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DOB chief says he's cutting the red tape.

In an address to members of the New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM) on October 27th, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Buildings (DOB), Stewart O'Brien maintained the DOB is making quantum leaps in cutting through and reducing red tape by initiating legislative changes; automating functions; and revising operating procedures.

O'Brien oversees a department which is responsible for the safety of 60,000 elevators, and 110,000 boilers, the review of 45,000 construction plans each year for zoning and code compliance and issuing 11,500 licenses in 15 different trades. The Department also assures the structural integrity of New York City's 800,000 buildings, responding to 35,000 annual safety complaints, issuing 12,000 certificates of occupancy and inspecting 60,000 jobs filed by electricians.


Historically, two agencies, DOB and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), had joint custody for boiler inspections in the City. Local Law 62/91 eliminated the redundant activities of the two agencies giving the authority to the DOB. The benefit for building owners and managers is that inspections and report submissions can be made at their convenience, as long as the boiler passes inspection, and the certification is submitted by December 31 of the inspection year.

The potential for violations is greatly reduced because the big problem for the inspector -- lack of access -- is eliminated. Also, any boiler problems detected during the inspection can be repaired prior to the submission of the annual certification.


Another inspection modification is the reduction in mandatory elevator inspections from six in two years (four City, two private) to five in two years (City inspection is reduced to three). The City Council agreed with the DOB that this reduction would not impact negatively on public safety and would reduce costs to owners and managers. In the fall of 1990, the responsibility for adjudicating elevator inspections was moved from Criminal Court to ECB. This accomplished two things: it provided some relief to the overburdened Criminal Court system and provided a mechanism for building owners and management to avoid a hearing and accompanying fine if they corrected the violation and submitted proof of this to the DOB within 30 days of issuance.

Automation Cuts Waiting Time

Eleven months ago, the DOB automated the Certification of Occupancy (C of O) inspection process and has been able to reduce the turnaround time from two weeks to one day. Plumbing inspection appointments have been computerized as well enabling the DOB to significantly reduce turnaround time from three weeks to one. In addition to public access terminals in borough offices, the DOB offers a subscription service that enables the user to access records from their offices by way of a PC and modem link.

Currently, the Building Code allows certain kinds of plumbing work that costs under $7,500 to be filed by a plumber, not an engineer or architect. Realizing this limit is an outdated standard, the DOB has been trying to convince the City Council to raise the ceiling to $20,000 since 1990.

The DOB has an annual revenue of $42 million with expenditures of $32 million. the DOB's staff has been reduced from 1,000 to 750 over the past five years. Accordingly, the DOB has submitted legislation to the City Council that would create a non-profit Building Services Corporation (BSC) which would function under the operating control of City officials. With approval of this legislation, the DOB would delegate much of its plumbing operations while retaining the right to issue violations, summonses, licenses and stop work orders. The BSC corporation would become selfsupporting by the fees that are part of the plumbing plan review and inspection process.
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Title Annotation:Acting Commissioner of New York, New York Department of Buildings, Stewart O'Brien addresses New York Association of Realty Managers
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Nov 24, 1993
Previous Article:Lawyer changing with the times.
Next Article:Elevator strike settled.

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