Your Job is Approved! Well Maybe it Isn’t!

By Austin Regan

As the 421A tax abatement deadline approaches, the DOB has been prioritizing the approval of the new building applications identified as 421A eligible. The HUB especially has been trying to accommodate the industry by scheduling extra appointments and finding ways to work with applicants approve jobs that may be missing items that are normally required for approval. In most cases, the last items that are missing for approval are approvals from other City Agencies like DEP or the Transit Authority.

The DOB is extremely reluctant to waive these items entirely until sign-off because of the critical nature of these approvals. A building can never be occupied unless DEP has approved the proposed sewer connection. Thousands of commuters schedules can be disrupted and lives endangered if TA is aware of, and approving of the excavation methods that will be used next to a subway line.

DOB’s reluctance to waive these item to allow a New Building Permit to be issued has much to do with the limitations of their computer system. When a new building permit is issued there is no way to restrict or limit the extent of the work that can be done under that permit.

With good planning and early starts, the majority of 421A projects have gotten all of their agency approvals in order, and approvals are coming every day. Unfortunately, the limited DOB computer we spoke of above is throwing an unexpected curve in the process of going from New Building Approval to New Building Permit.

While the HUB approves jobs, one must apply at the specific Borough office for the Permit. Yet the initial request for the New Building Permit at the Borough office has been consistently denied. The reason – the Borough’s computers say the job is not approved while the HUB’s computers say it is.

There is a fix, but it must be done by the DOB’s central Data Entry unit and only a limited amount of staff have the knowledge and/or authorization to fix it. The problem gets fixed but it can take a number of days and with two weeks left until the 421A deadline, the days are obviously limited.

It takes several forms signed by many different consultants in order to get a Permit. It is imperative that owners ensure that all consultants are in a position to provide signatures, insurances and licenses immediately.  The process of requesting that the DOB fix this problem cannot start until the initial Permit request is made.

The DOB was recently granted additional money in their budget to upgrade their computer capacities. Hopefully this glitch will be one of the many to get fixed.