How the city built libraries at $930 psf … and years behind schedule

Under bureaucratic city design agency, the construction costs doubled

Hunter's Point Library (Credit: NYC Dept. of Design & Construction)
Hunter's Point Library (Credit: NYC Dept. of Design & Construction)

A city agency designed to streamline capital projects actually doubled the cost of new libraries and cultural centers between 2010 and 2014, according to a new report.

The Center for an Urban Future, a nonpartisan think tank, just released a report that shows that the median cost of construction for these projects, when managed by the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), was $930 per square foot, the Wall Street Journal reported. The New York Building Congress estimates that speculative office construction usually runs between $425 to $500 per square foot. The median duration of these projects is seven years.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

“What starts out as a well-intentioned goal of saving the city some money, I think ends up costing the city money and significantly delaying the process,” Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, told the Journal.

The extra costs stem from the fact that these projects are subject to many additional reviews and approvals. Even small changes to these projects require approval from the city’s Office of Management and Budget, for example. Representatives for the DDC and Office of Management and Budget told the Journal that the department has improved since 2014. [WSJ] — Kathryn Brenzel