Owners of buildings whose facades fail to fulfill safety rules now face harsher penalties under New York City's Facade Inspection and Safety Program, or Local Law 11 facade.
The regulation was changed on Feb. 20, after an architect was killed by falling rubble from a Manhattan skyscraper in December. They included additional sanctions as well as more stringent inspection and paperwork requirements.
If an owner is charged with breaking the city's administrative code, which includes a potential penalty of $25,000 and a year in prison, the latter might happen under an already existing legislation.
According to Hoffman Architects Inc.'s communications manager, Alison Hoffman, the firm highlights the following in a piece of client advice sent ahead of the amendments taking effect: • Failure to produce an approved inspection report now carries a civil penalty of $5,000, a fivefold increase.
• Owners who file late face a $1,000 monthly penalty, which is four times the preceding monthly punishment.
• Owners who fail to repair harmful situations face a $1,000 monthly penalty, as well as a monthly fine for each linear foot of sidewalk shed, which begins at $10 per linear ft of shed per month after the first year and rises to $40 per linear ft each year after that.
• A penalty of $2,000 is imposed for failing to rectify a "safe with a repair and maintenance program," or SWAMP, condition from a prior "cycle" of the statute such that it must now be filed as unsafe under the current standards.
Penalties for Violation
The New York City Department of Buildings, Local Law 11 Contractors NYC, on the other hand, did not wait for the revisions before enacting tougher penalties for violation.
It started issuing emergency declarations in January, requiring owners to repair unsafe building facades and allowing the city to deploy its builders to install scaffolding—and then tax the property owner.
Even yet, non-compliant owners will face additional challenges as a result of the reforms.
According to Frank Scanlon, a CTA Architects colleague, "the updated guidelines would undoubtedly result in a greater cost for owners of impacted properties." "There are extra scaffold drops necessary, as well as potential probes that may require filing depending on the wall type." Penalties and fines are imposed.
The increased need for close-up physical scaffold checks of outside walls, which owners or their agents must now undertake at intervals of 60 feet throughout the length of a facility, is one important change, according to Scanlon.
Close-up inspections cannot be replaced by drones, high-resolution pictures, or other techniques of checking external wall problems.
Additional criteria linked to the expertise and duties of experienced external wall inspectors, who must be able to recognize potentially harmful facade problems, are also mentioned by the director.
While the penalties have garnered the most attention, Director claims that the fines are "insufficient" for the city's wealthiest residents.
"The sanctions must be so severe that building owners lose sleep over the threat of having their bank accounts emptied if they fail to comply with the law promptly," the attorney argues.
Scanlon, on the other hand, praises the balancing act of the revised Local Law 11 Contractors.
He said, " in a city with tens of thousands of buildings all requiring inspection and a limited pool of competent inspectors and contractors who can provide the requisite rigging or other access within the mandated timelines and deadlines, there is a balancing of what can be done practically." The architect asserts that "rules and laws could always go further."
Almost every co-op and condo board member, as well as the board manager, is now aware of Local Law 11 inspections. The law, as well as its predecessor, Local Law 10, was adopted to construct building by facade restoration contractor which is safer for pedestrians below.
Local Law 11 presently applies to around 12,500 buildings in the city, including condominiums and cooperatives.
Local Laws 10 and 11 were driven by tragedy, as were many other laws and regulations. After a Barnard College student was murdered by a piece of terra cotta that fell from a building in May 1979, then-Mayor Ed Koch enacted and signed Local Law 10 into law in 1980.
Under that rule, the facades of buildings with more than six stories had to be inspected and certified as safe every five years by a professional engineer or architect. Serious flaws had to be fixed, and the structure had to go through another inspection.
Other mishaps later led to efforts to strengthen Local Law 10, including the death of a 16-year-old student struck by a falling brick, a parapet collapsing in the back of a building, and a shower of debris falling from an office building on Madison Avenue. Local Law 11 was issued in 1998 as a result.
According to Wayne Bellet, president of Manhattan-based Bellet Construction Inc., one of the primary differences between Local Law 10 and Local Law 11 was that under Local Law 10, only the front façade and side walls up to 25 feet from the street had to be inspected. On the other hand, under Local Law 11, all of the building's facades must be assessed.
One more difference between LL10 and 11 is that under Local Law 10, facade inspections didn’t even have to be done from a scaffold—they could have been done as a “visual inspection” from nearby, with binoculars or a telescope.
Under LL 10, an architect or engineer could also choose to inspect conditions from a building's exterior fire escape. Under Local Law 11, that all changed.
Under Local Law 11, there are various problems about which buildings must be inspected. Buildings with more than six stories above the basement are subject to the law.
There's a difference between a "basement," which is more than half above grade level, and a "cellar," which is 50 percent or more below grade level and not counted as a story, according to architect David May of Manhattan-based SUPERSTRUCTURES Engineers + Architects.
Broken down in a cycle:
Inspections under Local Law 11 are organized into cycles. The seventh cycle of Local Law 11 is now underway. Inspections for Cycle 7 began on February 10, 2010, and will end on February 21, 2013.
However, unlike in the past, this cycle has been divided into three staggered sub-cycles, with buildings being identified and assigned to one of these sub-cycles based on the final digit of their block number (as in "block and lot number").
According to May, the second sub-cycle began in February and will end in August 2012. If this sounds complicated, go to the SUPERSTRUCTURES website's Local Law 11 section to learn more.
The use of "carryover" conditions from prior inspections is another way that criteria have been strengthened. “Buildings could carry over the same laundry list' [of issues that had to be rectified] every time,” adds Varone, assuming a situation wasn't strictly harmful. Conditions might be classified as “safe,” “unsafe,” which stands for “Safe with a Repair and Maintenance Program” in Local Law 11 lingo.
When an actually hazardous (as opposed to administratively) issue is detected during an inspection, the DOB will dispatch its own inspector to investigate. The inspector will still issue one or more DOB violations even if repairs are in process and proper safety measures are in place.
These citations, according to the SUPERSTRUCTURES website, are primarily intended to track cases and encourage speedy repairs. Environmental Control Board (ECB) breaches that are more serious generally result in court appearances and penalties, which are inconvenient for building managers or officials. If a DOB inspector discovers that repairs are not in progress and necessary precautions are not in place after reinspecting a dangerous condition.
Remember the Law:
The majority of the time, building managers is encouraged to address issues discovered by contractors and inspectors as soon as possible. “While the contractors were there [performing a Local Law 11 inspection], we bid on a new roof, which was needed, and also inquired for a quote for a roof deck,” May, who is also president of his own 215-unit co-op in Midtown, recalls. We ended up with a code-compliant façade, as well as a roof and roof deck.” Because the co-op didn't have to pay for another rigging team to go up to examine the roof for the repair and deck project, it ended up paying less.
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