City program to ease permitting at stalled sites gets few takers

Only a handful of developers who own the nearly 600 stalled construction sites in New York City are participating in a city program in which developers maintain their sites in exchange for an extension of their building permits, Robert Limandri, commissioner of the city’s Department of Buildings, said this morning.

Owners of a dozen sites out of the 572 stalled sites the city is tracking are in talks with the city, Limandri said.  

“We are working with about 12 different sites that are in the process of getting approved [for the city program],” he said. But he expected that number to rise in the next four months as the developers come up against the expiration of their permits.

Limandri was speaking on a panel of industry experts in Midtown sponsored by the trade group, the Greater New York Construction User Council.

Under DOB regulations, a site that is stalled for 12 months must reapply for its permits. But that is seen as a particularly difficult task in the current downturn because there was a rush to get projects in the ground under the now-outdated building code that was revamped in 2008.

If a developer does not join the program and its permits expire, it will have to reapply for the permits under the new 2008 building code, which would be difficult and costly because the new permits would have to adhere to the new law.  

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The city began tracking stalled sites in February 2009 to keep tabs on whether the locations were being maintained safely. In October, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation that gives developers up to a four-year extension on their permits in exchange for the developers’ maintaining their sites and crafting a site safety plan.

Limandri noted as well that more than two-thirds of the stalled sites are considered dangerous locations.

“Basically 40 percent are… in what we would consider an immediate hazardous concern where we are pushing the developer or the owner or the bank to do something,” he said.

The city is offering the incentive to extend the permits, but will punish property owners who do not maintain their sites.

“What we want to see is movement and we want to see a good faith effort. If we don’t see a good faith effort from the city’s perspective we will declare an emergency and if it is an immediate emergency we actually [declare it]. And we all know how much that costs,” he said, alluding to costs to make the site safe again.

But among the total number of 973 sites that either still are or were classified as stalled, many now are moving forward, he said.

Of those sites, 76 have since been completed and another 286 are in progress, Limandri said.

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