The Real Deal New York

DOB considering “alternative options” to after-hour permits

For years, many have complained about the ubiquity of nighttime construction
By Kathryn Brenzel | March 22, 2016 04:32PM

DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler and 220 Central Park South

DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler and a construction site

Amid complaints of excessive nighttime construction, the Department of Buildings is assessing how it issues after-hour permits in the city.

The agency plans to evaluate how it approves variances for construction done “after hours” — defined as before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m. on weekdays or at any hour during the weekend, according to a DOB representative. The study will determine if there are any alternatives to the after-hour permits that won’t pose a safety risk.

“The majority of after-hour variance permits are issued as a pro-active safety measure for work that can’t be performed or would cause an unreasonable burden if done on a weekday during periods of high vehicular and pedestrian traffic,” Alex Schnell, a spokesperson for the DOB, said in a statement. “The department has begun a comprehensive evaluation of the after-hour variance issuance process to determine if there are alternative options that could be implemented without creating a danger to the public.”

In 2015, the agency issued a whopping 59,895 after-hour variances, a 47.3 percent spike since 2012, according to data provided by the DOB. Schnell said the DOB is in the early stages of the study and indicated that it wasn’t in response to the high volume of permits issued in the past year.

Residents and politicians have long railed how frequently the city grants after-hour permits, arguing that new restrictions should apply to the variances. Proponents of the permits have argued that the sheer volume of construction in the city necessitates the variances so that work can be completed when less people are around.

In 2014, Council member Rosie Mendez introduced a bill to set new standards for the permits, but the measure never made it out of committee. A representative for Mendez said that the bill is being amended and will hopefully be reintroduced before the end of the year. Details on the new bill were not immediately available. Council member Dan Garodnick, one of the bill’s sponsors, said that he and other Council members will “continue to hold the DOB accountable” and have asked the agency to set a deadline for the study’s completion.

“Nearly every Manhattan elected official called on the DOB to put down its rubber stamp and to start cracking down on unreasonable and illegal after hours construction,” Garodnick said in a statement. “Developers feel entitled to these permits because of lax oversight and enforcement, and the results are quite painful for our communities.”

Correction: The photo caption incorrectly stated the construction site was 220 Central Park South