The maddening building permit process has led officials at the Department of Buildings to announce a new digital system that Mayor Michael Bloomberg says will save time and provide a boost in construction. NY1’s Josh Robin filed the following report.
For as long as anyone remembers, getting the right permits to construct a building in the city has required reams of paper, hours standing in line, and maybe some quirky storage sites for back-up documents, in case the city lost the originals.
"We were told that there was a men's room at the buildings department in which they kept files in the roof. They would take down a tile and put the files in there," said Steven Spinola of the Real Estate Board of New York.
Now, developers are substituting .pdf files for papers. Waiting for a teleconference has replaced waiting in line.
"This state-of-the-art operation can, in the case of new projects and major alterations, accelerate the approval process from months to minutes," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"The difference is now by doing it virtually. No one has to leave their desks. Therefore, no train ride, no standing in line, no waiting," said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri.
Almost half a million construction plans were submitted last year.
Representatives from the firm Related Companies estimate that the procedure will cut the permitting process in half.
"We're interfacing directly with the building department through web-based, and at the same time, they're coordinating with other parts of the city, so that means the fire department to review our sprinkler plans, as well as DEP to look at connection with the utilities and the other public works," said Bruce A. Beal, Jr., of Related Companies.
Having everyone tapped in won't stop all disagreements, of course, but officials believe by linking everyone up, it will drastically cut down the time it takes to resolve them.
Getting everyone on the phone can be time consuming, too, though not as bad as getting everyone in the same room. Expeditors, who stand in line to help developers through permitting, also stand to lose business.
However, with the economy faltering, Bloomberg is demanding that construction roadblocks come down, though he’s aware of a flip side to moving too quickly.
Still, the mayor predicts that the city may soon no longer accept anything that isn’t submitted digitally.