DOB launches digital plan review system

<i>Related files one of the first applications for a residential tower at 500 West 30th Street </i>

From left: Related’s Bruce Beal speaks at the launch of the new DOB development hub and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and DOB commissioner Robert LiMandri give a demonstration of the new software

Related Companies Executive Vice President Bruce Beal made an appearance this afternoon at a Department of Buildings event announcing a new system for reviewing building plans. Filing an application for a residential tower at 500 West 30th Street, Beal was one of the first to use the new system.

Called the NYC Development Hub, the new platform aims to accelerate the approval process for construction projects by allowing architects and engineers to submit plans and resolve issues digitally. DOB employees will be able to video conference with applicants while simultaneously reviewing their plans online, the department said. Other city departments, such as the Landmarks Preservation Commission and City Planning, will set up their own miniature hubs so they can participate in the process.

These changes could cut delays in the construction of large-scale projects by almost half, Beal told reporters.

“This will make projects happen much faster,” he said.

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The slow, bureaucratic process by which developers’ construction plans have previously been approved has long been a thorn in the side of the DOB, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was in attendance at the launch and gave reporters a demonstration of how the new system works.

“We have all heard horror stories about delays in the construction process,” Bloomberg said, “but those delays, we think, are going to be reduced dramatically, from months, to minutes… No more endless back and forth, no shuffling between agencies.”

Headquartered at 80 Center Street, the Hub is equipped with televisions, smart boards, webcams and desktop computer tablets, the department said.

“This is night and day in terms of how we’ve been functioning,” said Stephen Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, who also attended the event. “My members are planning significant jobs… and they’re anxious to be using this.”

Bloomberg said he views the new system as a triumph of his third term as Mayor of New York City.

“People say to me, ‘What are you doing in the third term?'” he said. “It’s this kind of stuff that’s going to make the difference in the long term.”