Where NYC real estate starts on an index card

The Real Estate Finance Bureau has yet to digitize and is stuffed to the gills with paperwork

TRD New York /
May.May 11, 2014 01:00 PM

 In the increasingly high-tech world of real estate, it may be surprising to learn that every new development in New York City starts on an index card in a filing cabinet – typed out, until very recently, on a typewriter.The Real Estate Finance Bureau of the New York State attorney general’s office processes most new residential real estate projects across the state from its cramped 23rd-floor office in the Financial District, according to the New York Times.

The bureau’s index cards include information, such as the developer’s name, type of development, number of units and the legal counsel. The office also files paper proposals submitted by developers, which are often as large as 500 pages — not to mention supporting documents like amendments, supplemental drawings and legal notes.

And although the bureau is drowning in paperwork — it is forced to ship 100 boxes a week upstate — in its small office, very little has been done to digitize the process.

“The number of trees that I am responsible for killing as a result of my practice is tremendous,” Stuart Saft, a partner of the law firm Holland & Knight, told the Times. “I’ve increased my volume of materials by fivefold in the last two years, but the attorney general hasn’t had the opportunity to increase their staffing fivefold. It takes time for them to respond to a sudden and dramatic increase in the market.”

Last year, the office saw 661 new projects worth nearly $20 billion, a sharp increase from 2011 and 2012. [NYT]Christopher Cameron


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