City moves forward with first design-build contracts

Jail projects to use streamlined bidding under authority granted by state last year

Rendering of the 124-125 White Street jail (Courtesy of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice; iStock)
Rendering of the 124-125 White Street jail (Courtesy of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice; iStock)

Nearly a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law granting it design-build authority, the city’s Department of Design and Construction has taken the first steps to using it for its most controversial projects.

The department announced Wednesday that it has selected three companies to bid on the construction of a jail in Lower Manhattan: Gilbane Building Company, Leon DeMatteis Construction and Plaza Construction. The facility is one of four planned by the city to replace Rikers Island and represents the first major city-led design-build project.

Design-build combines the architectural and engineering work of a project with the construction, allowing a team to bid for a single contract. The method is touted by supporters as a way to speed up projects and keep costs down.

In late 2019, Cuomo signed into a law a bill that allows Design and Construction — along with the School Construction Authority, New York City Housing Authority, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation, Department of Parks and Recreation and Health + Hospitals — to award design-build contracts.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday how far along the other agencies are in pursuing design-build projects. In March, NYCHA issued a request for qualifications for centralized waste and recycling facilities at multiple housing developments. The School Construction Authority is not currently advancing any design-build projects and real estate acquisition is largely paused at the moment, a spokesperson for the agency said.

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The state law requires city agencies to compile a short list of contractors that have “demonstrated the general capability to perform the design-build contract.” Those selected are then able to respond to the agencies’ request for proposals. The contract is subject to project labor agreements, requiring union labor.

The city is moving forward with the Manhattan jail despite a state Supreme Court judge’s order last month halting the project. Neighbors United Below Canal and other community groups had sued the city, claiming that its community-based jail program required further review.

At a City Planning Commission meeting earlier this week, city representatives said the ruling was being appealed and wasn’t expected to meaningfully disrupt the timeline of the project.

Last year, the city tapped a joint venture between AECOM and Philadelphia-based Hill International to oversee the development of the Manhattan jail, as well as three others planned in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn. The facilities are expected to be completed by 2027, collectively cost $8.7 billion and house 3,300 people.