New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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Permits needed to work on buildings
Common permits granted by the New York City Department of Buildings for repairs are discussed, as well as permits needed for work on land marked buildings or buildings in historic districts.
I'm on the board of a large cooperative on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We plan to undertake several repair projects over the next few years, including rebuilding the parapet and replacing the balcony doors and windows. In addition, I'm planning renovations to my own apartment, which will require removing a wall between closets. Which type of projects will require permits and what kind will be needed?
The most common permit required for repair and maintenance work is issued by the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB). According to DOB, a permit must be filed for any work that involves "public safety and health, the structural integrity of the building, new structural loads, new anchorages," or a number of other items under the city's building code.
More specifically, DOB lists nine categories of exterior work (e.g., masonry, doors/windows, stone/terra cotta restoration), each with specific repair items (e.g., brick repointing, sill replacement, patching spalls or cracks) and whether they require a permit. Demolishing and rebuilding a parapet, for example, requires a permit, whereas replacing balcony doors and windows does not (assuming the existing masonry openings aren't modified). DOB provides a complete list of filing requirements for the different types of exterior repair work at www.nyc.gov/html/dob. (Click on Resources, Policy, and Procedures, TPPN 1999, and finally #1/99.)
Repairs or alterations done inside the building also often require DOB approval. Some examples of interior work that need a permit include cutting away any portion of a wall or floor; removing, cutting, or modifying any beam or structural support; and removing or rearranging piping. Most large interior projects, such as installing a boiler or upgrading the electrical system, fall into one or more of the above categories. But even a small job, such as your plan to remove a partition between closets, involves cutting a portion of a wall and would therefore also require a permit.
If your building is a designated landmark or in a designated historic district, you will also need to get approval from the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) before undertaking most repair work. Any exterior work that requires a DOB permit will require an LPC permit, as well. However, even if the DOB does not require a permit (say, for a window project), you still may need LPC approval if the work will alter the exterior appearance of your building. Basic maintenance work on LPC-designated buildings, such as replacing broken window glass, repainting (the same color as existing), or window or door caulking, does not require LPC approval.
For interior work in LPC-designated buildings, the commission's approval is required if a DOB permit is needed, if the changes will affect the exterior of the building, or if the building's interior has been designated an interior landmark. A more detailed explanation of which kinds of work items require LPC approval can be found on the commission's web site at www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/lpc/html/permit.
Although DOB and LPC work permits are the most common ones needed for the vast majority of exterior and interior projects, other types of permits are also sometimes required. Permits for sidewalk sheds, equipment use, signage, place of assembly, and scaffolding, as well as permits issued by the Department of Transportation sometimes come into play, depending on the type of project. In such cases, the engineering, architectural, or contracting firm hired for the job will be able to guide you through the intricate web of building regulations.
Rand Engineering has been providing integrated engineering and architectural services to the co-op and condo community since 1987.
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