The Daily Dirt: City pushing Albany to speed up construction 

Measure would allow agencies to use CM-Build, progressive design-build

City Fights for Progressive Design-Build
if you need a caption it would be: Associate Commissioner's Alison Landry and Senator Leroy Comrie (City of New York, New York Senate Photo, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

The city wants to speed up construction on its capital projects. Will the state let it?

For years, the city has pushed state lawmakers to allow it to use alternative construction models that promise to slash project timelines and costs. That effort has culminated in a bill now before the state legislature.

City officials are making a final push to get the measure approved before the legislative session ends this week. Sponsored by Sen. Leroy Comrie and Assembly member Edward Braunstein, it would authorize the use of “construction manager build” and “progressive design build.”

The latter is similar to design-build but consolidates the selection process into a single step based on qualifications, rather than just price. With CM-Build, a construction manager joins the project during the design phase.

As the environment for ground-up development remains tepid, private builders view public projects as a way to keep busy.

Last week, I got a close-up look at the kinds of projects where the city envisions using these tools.

I toured two major renovation projects on the Lower East Side, led by Alison Landry, the city’s chief infrastructure officer, and representatives from the Department of Design and Construction. They highlighted missed opportunities to save time using CM-Build on a $24 million renovation at the Nuyorican Poets’ Café and a $13 million renovation at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center.

State law largely restricts city agencies to design-bid-build, a cumbersome process in which the city awards separate contracts for each stage and the construction contract goes to the lowest bidder.

In 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to add design-build as an option for select projects. Contracts for both the design and construction phases are awarded to one integrated team in a two-step process. Today, it’s being used to build an education center at a NYCHA campus in Gravesend, Brooklyn, designed by Studio Gang. Design-build is also being used for a jail in Lower Manhattan.

Each tool is optimal for different projects, Landry said. Design-build is best for new construction, and progressive design-build for complex infrastructure projects. CM-Build can ease renovations, granting construction managers a peek behind the walls before the design is finalized.

Proponents argue that CM-Build could save the city 18 months per renovation, or more than 22 years for each of the 15 cultural projects it’s completed on the Lower East Side in the past decade.

The renovation at the Nuyorican, at 236 East Third Street, will add an elevator, classrooms, performance spaces and offices, and meet ADA requirements. It’s expected to be completed in spring 2026. In the meantime, executive director Caridad De La Luz said, the organization is hosting programming at partner organizations.

Caridad De La Luz in front of the Nuyorican’s old bar. (Photo by Elisa Muyl)

Next, the tour took us into the basement of the 1890s school building that houses the Clemente at 107 Suffolk Street. The renovation, expected to finish next summer, will add an elevator, reconfigure the interior and make the space ADA-compliant. It’s being completed around the building’s current tenants, artists-in-residence, who will be temporarily displaced during key stages of construction.

Using CM-Build could have saved time by including the construction manager in the planned phasing to reduce disruption to the artists, and to identify issues like a rusted support beam in the building’s basement. If caught early, work to secure the beam could have been included in the project’s scope of work. Instead, it requires a change order, which will extend the timeline.

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Alternative project delivery models can get technical, and it can be difficult to explain to lawmakers why the city wants to expand beyond “low-bid” models.

“Every time we go up to Albany, we see all the other people in the hall that are there for hundreds of other issues,” Landry told me. But, she added, “we’ve done a lot of educating, and we think we’re really close. Now it’s just getting the bill to pass.”

What we’re thinking about: The city padlocked more than 200 unlicensed cannabis shops last month. Have you worked with, leased to or know of any? Send a note to elisa.muyl@therealdeal.com.

A thing we’ve learned: The auction for six development sites that are part of the second phase of the megaproject Pacific Park (formerly Atlantic Yards) has been bumped to July 23, according to a representative for developer Greenland USA. The auction was originally slated for Jan. 11, but has been repeatedly postponed. — Kathryn Brenzel 

Elsewhere in New York…

— Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday indefinitely paused the implementation of congestion pricing, just 25 days before it was supposed to start in Manhattan. She said that she was concerned that the program would discourage people from driving to offices, opting to instead work remotely. Sources told Politico, however, that Rep. Hakeem Jeffries urged Hochul to stop congestion pricing because it would hurt Democrats’ prospects in several key House races this year in New York.

— Meanwhile in New Jersey, as everyone was distracted by the congestion pricing shocker, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a controversial bill that will change the state’s Open Public Records Act, New Jersey Monitor reports. One of the biggest concerns cited by critics was a provision in the bill involving “fee-shifting.” Previously, when someone sued a government entity over a denial of access to public records and won, the government would have to pay the requester’s legal fees. The new law says public entities must pay the winner’s fees only if the court finds the entity issued a bad-faith or unreasonable denial, or knowingly violated OPRA. Critics believe this will deter news organizations and individuals from taking public entities to court and could embolden agencies to deny requests.

Closing Time 

Residential: The priciest residential sale Wednesday was $6.35 million for a 4,000-square-foot condominium unit at 255 East 74th Street in Lenox Hill. Victoria Shtainer of Compass had the listing.

Commercial: The largest commercial sale of the day was $10.3 million for a 9,650-square-foot multifamily townhouse at 5 East 10th Street in Greenwich Village. 

New to the Market: The highest price for a residential property hitting the market was $18.5 million for a 5,425-square-foot condominium at 30 East 85th Street on the Upper East Side. O’Shawn Samir Vogan and Nile Lundgren of Serhant have the listing.

Breaking Ground: The largest new building application filed was for a 30,200-square-foot, eight-story commercial building at 217 Canal Street in Chinatown. Shiming Tam of SM Tam Architect filed the permit. — Matthew Elo