DOB Steps Up Temporary Place of Assembly Inspections

By Andrew Pisani

At an industry meeting on February 7, 2017, the Department of Buildings (DOB) addressed Temporary Place of Assembly Certificates of Operation (TPAs). These permits are designed to protect attendees of events in locales without a Place of Assembly Certificate of Operation (PA) in place.

TPAs are issued to non-typical public assembly spaces for one-time events where the expected attendance will be 75 persons or greater. Examples include the following:

  • A book store for a book signing
  • A retail store for a grand opening
  • A commercial space for a Fashion Week runway show
  • An outdoor concert (Note: Exterior locations trigger TPAs at 200 attendees.)

Like regular places of assembly, these temporary gatherings also need to comply with zoning regulations and fire safety compliance.

Unfortunately, the DOB has recently encountered life-safety issues at TPA sites when inspecting venues on the day of the event. As a result, the agency may now conduct inspections before issuing the TPA to ensure compliance.

In addition, the DOB reiterated that New Buildings will not receive TPA approval without a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) in place.

TPA Filing Guidelines

Before issuing a TPA, the DOB requires an application letter from a registered design professional that describes the proposed space and activity for the event, including signed and stamped drawings.

  • Timing. TPA applications must be filed at least 10 business days before the event. The DOB does not guarantee the approval of any requested TPA. (Remember, issuance of a TPA is a “privilege” granted by the DOB, with requests taken on a case-by-case basis.)
  • Fees. The minimum application fee is $250. If the application is not submitted at least 10 business days before the event, the fee increases $100 for each day after the 10-day cutoff. For example, submitting an application only six days in advance would incur an additional $400 charge. ($100 x 4 days late + $250 = $650)

Although the TPA process has typically been straightforward, requirements have become more stringent in recent years. The following issues can thwart a TPA application:

  • A New Building TCO cannot state “core and shell only”; it must say “retail.”
  • Properties cannot have a stop work order, either partial or full.
  • A building cannot have an open ECB violation for “work without a permit” on the affected floor.
  • Buildings with elevator violations may not be issued TPAs above street level. (The commissioner may request a letter from the elevator company confirming that the violation has been cured and the elevator functions safely, that they are waiting for official violation dismissal.)