NYC Development Hub Expands Online Permits and Electronic Payments
By NYC.gov - OCT. 08, 2012
Mayor Bloomberg and Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced a major expansion of the NYC Development Hub, which has approved more than 330 new buildings and major renovation projects and generated more than $1.3 billion in estimated economic activity in the City since it launched in October 2011. The Development Hub is a state-of-the-art plan review center created to accelerate the construction project approval process by accepting and reviewing digital construction plans.
Under a new program, called Hub Self-Service, licensed design professionals can now submit plans and obtain permits online for the smallest construction projects – such as home renovations, office improvements and façade repairs – without leaving their offices. Previously, the Development Hub accepted the submission of major construction projects, and with the use of digital construction plans, virtual conferences and increased collaboration among City officials and industry members, plan examiners from the Department of Buildings approved these construction projects up to three times faster than paper-based plans submitted at one of the Department’s borough offices. As part of the expansion announced today, design professionals can electronically submit applications for smaller projects, pay the necessary fees electronically and obtain permits online through professional certification. More than 50,000 applications for small projects are submitted for this kind of work each year, and this streamlined online approach is expected to save the building industry up to $50 million per year in labor costs.
“We launched the NYC Development Hub to combine new technology with great customer service to expedite safe construction – and it has surpassed our expectations,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Now we’re building on its success by allowing plans for tens of thousands of small construction projects to be submitted and approved online, accelerating the building process like never before. The Hub is just the latest example of how we’re using technology to eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic delays, break down silos between agencies and enhance the way City government does business.”
“The NYC Development Hub speeds up the approval process for construction projects, increases business development and creates more jobs for New Yorkers,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “By using the latest technology, we’re making sure government regulation doesn’t stand in the way of economic growth and serves our city’s residents faster and better every day.”
“As the world changes how it does business, City government needs to change too,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway. “The NYC Development Hub has become a model for digital development, getting construction projects off the ground faster by eliminating transaction costs and making government approvals more efficient than ever before.”
“The Bloomberg Administration is committed to doing everything it can to encourage economic development and get New Yorkers back to work faster, and today's announcement is the latest evidence of the City's continued efforts to do business more efficiently,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel. “Making it easier for businesses and all New Yorkers to interact with their government in ways that are convenient for them is a hallmark of Mayor Bloomberg's economic development strategy.”
“This is yet another step in the Bloomberg Administration's innovative push to make it easier to open, operate and expand businesses in New York City – and continue creating the jobs we need,” said Chief Business Operations Officer Tokumbo Shobowale. “I applaud Commissioner LiMandri and his team for making the dramatically faster Hub service available for smaller construction projects, as well. This is particularly important for the tens of thousands of small businesses in the city for whom time literally is money. Their architects now have the option of not coming into a city office at all to receive the necessary buildings permits – thus saving weeks and weeks of time so they can open their doors to customers sooner.”
“The digital revolution for New York City construction is coming,” said Buildings Commissioner LiMandri. “Accepting digital construction plans has meant faster reviews, faster approvals and better service than at any other time in our history. By expanding the NYC Development Hub to include online permits for smaller construction projects, we’re eliminating the need for 50,000 visits to our borough offices each year. Fewer appointments and shorter lines will increase our efficiency and reduce costs for industry members, leading to more homes, more offices and more jobs for millions of New Yorkers. I would like to commend the members of my staff for their diligent, innovative work in creating a paperless process that has set a new standard for plan reviews nationwide.”
“NYC Parks is delighted to participate in this simultaneous digital plan review by multiple agencies,” said Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White. “One year in, we can already see the benefit to the public and to businesses and partners as problems can be flagged and addressed quickly, making the entire process better and easier for permit applicants.”
“The Hub is an excellent example of how collaboration and cooperation between government and the development community can make tangible improvements in approval processes, decreasing time to construction, bringing more jobs to New York, and promoting information sharing and best practices throughout the industry,” said Steve Spinola, President of the Real Estate Board of New York. “We applaud Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner LiMandri for having the vision to create the Hub and congratulate the Department of Buildings and the staff of the Hub for a successful inaugural year.”
“By utilizing the Hub we have been able to get our permits exponentially faster, offering us the ability to bring more constructions jobs online expeditiously,” said Bruce A. Beal, President of Related Companies. “We applaud Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner LiMandri and Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway’s efforts to bring increased efficiency and transparency to the process.”
“The Hub demonstrates how technical intervention can speed up coordinated review processes, turning our architectural drawings into built projects quicker,” said Joseph J. Aliotta, President of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter. “This extension of the Hub program demonstrates the Bloomberg Administration's ongoing innovation and its understanding of the importance of design in creating our neighborhoods and our city.”
All electronic filings at the Department of Buildings will now be coordinated through the Development Hub in Lower Manhattan, including Hub Self-Service – under which New York State licensed architects and engineers can professionally certify plans for small construction projects – including home alterations and office improvements, also known as Alteration 2 and Alteration 3 applications – without visiting a Department office. Through the Department’s website, applicants can create an online account, complete the necessary electronic forms and upload the proper documents in order to receive an approval and a construction permit. Alteration 2 and 3 applications are typically submitted when there is no change in use, occupancy or egress. Permits for all electrical work, minor plumbing work and renewals for after-hours variance permits also can be obtained online.
All associated fees for these applications – as well as new buildings and major renovation projects submitted at the Development Hub – can now be paid online. Electronic payment systems are another part of the City’s efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government services. By allowing businesses and their architects to submit plans online, schedule appointments quickly and pay for services remotely, they no longer have to leave their business in the middle of the day to fill out a paper application.
Equipped with large-screen televisions, smart boards and desktop tablets, the Development Hub has accelerated the construction project approval process for the City’s largest – and most complex – projects by allowing licensed architects and engineers to electronically submit documents and drawings. Digital plans are reviewed in teams of plan examiners at the Department of Buildings, increasing the quality and accuracy of the review process. These plans also are uploaded to a secure website where applicants and representatives from six other City agencies, including the Fire Department, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Department of Parks and Recreation, can view them together, identify problem areas and mark them up – digitally – in real time. Objections can be discussed by telephone, email and/or video conference, and applicants can submit the revised plans electronically – instead of visiting one of the Department’s offices. The Department also has assisted the six agencies with the creation of their own mini-hubs at their respective offices to further streamline the process.
Operations at the Development Hub are led by Department of Buildings Deputy Commissioner of Development Fred S. Mosher Jr., R.A., who joined the Department in 2011 after serving as Senior Technical Architect at Skidmore Owings & Merrill, one of the leading architectural firms in the City. Since the Development Hub opened in October 2011, 339 construction projects have been approved, including plans for an 84-story apartment building at 440 Park Avenue in Manhattan, which is expected to become the tallest residential tower in New York City.
The creation of the Development Hub is part of the Department’s continuing expansion of its electronic plan review and permitting efforts in order to accelerate the construction project approval process and increase the transparency of construction operations in the City. In April, the Department of Buildings announced a new program to accept three-dimensional, interactive site safety plans for the City’s largest projects, and since February 2011, the Department has placed Quick Response (QR) codes on more than 200,000 construction permits, providing instant data on any project, such as contact information for the property owner and the contractors.
In 2011, plan examiners from the Department of Buildings reviewed more than 450,000 total construction plans submitted by architects and engineers licensed by New York State. During the project approval process, plan examiners typically raise objections when the plans fail to comply with the New York City Construction Codes and the Zoning Resolution, and it is the responsibility of the industry professional to resolve those objections and submit revised plans. Objections can range from safety-related requirements, such as the width of a stairwell and the number of exits, to missing required documents, such as a permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission that allows the renovation of a landmarked building. Through the Development Hub, revised plans can be submitted electronically instead of visiting a Department office in person. This paperless procedure reduces the overall number of in-person appointments, provides plan examiners with the ability to review multiple sets of plans simultaneously and speeds up the entire project approval process.