In Our Opinion
Oct 13, 2009 | 2377 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This week, the City Council passed legislation that would give developers who have half-finished construction projects languishing because of a lagging economy a four-year extension on their building permits, saving them from having to go through the lengthy permit process once they are able to get back to work.

In exchange, the city will require that the developer be proactive about keeping their stalled job sites graffiti and garbage free, and most importantly, safe for the site's neighbors.

The Department of Buildings estimates that there are approximately 550 construction sites across the city where no work is being done because lines of credit and financing have dried up thanks to the recent recession. The truth is that there are probably many more sites than that, as it is conceivable that many developers have allowed their building permits to expire and walked away completely from many projects – at least for the foreseeable future.

In fact, right next to the office of this newspaper, there are several construction projects in various states of progress. One developer tore down a one-family home last year, and hasn't been seen since.

These on-hold construction projects quickly become a blight on residential communities, and it's great that the City Council is doing something to try and address the issue. However, the fact of the matter is that developers already have a legal obligation to keep their construction sites clean and safe, and they can be fined up to $25,000 for failing to do so.

That's why it doesn't make sense to offer developers an incentive to do something that they are already legally mandated to do.

At a press conference announcing the legislation, Speaker Christine Quinn said that if you used the carrot-and-stick approach, there is very little “stick” available to the city. In other words, there isn't much the city can do as far as forcing developers to complete their half-finished projects. Undoubtedly, if a developer were able to finish and move on to the next project, they would gladly do so – each day they aren't working, they are losing money in carrying costs alone.

While it may be true that the city can't force a developer to finish the job, they have more than enough authority to make sure that developers are being responsible neighbors, they just have to enforce the laws that are already on the books.

While there may be some developers who will take advantage of this new program, we highly doubt that many developers in New York City are going to voluntarily accept more oversight from DOB, who will now have a record of the site, and – presumably – be checking on a regular basis to insure that the site is safe and clean.

If the Department of Building would enforce the law as it is currently written, there would be no need to entice developers with multi-year permits to do what they have a moral and legal obligation to do in the first place.

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