By: Bill O’Brien
Parking decks/garages are important infrastructure for commuters, especially in New York City. These concrete parking lots are expensive to construct and maintain, but are integral to the life of a commuter. Until recently, no rules or regulations have been in place to maintain these enormous structures. And surprisingly enough, this is a nationwide oversight.
Last year was pivotal for New York State and this year may be an even bigger one for New York City. In August 2018, New York State amended Title 19 of the New York Code, Rules, and Regulations to require local governments to inspect parking garages a minimum of every three years. This “Rule” requires all parking garage owners to adhere to a minimum standard and undergo frequent condition assessments; however, enforcement is dependent upon local government. The timeline is as follows: if the garage structure is constructed before January 1, 1984, the assessment is due by October 1, 2019; if constructed between January 1, 1984 and December 31, 2002, the assessment is due by October 1, 2020; and if constructed between January 1, 2003 and August 29, 2018, the assessment is due by October 1, 2021. While this is a good start, it’s still inadequate when compared to the rigorous inspections required for the state and city’s buildings and bridges.
This year, New York City may be rolling out their own set of addenda to the state’s “Rule;” here are some of the potential changes. NYC will likely acquire a program akin to the Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP) under Local Law 11. FISP requires owners of buildings more than six stories tall to have the exterior walls and appurtenances inspected every five years, and have a technical facade report filed through the NYC DOB NOW website. Parking garage owners would be required to retain a NYC DOB approved garage inspector to visit their parking deck and establish an annual observation checklist. The inspector would go through the checklist and examine the garage for any signs of corrosion, deterioration, or hazardous conditions. Since NYC endures harsh winters that demand a myriad of deleterious de-icing materials, inspectors can expect to see structures laden with spalled concrete and deteriorated steel. Again, comparable to FISP, technical assessment reports labeling the building as “safe,” “safe with repairs,” or “unsafe,” would be required to be submitted to the NYC DOB.
While these are only potential rules, the need to put them into effect is necessary. Failure of a parking deck structure could be absolutely devastating. And while a stringent maintenance program would likely require NYC building owners to budget for repairs, it could avoid much more costly future repairs, prevent damage to personal property, and potentially save lives.