Building groups push to speed permit process

TRD New York /
Mar.March 25, 2010 03:17 PM

Construction and real estate industry organizations are in conversations with the city’s Department of Buildings to make the permitting and development process more predictable in the face of possible service reductions resulting from looming budget cuts, a trade group leader said. 

Building Trades Employers’ Association chairman and CEO Louis Coletti said DOB commissioner Robert LiMandri asked his organization and the Real Estate Board of New York to identify major priorities such as ways to improve the city’s processing of building applications. 

“A lot of the concerns we have is the department’s ability to respond quickly [during the permitting process], especially in an economic era where [it is likely] most city agencies are going to have less resources,” he said.  

He said he was looking for predictability similar to the Department of City Planning’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which has specific timetables for each step of the process.

“Predictability is critical,” he said, for developers trying to stage each process of development.

The industry has long complained of the cumbersome permitting process, and with an 8 percent cut to the DOB budget, included in Bloomberg’s budget for 2011– and a possible additional 7.2 percent reduction because of Albany’s financial woes — builders are bracing for less service for the development review and inspection process.

The DOB did not comment directly on the discussions, but said in a statement: “the Buildings Department is always looking at ways to streamline the permitting process and is open to any suggestions that BTEA and REBNY may have.” 

A spokesperson for the Bloomberg administration said there were no staff reductions at DOB called for under the 8 percent cut, but did not yet know what would happen if the additional cuts were included. 

Steven Spinola, president of REBNY, said at times members complain of slow approval of permits or waits for inspections. 

“The Buildings Department has to try to figure out how best to use its limited resources,” Spinola said. 

He added that the industry was concerned about the disparate way DOB regulations are enforced or prioritized around the city. 

“There are five different borough commissioners and their interpretations are a little different from [one another],” he said.

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