By: Sarah Barber
Published: March 26, 2020
“My building is UNSAFE… now what?”
Perhaps you are a Property Owner or Building Manager who is facing the challenge of resolving an UNSAFE building classification. Maybe you thought you were in the clear since your building was previously considered SWARMP (“Safe with a Repair and Maintenance Program”), but now your Engineer/Architect is telling you that the property is “administratively unsafe”?
An UNSAFE classification refers to any problems or defects identified at a building that may threaten public safety. A building may be considered UNSAFE due to several common deteriorated façade conditions, such as bulging or loose masonry, cracked terra cotta, leaning parapet walls, or severely deteriorated cornices. A building can also be considered UNSAFE if the SWARMP conditions identified in the previous FISP (formerly LL 11/98) filing cycle were not addressed prior to the start of the new cycle.
Once a building has been classified as UNSAFE, whether it be through its FISP (formerly Local Law 11) report filing status or upon receipt of an Unsafe Notification (FISP3) resulting from an observed condition, the Owner is required per the Rules of the City of New York §103-04 (RCNY §103-04) to immediately address the unsafe condition(s). This includes the immediate and mandatory installation of public protection, such as a sidewalk shed or construction fencing. Per the New York City Department of Buildings’ (DOB) website, property owners must “repair dangerous conditions within 90 days of filing a technical report.” This timeframe is enforced to both protect the public as well as to encourage the expeditious completion of repairs.
Even for the most seasoned property owners and managers, 90 days is likely not enough time to solicit proposals from Professional Engineers/Architects, develop design documents and a scope of work, obtain competitive bids, hire a Contractor to perform the repairs, and file the necessary permits with the DOB. In this case, an Initial Extension Request FISP1 must be filed in DOB NOW Safety in order to avoid the issuance of DOB ECB (The Environmental Control Board) violations for non-compliance with code or zoning resolutions at the building and further fines against the Property Owner. A FISP1 is a formal request for an extension of time to complete the repairs if more than 90 days are required to address the identified UNSAFE conditions.
Should an owner choose to leave UNSAFE conditions unaddressed, they will incur a civil penalty of $1,000.00 per month, pro-rated daily, until the conditions are corrected. To remain in compliance, a FISP1 extension request must be filed and granted by the DOB Commissioner. The civil penalties increase every year following the first year, for a total of $1,000.00 per month plus an additional $10.00 per linear foot of sidewalk shed installed per month for the second year. The penalty increases each subsequent year (i.e. $1,000.00 per month plus an additional $20.00 per linear foot of sidewalk shed installed during the third year, $30.00 per linear foot of sidewalk shed installed during the fourth year, and so on and so forth).
As a note, all installed protection (i.e. sidewalk sheds, construction fencing, etc.) must remain in place until an Amended FISP (formerly Local Law) report is filed and accepted by the DOB. If the repairs are completed expeditiously, an owner may submit a Partial Shed Removal Request(see page 77). However, such requests are granted at the discretion of the DOB Examiner and are often only approved when there is a considerable hardship to the Owner or when the sidewalk shed installation conflicts with a DOT or utility-related project or issue.
Once repairs have commenced, the Owner may either elect to submit an initial extension request (FISP1) or to file an Amended TR6 form/FISP report. Once the repairs have been completed, the Owner must submit an Amended FISP report within two weeks of the date of completion.