Preserving the New York City Skyline An Architectural Challenge

New York City's skyline is like none other and has a blend of classic and modern architecture that defines itself as one of the world's greatest cities.

Beset by the vagaries of weather and age, though, even the finest brick, limestone, sandstone, brownstone, glass or marble can fall into disrepair. In February of 1980, New York City passed Local Law 10 to promote public awareness to the importance of maintaining, restoring and preserving the city's architectural treasures. Local Law 10 mandated a visual examination at least once every five years of a building's exterior under the supervision of a licensed architect or licensed professional engineer on behalf of the building's owner.

The architect or engineer then was required to submit a written report to the Department of Buildings (DOB) including documentation of any unsafe conditions, and the owner had to begin repair work right away. According to the DOB, Local Law 10 specifically excluded exterior walls set back more than 25 feet from the street and/or any paved pedestrian walkways, plazas or play areas routinely used by the public; walls above the sixth story that were set back more than 25 feet from the wall below; exterior walls more than 25 feet on either side of a paved walkway at right angles to a building's walls that were used either for occupant or service portion egress; and buildings that had an ongoing exterior wall maintenance program acceptable to the DOB.

However, by the end of 1997, after several tragic events—including the death of a 16-year-old student hit by a falling brick and a collapsed office building wall on Madison Avenue—city officials were compelled to pass Local Law 11 in March 1998 as a replacement to Local Law 10. Local Law 11 was a lot more stringent.

"The first major change under Local Law 11 was that all façades of the building had to be inspected," explains Alan Epstein, PE, MSCE, Esq., a licensed professional engineer, attorney, and president of Manhattan-based Epstein Engineering PC. "This meant that both the time and cost of the basic Local Law 11 inspection were going to be greater than under Local Law 10."

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