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Local Law 11: A Primer

Frank Lovece in Board Operations

New York City

It began as Local Law 10 of 1980, which required five-year inspections of the street-facing façades of buildings seven stories or higher. A revision, Local Law 11 of 1998, mandates the inspection of all façades, not just those facing the street, and requires scaffolding with each inspection; a report on the cause of any deterioration; and a timetable for repair. Buildings are then classified as "Safe," "Unsafe," or "Safe with a Repair and Maintenance Program" (SWARMP). A previous category, "Precautionary," was eliminated.

Until recently, amazingly, every building that needed façade repair had the very same deadline in the five-year cycle — the most recent being February 21, 2007 — to have filed its Local Law 11/98 inspection report with the Department of Buildings (DOB) and to have completed repairs. That meant that some 12,000 buildings citywide — most of them having put off repairs the way kids put off homework — were scrambling before the deadline to have architects, engineers, contractors and others finish up or even just start work.

Fortunately, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on August 2, 2007, signed into law City Council bill Intro 550-A/2007, authored by Councilman Dan Garodnick. This amendment to the city's administrative code "allows the buildings department to stagger the deadline for building owners to file façade-inspection reports," says DOB spokesperson Kate Lindquist. "The buildings department is working on a new rule, to be promulgated by 2009, that will determine the new filing deadlines."

"Instead of having all the buildings face the same deadline on the same day once every five years, the deadlines will be staggered for one-fifth of the buildings each year for five years," explains Rand Engineering & Architecture president Stephen Varone, who, with engineer Kathleen Needham Inocco, provided input to the DOB when it was considering the new program. The updated law "puts it to the buildings department on how best to implement it, whether it's by borough, by the age of a building, by block lot, whatever."

The change became formal law on July 1, 2008, with the DOB commissioner required to established staggered inspection cycles by January 1, 2009.

In the meantime, if SWARMP items from Cycle 5 (which ended in February 2002) were not corrected by the end of Cycle 6 (February 2007), then your building's architect or engineer will have to have automatically designated your building "Unsafe." Presumably, you'll applied for available extensions, up to a year's worth, and will have finished any mandated repairs by February 2008.

And for those intrepid board members who want to get a jump on Cycle 7, you get download the city's Local Law 11 Information Package at the DOB's Local Law 11, Cycle 6 page.

Adapted from Habitat October 2006 & October 2007. For the complete article and more, join our Archive >>

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