worthy evidence to support such enforcement measures?

  3. What reporting systems exist for construction activities, building safety, and zoning compliance, and how can they be improved? What information is required of the NYC DOB and related agencies in the Mayor's Management Report and is that information helpful to the public in evaluating the performance of these agencies?

  4. Is there a central reporting and investigations system for accidents and injuries to persons and property related to building, construction and demolition safety?

  5. What external notice, review, and monitoring systems exist for construction and development activity, and when are they triggered? When and under what circumstances are adjacent property owners, community boards, and elected officials notified of construction activity and zoning issues, and when are they authorized to review, comment upon or approve such activity? Should review and approval powers of entities outside DOB be changed or expanded?

  6. What is the current system of protections and remedies for adjacent property owners and the public regarding construction, safety, and zoning complaints? When and how are the NYC DOB and related agencies required to respond to such complaints? Does current law adequately protect adjacent properties?

  7. What is the current law and practice regarding the availability of construction plans to the public? Are there differences in the availability of plans during different phases of construction, i.e., applications, permits, plan amendments, etc.? How can this system be improved? Does current practice protect the public interest and the public's right to appeal?

  8. How does the current DOB system ensure document integrity?

  9. Are DOB policy and procedure notices applied consistently?

  10. When are DOB objections and audits available to the public and under what circumstances? When and within what timeframe must the DOB respond to public questions and objections to applications, plans, and amendments? How often are public objections to plans filed? How many result in audits? How many result in revocations?

  11. How are meetings between architects/engineers/expediters/developers and DOB staff logged and documented? What record of these meetings is available for public review?

  12. How frequently are completed buildings denied certificates of occupancy? What are the remedies for Zoning and Building Code noncompliance upon completion of construction, e.g., when buildings are overbuilt? How much time are owners given to correct noncompliance?

  13. What is the current status of the New York City self-certification program by architects and engineers? Does self-certification allow excessive noncompliance with the Building Code and Zoning Resolution? What is the status of disciplinary reviews for abuse of self-certification privileges by the New York City DOB and the New York State Department of Education? What are DOB's guidelines and threshold for distinguishing between jobs that needed revocation and jobs that were permitted to continue? When plans fail audit review, does this trigger disciplinary review?

  14. Should self-certification be abolished and/or restricted? If so, what additional resources would NYC DOB need to review construction plans? Should DOB and/or the New York State Education Department or other government bodies be given additional licensing authority over various participants in the construction industry, including architects, engineers, expediters, contractors, developers, and others?

  15. How frequently are Zoning and Building Code issues implicated in Attorney General's reviews and acceptances of co-op and condo plans? How frequently are issues involving certificates of occupancy litigated by the Attorney General's office?

  16. How frequently are DOB decisions brought to the Board of Standards and Appeals? How often are DOB decisions overturned by the BSA?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Deborah Stevens
Legislative Associate
Assembly Committee on Cities
Room 520- Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
(518) 455-4363
(518) 455-5182 Fax

box I plan to attend the following public hearing on The Effectiveness of New York City's Regulation of Construction and Development and Preservation of the Integrity of the Building Code and Zoning Resolution to be conducted by the Assembly Committee on Cities, the Committee on Codes and the Committee on Housing on September 7, 2006.

box I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to 10 minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement.


I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

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