NYC Department of Buildings Services Q & A with Alexis Peseau
Design 2147 CEO Sisto Martello recently spoke with Alexis Peseau, Design 2147 Vice President of Operations, about recent changes at the NYC Department of Buildings and the code/zoning and expediting world in New York City. Here are some of the important takeaways from the conversation.
Q: Post-COVID, the Department of Buildings has basically gone completely virtual except for a few services. Can you tell me what systems they have put in place? And how are they working?
The short answer is yes. Everything is virtual, whether it be with DOB NOW, HUB, Borough, etc. As with any change to a system as massive as BIS/DOB NOW, there will always be growing pains. And I think everyone in the industry experienced them the same way we did. Now that we are a few years into the DOB NOW era, I certainly think it was a change for the better. We can request temporary BINs, file an NB or fit out, pull a permit, or request an LOC from the same portal. If you think about it, it’s pretty incredible, considering that all of these tasks used to be done in person at different windows and floors. We can do it all by clicking a new tab on the DOB NOW portal. Instead of calling 311, we can make a plan exam appointment right in the job screen. Unless there’s an IT issue or glitch, we just request through the DOB NOW portal or the appointment website. When that doesn’t work, we can still use the old-fashioned PER-11 request (which does take a bit longer). Our access to the plan examiners has certainly increased,
The review times have improved in some cases but become longer in others (for example – determinations are 4+ months out).
Q: My understanding is the Department of Buildings is providing a one-on-one service with developers and owners to have a team assigned to their project from beginning to end. Can you tell me how this works? And what is the fee for the program?
Yes, the DOB launched the Major Projects Development Program (MPP) in September 2022. Based on our experience, it’s been a fantastic program to be part of if you have a project that complies with the requirements and that’s willing to pay the fee. Essentially, the MPP is a new voluntary program created by the Department to facilitate large and complex development projects. Taken directly from the DOB website, the program includes:
- “Dedicated project coordination and guidance services for large and complex development projects from before filing to final signoff and Certificate of Occupancy (CO)
- Pre-development consultations to provide validation on project scope, compliance, schedule, and enforcement resolution
- Single point of contact and internal coordination between DOB units provided by a project advocate
- $50,000 enrollment fee ($25,000 for Affordable Housing projects) upon MPP acceptance by the Department”
Eventually, DOB expects to expand the kinds of projects eligible for MPP, but initially, projects will be limited to:
- New Buildings at least 20 stories or 500,000 construction square feet
- Enlargements of at least an additional 20 stories or an additional 100,000 square feet
Q: Have we at Design 2147 used this program, and what do our clients think of this new concept and service?
Based on our experience, it’s been a fantastic program to be part of if you have a project that complies with the requirements.
Q: At Design 2147, we often get asked: How long are the Plan examinations for an ALT C of O or a New Building?
That was a loaded question. The answer is that it depends. There are a number of factors at play:
- Is the plan set being submitted adequate for review (meaning is it a review-worthy set)?
- Who will be assigned as your plan examiner?
- What is their backlog?
- Is your examiner computer savvy?
According to DOB estimates, comments are expected to be released within 10 business days of the submission and assignment of a project. That was accurate in the early days of DOB NOW, but we are now experiencing more like 3-4 weeks (longer for a complex project). Further, keep in mind that if you are submitting portions of the project at different times (i.e. S1, S2, S3), there’s a possibility that you will have different examiners assigned and several sets of objections to address. This has happened less and less, though, as we are making sure to flag the projects for the appropriate departments very early, allowing them to be assigned to a single reviewer.
Q: Are the appointments readily available, and how has the approval time been shortened, and if so, what do you think the major reason is?
Yes, appointments for the ALT CO and NB applications have been available in the DOB NOW system unless there’s an IT glitch or issue. Similar to what I just mentioned, it really depends on the examiner’s availability. Some of the newer examiners have availability for the next day, while others may be a month or more out to see. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason, but I have to believe it has to do with the types of complex projects some examiners have, which certainly require more review time.
Q: Looking into 2024, are there any systems being implemented at DOB that we should be looking out for, or any other changes coming?
I think we are going to see more and more programs implemented as they relate to climate change and doing what we can as a City to combat climate change. LL 97 specifically.
We are also going to see a growing number of projects entering the Office Conversion Accelerator program, with the goal of fast-tracking office-to-residential conversion applications to address ongoing office vacancies and create new housing for NYC.