Marianne Schaefer in Building Operations on February 13, 2019
The unfunded mandates keep coming for co-op and condo boards. The latest addition to the growing pile can be summed up in half a dozen chilling words: Parking garages are the new facades. That is, parking garages will soon require periodic inspections by approved engineers, followed by a schedule of maintenance and repair – just like building facades under Local Law 11, now known as the Facade Inspection and Safety Program.
New York State passed a law last year requiring regular garage inspections. New York City is currently in the process of adding specifics about these mandatory inspections to the building code. For now only one thing is certain: more work, and more expenses, are on the way for boards and building owners who are responsible for the upkeep of their parking garages.
“What the state did – we call it the Rule – is a model code for any garage in New York State,” says Kathleen Needham Inocco, a principal at Midtown Preservation Architecture & Engineering. “It is the minimum requirement that everybody has to adhere to, but the state is leaving it up to local governments that are responsible for the enforcement. New York City will possibly set stricter requirements. Right now the city is in the process of modifying this Rule to conform with standard city requirements. We’re waiting for the final requirements to come out.”
While the state law requires garage inspections every three years, the city is considering something a little different, according to Needham Inocco, who is on a committee that periodically reviews changes to the building code. “Assessment reports might have to be filed every six years,” she says. “But an engineer must establish an annual observation checklist. Somebody who is competent – not necessarily a licensed engineer – must walk through the garage and go through the checklist on a yearly basis. If there is any significant deterioration of any conditions noted on the checklist, they are supposed to report it to the Department of Buildings (DOB).” Much like Local Law 11, the assessments will result in a classification that the garage is either “safe,” “safe with repair and/or engineering monitoring,” or “unsafe.”
Stephen Varone, president of RAND Engineering & Architecture, is also on the city code review committee. He notes that another similarity between Local Law 11 and the new law is that garage inspectors will have to be approved by the DOB, much like the Qualified Exterior Wall Inspectors who examine facades every five years. “It’s not just that the owner has to look around,” Varone says. “The city will review and inspect engineers, and then there will be a list of approved structural engineers who will be allowed to do these inspections.” Only engineers will be deemed qualified to file these reports, and they will have to demonstrate relevant experience in the assessment of concrete structures and garages.
The new state law requires that the first inspection report has to be submitted by October 1, 2019 for garages built prior to 1984. “This deadline does not apply to New York City,” says Varone. “People here will not have to comply with this deadline.”
Needham Inocco adds that the city’s finalized Rule might be several months away. “Modifications to this section of the building code (AC3) are still open and pending further revisions,” she says. “It then needs to go to the city’s legal department for review, then through several committees, and ultimately to the city council.”
So it’s a matter of when, not if, co-op and condo boards will be adding a new mandate to their workloads. And figuring out a way to pay for it. “It’s going to have a big impact,” Needham Inocco says. “There are lot of garages in this city.”
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