The past year has seen a lot of changes in the codes governing New York City's buildings, both inside and out. Rules covering lead paint, carbon monoxide detection, and construction permits have been introduced or revised, and it's up to board members, property managers, and individual shareholder/ owners to take responsibility and educate themselves about the changes.
Thousands of people working for the city's various governmental agencies make it their business to know and enforce all the rules and regulations, the changes, and the addenda to New York's building codes. The two main agencies of concern to New York City developers, contractors, managers, and boards are probably the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Both are large organizations that oversee hundreds of thousands of buildings, and work to clarify and enforce the laws that govern their safe operation.
"We employ about a thousand people," says Patricia Lancaster, Commissioner of the DOB. "We have jurisdiction over every one of the 950,000 buildings that comprise New York. We issue about 99,000 building permits every year, and we conduct about 350,000 inspections--so we're a little busy."
The other main government agency, the HPD, has a few fewer buildings under its governance, though the organization is just as vital to the fabric of New York City life as the DOB. Harold Shultz, special counsel to the HPD commissioner, puts it this way: "The DOB is responsible for making sure that all buildings in the city is constructed properly, and that those structures and major subsystems are properly maintained. The HPD, on the other hand, is basically responsible for the 590,000 or so residential buildings, to make sure they are being properly operated and maintained pursuant to the plans that were filed and approved by the DOB. DOB makes sure that every residential structure built has a boiler in it or some form of heating--but it's my responsibility to make sure that the boiler gets turned on when it gets cold outside."
Both agencies have been particularly busy this year, getting the word out and educating shareholders, owners, board members, and property managers about changes to several of the local laws and ordinances governing multi-family housing here in the city. Ignorance of updated laws is no excuse when the inspector pulls out his citation book, so having the latest information at hand is vital to any responsible board-management team. To help out with this monumental task, the DOB has been taking major steps toward streamlining the way it processes business--among them the improvement of the department's website, www.nyc.gov/buildings, where you can find certificates of occupancy for nearly every one of the city's 950,000 buildings and get all kinds of information on codes, code changes, fine schedules, and inspections.