On September 14, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams and Buildings Commissioner Eric A. Ulrich announced two initiatives to refocus the Department of Buildings on providing improved customer service and supporting economic recovery.
Mayor Adams and Commissioner Ulrich launched the “Adams Commission,” a 90-day commission enlisting stakeholders from city government, labor, industry, and the nonprofit sector to produce a comprehensive blueprint of structural recommendations. These stakeholders include the Urban Green Council, School Construction Authority, NYC District Council of Carpenters, Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York, Port Authority, NYC Housing Authority, and the Queens Chamber of Commerce. For the full list of Adams Commission participants, click here.
Over the next 90 days, the 64 member organizations will meet with Buildings experts and formulate recommendations to improve the agency. These recommendations will focus on eliminating complicated practices, regulatory hurdles, and inefficient workflows. The Commission’s efforts will culminate with a formal report to City Council and Mayor Adams, which will be made available to the public.
City Council Member Pierina Sanchez, who chairs the Housing and Buildings Committee, praised the new commission, stating, “The Department of Buildings is tasked with keeping 1 million buildings safe in our city, while promoting safe conditions for workers on construction sites, yet its tools for interfacing with industry and members of the public are outdated and too often inaccessible. This commission will provide long overdue feedback to improve the structure and output of the agency.”
Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson added, “The ‘Adams Commission’ will create the structural improvements needed as 70 industry groups and organizations convene over the next 90 days to review and provide recommendations in areas that include the permitting process, enforcement operations, emergency and complaint response, audits and professional certification programs, sustainability programs, and more.”
New Customer Service Units
Buildings also took immediate action by creating two new customer service units, the Major Projects Development Unit (MPDU) and the Small Business Support Team (SBST). The new teams will accelerate project timelines, providing dedicated services and ensuring that Buildings applications avoid unnecessary snags.
Since Mayor Adams took office, Buildings has launched multiple initiatives to enhance customer service, such as extending in-person service hours at borough offices, reinstating in-person plan examination appointments for construction projects, and committing to significantly reduce small business overregulation. The SBST and MPDU are now fully staffed and operational, helping troubleshoot project issues, get small businesses running, and streamline the development process.
Major Projects Development Unit
The MPDU is dedicated to assisting with tower developments, significant enlargement projects and new builds, and other complex projects deemed eligible by Buildings. The first-come, first-served initiative is currently accepting a limited number of enrollment applications through the DOB NOW portal.
The MPDU will provide one-on-one consultation services for developers of major projects throughout the development process, improving safety and efficiency by:
- increasing collaboration at all stages of a project
- helping construction start safely, and
- avoiding expensive work stoppages that draw out construction timelines.
Small Business Support Team
The SBST is dedicated to handling project applications and inquiries from NYC small businesses. Entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to open a new place of business or renovate an existing one can receive individualized guidance from dedicated SBST plan examiners and project advocates. These SBST employees will focus on reviewing and approving projects for construction needed to open more small businesses. Dedicated SBST inspectors will also work directly with small businesses to reduce wait times for critical development-related inspections.
Buildings has updated its existing online application portal to automatically funnel all small business projects to the SBST. This means small businesses can receive the benefits of this new program at no additional cost and without having to file a separate application.
Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin Kim stated, “Mayor Adams has set a paradigm shift in motion to ensure city government is a true partner to small businesses. SBS is excited to work together with [Buildings] and all our sister agencies to put small businesses at the forefront of our economic recovery.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso also praised the new customer service offices, sharing, “Challenging the status quo and aiming to make constituent processes more efficient and goal-oriented should be a priority for all elected officials and city agencies.” Reynoso feels that the “newly launched Small Business Support Team and Major Projects Development Unit are examples of this mindset.”
Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi: “The 90-day commission and new service centers tailored to both large and small projects will bring much-needed customer perspective to all [Buildings] processes without ever sacrificing our lifesaving safety standards. These changes will improve response times and remove unnecessarily complex regulatory hurdles to get shovels in the ground – and projects off the ground – efficiently and safely.”
Buildings Commissioner Ulrich: “When Mayor Adams appointed me as commissioner, he told me to look under the hood of this agency and get to the bottom of what wasn’t working . . . With this new commission and these new customer service units, we are announcing the official start of a wholesale rebuild to the way we do business.”
Mayor Adams: “Now is the time to change what it’s like to do business with the Department of Buildings and make this agency run more efficiently. New Yorkers deserve an agency that prioritizes customer service and safety at the same time, all in service of moving our city forward.”
By: Cassidy Strong (Cassidy is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)