City Planning Department speeding up building approval

Administration seeks to lower construction costs and push affordable housing

From left: Carl Weisbrod and building construction
From left: Carl Weisbrod and building construction

New York’s Department of City Planning has been quietly implementing changes to the building approval process in a bid to reduce the time between submission and certification. In doing so, the city hopes to reduce building costs and free up funds for affordable housing.

The agency will no longer require that projects meet every demand before beginning the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Process, Carl Weisbrod head of the department, told Crain’s. Weisbrod said the city has already begun implementing the new policy.

The move marks a shift from the Bloomberg era, when builders complained that nitpicking held up construction and inflated costs, according to Crain’s.

By reducing higher costs associated with longer approval windows, Mayor Bill de Blasio could demand developers use the savings to build more affordable housing in residential projects, reports Crain’s.

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The administration is aiming to further improve the process by beefing up City Planning staff, clarifying standards and expectations and tracking the agency’s performance in terms of advancing projects.

Experts told Crain’s that building the department’s capacity and speeding up pre-certification are the key elements. The agency is adding 31 positions, a 13-percent increase in manpower. [Crain’s]Tom DiChristopher