New rules could squeeze supply of construction superintendents

Developers, affordable housing groups concerned about future shortage


New rules for city construction sites kicked in this spring, and more dramatic changes are planned over the next four years.

As of June 1, a construction superintendent can only oversee five projects at a time, down from 10. If a project is 10 stories or more, superintendents are now limited to just that one.

The measure raises questions about whether there will be enough such professionals to go around, and whether affordable housing construction — which is already slumping — could be stunted further.

The restrictions will get tighter in 2024 and tighter still two years later. For now, data from the Department of Buildings suggest the change has yet to cause a shortage of supervisors.

At the end of August, there were 3,908 active construction superintendents in the city and 2,632 works sites that required them. According to an analysis by the agency this spring, before the rule took effect, 360 supers were attached to more than five jobs as primary superintendents. The average was three.

“These new regulations mean that the person responsible for safety on a work site will actually be on that site more often, in order to catch unsafe conditions and prevent potential accidents before they occur,” the agency said in a statement. “Due to the large number of safety professionals already registered … we do not expect the recent change to have a negative impact.”

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But in 2024, the definition of “major” buildings will go down to seven or more stories, and superintendents will only be able to work on up to three projects at a time. In 2026, superintendents will be limited to one project, regardless of its height. That could lead to more competition for superintendents.

Bob D’Alessio, director of construction code and safety at Cahill Strategies, said it is unclear whether there will be enough licensed site safety managers and coordinators in the future. Both licensees are required on buildings considered “major,” and the forthcoming changes will bring more projects under that designation.

Leading up to the measure’s passage, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing voiced concern about a future shortage of superintendents and called for an increase in the number of projects. NYSAFAH also found that on average, full-time site superintendents, safety managers and safety coordinators for a two-year construction project cost $500,000 for a seven- to nine-story building. That eats into affordable housing subsidies.

NYSAFAH and the Real Estate Board of New York had also called for the measure to allow temporary substitutes for construction superintendents who fall ill or are otherwise absent from a jobsite.

The changes to construction superintendents were approved by the City Council in November as part of a broader package of safety bills that included a measure requiring labor brokers to be licensed.

The restrictions are for primary superintendent roles; licensed professionals can still work on more projects in smaller roles.