Buildings and Construction

DOB Getting $120M Overhaul

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler (Photo: Michael Nagle/for Commercial Observer).

Less than a month after announcing a new initiative to help stalled construction projects get back on track, the city’s Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler is doubling down with a plan to “fundamentally reform the agency to enhance public and worker safety, slash wait times and delays and modernize all aspects of the agency to meet the needs of a 21st century city,” according to highlights of a DOB report being released today.

The department will receive an infusion of $120 million over four years which will allow for 320 new positions. Read More


DOB to Streamline Construction App Process

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler (Photo: Michael Nagle/for Commercial Observer).

The city’s Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler today announced a new initiative to help stalled construction projects get back on track.

That includes setting up a streamlined system in each borough to work with builders on site problems, according to the DOB. The goal there is to remove the time-consuming task of multiple trips to different agencies throughout a project’s life cycle. Read More

Buildings and Construction

Residential Construction Permits Climb in 2014


When a building goes up, just about everything else does, too.

The number of residential units approved per year has steadily risen over the last five years, carried by the outer boroughs where the demand is higher, according to a New York Building Congress report released today. While residential construction is only expected to climb in response to an affordable housing demand, the numbers are still well below pre-recession levels. Read More

Buildings and Construction

DOB Overwhelmed by Construction Demand

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler (Photo: Michael Nagle/for Commercial Observer).

The Department of Buildings‘ review of new building plans has slowed to a crawl because the city agency is getting buried under an avalanche of permit applications.

According to the most recent agency performance report from the Mayor’s Office of Operations, when it comes to new buildings it is taking the city’s DOB nearly twice as long to complete the first plan review, which is the period from the complete submission of the application to the date the plan examiner is able to issue a decision upon the submitted plans. That process has risen to an average of 15.7 days in the fiscal year to date compared with 8.5 in the previous FYTD, the data indicate. Read More

Guest Column

A Dangerous Lower Standard

According to the FDNY, 2014 will be recorded as the busiest in the firefighting agency’s now 150-year history.

Because there can be zero margin of error when life is on the line, it’s no wonder the New York City Building Code has historically maintained rigorous minimum safety standards for contractors, builders and landlords. This has been especially so for those in charge of constructing and maintaining the gas, steam, water and waste supply lines that enable New York’s high occupancy buildings to remain safe. Read More

Law & Order

50 Arrested Following Building Inspection Investigation

DA Cyrus Vance, Jr.

Sixteen city employees, including two Department of Buildings bureau chiefs, and 34 others were charged in connection with bribery cases today, investigators said at a press conference announcing the 26 indictments filed in New York and Kings Counties.

“50 corrupt city officials and businessmen allowed building construction to go forward despite serious hazards,” said Mark G. Peters, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation. Read More

The Sit-Down

Commissioner Rick Chandler on His Second Stint With the Department of Buildings

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler (Photo: Michael Nagle/for Commercial Observer).

Most of New York City’s 8.4 million residents are able to sleep at night rest assured their roofs will not collapse and their children’s school will not crumble thanks to the New York City Department of Buildings. Commissioner Rick D. Chandler is responsible for the day-to-day operations of this organization, ensuring that the five borough’s 975,000 buildings and properties are safe and secure. Mr. Chandler, a professional engineer, was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last July; since assuming the position the following month, he has collaborated with other government agencies to advance the mayor’s agenda on universal preschool and affordable housing while simultaneously propelling his own department forward by streamlining and utilizing technology. Actually, Mr. Chandler was no stranger to the DOB; he had served as a borough commissioner of Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx for the department from 1995 to 2002. Most recently, he had been the assistant vice president of facilities at Hunter College. Read More

Buildings and Construction

Queens Tops Charts for NYC Construction Permits in 2014

A photo from Norman Towers.

In 2014, Queens was issued the highest number of full-building demolition and new building permits, according to New York City Department of Buildings data provided to Commercial Observer. The data showed that Queens obtained 643 new building permits and 575 full building demolition permits last year. This is an increase from 2013, when the borough was issued 593 new building permits and 510 full demolition permits.

“Development throughout the city has been encouraging as can be seen from the issuance of construction permits,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler. “In Queens alone, over this past year there has been a combined increase of over 20 percent in issuance of new building and demolition permits, key indicators of continuing development. This can be attributable to a number of factors including city growth, and is certainly aided by the mayor’s affordable housing initiative.” Read More

Wrecking Ball

Manhattan Bed & Breakfasts Face Extinction

Manhattan BnB owner Anne Edris in her Avenue C BnB, which has recently been forced to close. (Emily Assiran)

“You can do this now, or we can come back later,” a representative from the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement Task Force said to Anne Edris, owner of East Village Bed & Coffee, a bed and breakfast in the East Village, who had just opened the front door. It was three days before Thanksgiving, at 8:30 a.m., and Ms. Edris, with a house full of guests behind her, asked the Task Force, which included a police officer, firefighter, and Department of Buildings employee, for a warrant. They informed her it would only take four hours to return with one, so she cooperated.

Ms. Edris let them into her small licensed operated facility, where she has run a business for the past 16 years, and hosted more than 60,000 guests, with over 50 percent repeat customers. She pays state, city, and hotel occupancy taxes for her business, and provides a unique neighborhood experience for world travelers. Swept up in legislation passed in 2010, designed to eliminate short-term rentals and illegal hotels in residential or single-room-occupancy buildings, Ms. Edris, along with many other legal B&B owners, were suddenly rendered illegal when the law was enforced in July 2011. Read More

Green NYC

DOB Commissioner, Real Estate Leaders Push Greener Buildings

Rick Chandler

A day after the People’s Climate March drew hundreds of thousands of activists and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to cut the city’s emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, city Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler promoted the plan at an Urban Green Council conference for architects, engineers, environmental advocates and real estate industry leaders.

During the conference’s keynote, the former Hunter College administrator and DOB borough commissioner spoke specifically to property owners among the conference’s 130 attendees who will see buildings starting at 25,000 square feet subjected to the same retrofitting and auditing requirements as buildings of 50,000 square feet or greater under the Administration’s plan. Read More

The Lobby

Mayor Nominates BSA, Landmarks Commissioners

Bill de Blasio.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has nominated Margery Perlmutter as commissioner of the Board of Standards and Appeals. Adi Shamir Baron and John Gustafsson were also nominated as commissioners of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The nominations have been submitted to the City Council for final approval, according to a release issued by the Office of the Mayor. Read More

Real Estate and Politics

Mayor Taps Rick Chandler as DOB Commish [Updated]

Bill de Blasio.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has named Rick Chandler as the commissioner of the Department of Buildings and believes Mr. Chandler will make DOB a “truly customer-friendly agency,” he said while announcing a series of appointments at City Hall.

The mayor said that too many New Yorkers are “not having a good experience with DOB,” and added:  “We aim to change that.” Mr. Chandler will assume the role around July 28. Read More

Going Green

Green Group Warning Against Glass Towers

High Cholesterol Buildings

The nonprofit Urban Green Council, a coalition of architects, buildings owners and construction companies, released a new analysis entitled “High Cholesterol Buildings” calling for changes to building regulations that they say would cut down on glass towers’ high energy use, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend.

The New York affiliate of the LEED-certifying U.S. Green Building Council wants to correct what it calls a “loophole in our energy code” that allows building owners to trade mechanical upgrades for energy-sapping exteriors as part of its mission of advocating for greater efficiency in the city’s buildings. Read More

Green Building

City Department of Buildings Sustainability Chief Hails Energy Incentive

Gina Bocra of the Department of Buildings

The head of the city Department of Buildings’ greening efforts heralded a massive efficiency payout for building owners in a speech this morning in front of energy industry insiders at a Con Edison Solutions forum.

Gina Bocra, the agency’s chief sustainability officer, hailed a Con Ed and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority incentive called the “demand response program” that presents building owners with big checks to go with their energy savings in exchange for cutting back on usage and installing new technology. The only catch is that owners have to install the fully-operational equipment by June 1, 2016. Read More


Sam Chang’s Hotel ‘Promise’ to Rise in Midtown West

Sam Chang. (Credit: Wired New York)

Sam Chang will reportedly commence work on an 80-room Comfort Inn or Days Inn at 337 West 36th Street as part of a pledge to give his business associates a stake in a hotel before he retires.

Mr. Chang’s McSam Hotel Group could start construction on the 18-story lodgings in Midtown West as soon as six months from now after filing plans with the city last week. Read More