Permits Have Their Own Timetable

By Austin Regan

There was a time when the hardest part of the DOB process was getting an approval. Times have changed – now the most difficult stage of the job is obtaining a permit.

Most new buildings that we file today are usually submitted two to three months later than when we advise in order to meet targeted construction commencement dates. In order to obtain approvals for new buildings, approvals from other City Agencies are always required. Agencies such as Landmarks, TA, CPC, BSA and others may need to supply their approvals prior to DOB issuing their approval. Two agencies that must provide approvals on all new building filings is the Forestry Division of the Parks Department (for street trees) and DEP for sanitary and storm drainage. Both of these agencies are notoriously slow.

The HUB allows the issuance of permits limited to foundation operations while DEP and Parks approval is still outstanding. Most developers are opting for the limited foundation permit especially with the 421A deadline looming. The items that are required to obtain such a permit have turned the normal bidding and awarding of sub-contracts related to the construction of a new building on its head.

Developers and their construction managers must now finalize contracts with special inspection agencies much earlier than in the past. Due to the way the DOB computer system is set up, all required special and progress inspection services must be in place at the time of the initial foundation permit.

A standard required item for any high rise new building is the procurement of the permit for permanent or temporary standpipe. While the Code only requires a working standpipe when the building reaches 75 feet, the computer insists that the permit be in place prior to the foundation permit being issued. The TR-3 form for Concrete design mix is also required at the time of initial foundation permit. The job may call for 3 months of excavation before a drop of concrete is poured but since the TR-3 requires the signature of the concrete supplier, that sub contract obviously needs to be finalized months earlier than actually needed.

Excavation and foundation logistics often require occupying sidewalks or roadway lanes. Those permits will not be granted by DOT unless a new building meeting is scheduled. Logistics drawings are required to be submitted before a meeting will be scheduled. The lead time for that meeting is 4-6 weeks.

In theory some of these requirements might be eligible to be waived for a foundation or earthwork permit. The problem is, especially with HUB jobs, that it is not always clear who has the authority to waive items. The HUB only does approvals. The individual boroughs do permits and approvals but they treat HUB approvals differently than the approvals they grant in the boroughs.

It is best not to count on items being waived. The smart developer will start lining up the proper consultants and sub-contractors early so the delay from approval to issuance of permit is minimized.