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“Crunch” Is Coming for Co-op and Condo Garage Inspections

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on August 9, 2023

New York City

Local Law 126, garage inspections, garage collapse, co-op and condo boards.

Jason Damiano examines compromised concrete in a parking garage (image courtesy Rand Engineering & Architecture).

Aug. 9, 2023

Jason Damiano has a word of advice for all co-op and condo boards facing mandatory parking garage inspections this year: circle Nov. 1 on your calendar.

That’s the absolute latest date boards can hope to hire a Qualified Parking Structure Inspector to inspect their garage and file a report with the Department of Buildings (DOB) in time to meet the looming Dec. 31 deadline. Under Local Law 126, all parking structures must be inspected every six years, and the city is divided into three two-year cycles. Under the current inaugural cycle, buildings on the Upper West Side and south of Central Park must file inspection reports by Dec. 31.

“We’re going to have a crunch at the end of the year,” says Damiano, senior structural engineer at Rand Engineering & Architecture and a city-sanctioned garage inspector. “It takes about eight weeks from the time a board hires an inspector until the report gets filed with DOB. With the year-end holidays, you should try to file by mid-December.”

Which means boards should get busy even before Nov. 1.

“Rand now has about a dozen inspections in progress,” Damiano says. “The ones I’ve seen, there are definitely repairs required, but I haven’t had to shut any of them down and notify DOB.”

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Under Local Law 126, much like the Facade Inspection and Safety Program (formerly known as Local Law 11), garage inspections will produce one of three results: Safe; Safe with Repairs and/or Engineering Monitoring (SREM); or Unsafe. A Safe rating means no work is required. If a garage is rated SREM, the board must make repairs before the start of the next inspection cycle, or the rating will automatically become Unsafe. If a garage is rated Unsafe, the affected areas must be shut down and repaired within 90 days.

Though boards might be inclined to put off repairs, Damiano advises against it. “If you do put it off,” he says, “it’s going to cost you considerably more because water will continue to infiltrate the surfaces.”

The cost of garage repairs, according to Damiano, can range from a few hundred dollars for replacing a missing railing up to six figures and even upwards of $1 million for major structural repairs. A chief cause of deterioration is moisture and de-icing agents that get into cracks in concrete, which can lead to spalling, corrosion of steel rebar, and a loss of structural integrity. Damiano advises his board clients that one way to avoid major repairs is to install a waterproof membrane on horizontal surfaces, which costs from $5 to $25 per square foot. 

“We recommend waterproofing as strongly as possible,” he says. “If you put a waterproof coating on surfaces, you can avoid having to do structural repairs in the future. You’ll be doing a maintenance program on the coating instead of a repair program on the structure.”

Last week a package of five bills was introduced in the New York City Council that seeks to tighten garage inspections after Local Law 126’s first cycle ends on Dec. 31, 2027. For now, Damiano thinks the city is headed in the right direction.

“I would say this law was overdue based on what I’ve seen in my inspections and what happened on Ann Street” — a reference to the parking garage collapse in Lower Manhattan in April that killed one person and injured five others. “I think it’s a good program. A lot of boards are going to have a rough time in the first cycle — there will probably be more garage repair projects in the next five years than in the past 20 years. But if they do the repairs, get a Safe rating and install waterproofing, they’ll save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.”

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