New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
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Your job is only as fast as your paperwork.
You have a great deal of experience dealing with the New York City Department of Buildings. The bureaucracy must be maddening.
If you think about all the components in a building, there's a lot going on that has to be dealt with. And they’re not the only bureaucracy we have to deal with. Sidewalks and roads are handled by the Department of Transportation; sewers are handled by the Department of Environmental Protection; you have the Landmarks Preservation Commission involved in historic exterior construction work; and you have to deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority if your building is anywhere near a subway. So the DOB is just one component of many.
So you have to deal with a bowl of alphabet soup. How do you cut through all that red tape?
I started my own expediting service. Years ago, even when it was a simpler time, paperwork was onerous. And I would have to use a third party to handle all my paperwork to get into the DOB or to any of the other agencies I just mentioned. And this middleman caused delays. There's paperwork lost, signatures had to go through that person before they came to me. So I set up my own expediting service in order to manage it in-house. And it's worked out really well. I've got three top-notch people working in that department alone.
You have a staff of three people just expediting the paperwork for your projects?
That's correct. And it's gotten so now we're doing other people's projects as well. Contractors have contacted us to renew their permits, to renew their insurance, to pull permits for them. And so I guess you could say that the city’s bureaucracy has spawned an industry. That used to be the old saying, but it's gotten even more complex with the DOB.
New regulations keep coming every year. Just this year, the DOB tightened the facade inspection requirements. Don’t you, as an engineer, have to keep on top of these changes?
Yes, we do, and also the issuance of violations. In my world of facade work, the DOB is shooting for zero defects. And so they send inspectors out, and they issue violations to the building about certain conditions they see. And it requires a professional engineer to clear these violations. So again, the fact that I have an in-house expediting service helps our clients stay in compliance with the DOB.
During the coronavirus pandemic, you must be cutting way back. Have you secured all of your projects to shut them down for the duration? Or are some jobs still active?
Well, the projects are shut down, and they get inspected once a week by the contractor to make sure everything's still stable. But we're not doing any site visits or site inspections. Right now, the expediting work that we're doing is renewals for permits that are expiring while everybody's shut down. And we’re clearing out what we call certificates of corrections, properties that got violations. We can do these things online.
So even though the actual physical work has just about dried up, the paperwork has to keep moving?
We can move some of it, yes. The DOB has been proactive in establishing online services. So as far as shuttling large drawings down to the DOB, a lot of that we're sending in electronically. So that's worked out well. I'm not sure how it's working on their end, but they're getting our paperwork anyway.
Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments
Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise
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