Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
Article Archive
Building & Neighborhood Issues

Published: Winter 1999

Local Law 10 of 1980 required that all buildings higher than six stories inspect all facades within 25 feet of a public walkway to ensure structural soundness. Reports were to be filed by February of 1982, and the buildings were to be reinspected every five years. Thus, all buildings in the city that are higher than six stories have now been through four cycles of Local Law 10 filings. Nevertheless, there have recently been multiple incidents of falling bricks and other facade materials.

To better protect the public, the City Council passed Local Law 11 of 1998; it tightens the inspection requirements of Local Law 10 and further requires that buildings higher than six stories now perform inspections of all walls (except when a wall is 12" or less from an adjoining building). Even when it is only a portion of the building that extends over six stories, the entire building must be inspected. Walls not previously inspected must be inspected now and a report on them must be filed by March 1, 2000.

The Department of Buildings has promulgated regulations for the implementation of Local Law 11. They allow building owners to perform one inspection of all the facades of their buildings now and file by March 1, 2000. This report will qualify for the fifth Local Law 10 cycle. Buildings inspected in this way need not file again until the 2005-2007 Local Law 10 cycle. Alternatively, owners can inspect only the previously uninspected faces of their buildings now, but if they do this they must file again for all building faces by February 2002.

The highlights of the requirements of Local Law 11 are:

1. Inspect All Exterior Walls. The owners of all buildings higher than six stories must now have a Registered Architect or Professional Engineer inspect the entire building envelope, performing at least one complete inspection from roof level to ground level from a scaffold. Following specific guidelines provided by the Department of Buildings, the professional must compare the condition of the building to its state in prior Local Law 10 reports and determine the condition of all walls and appurtenances thereto. Photographs must document any conditions that are in need of work. If an unsafe condition is discovered, the professional must report it at once to the Department of Buildings and remedial measures must be taken at once.

2. File a Report With the Department of Buildings. The architect or engineer will determinate whether all conditions at the building are (i) SAFE - defined as "not requiring repair or maintenance to sustain the structural integrity of the exterior of the building and that will not become unsafe during the next five years.", or (ii) UNSAFE, or (iii) SAFE WITH A REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE PROGRAM. If a system is classified SAFE WITH A REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE PROGRAM, the professional must provide the owners with a plan for necessary repair and maintenance. No condition reported as SAFE WITH A REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE PROGRAM in one reporting period can be reported in the same category in the subsequent filing.

While Local Law 11 is clearly well-Intentioned and is careful in its description of specific inspection and reporting requirements, CNYC has serious concerns about its unintended consequences. We testified at the Department of Buildings hearing in November 1998, asking that some means be found to restore in Local Law 11 the "precautionary" classification contained in Local Law 10, where professionals tended to list minor building conditions in need of observation or routine maintenance. Although this category may have been abused in some instances, CNYC considers its complete elimination to portend major problems.

It is our opinion that there are virtually no building systems that can be guaranteed to be SAFE for five years (which in this case could really be seven years) without any maintenance program. Therefore, it is likely that most buildings will be described as SAFE WITH A REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE PROGRAM. This will be well and good in the present cycle, but Local Law 11 prevents a second round of classifying building conditions in this category. At that point, architects and engineers will face the dilemma of having to reclassify systems as either SAFE – requiring no maintenance – or UNSAFE. This would seem to water down the true intent of the law, which is to single out truly unsafe conditions for immediate attention, as opposed to lumping them together with neglected yet relatively minor conditions.

In addition, CNYC is concerned about the very brief window of opportunity during which thousands of buildings now have to be inspected. This is likely to increase the cost of scaffolding, sidewalk bridges, and the services of architects and engineers, to say nothing of the cost of the actual repair work. With so much work to be done in so short a timespan, it is virtually inevitable that less-experienced personnel will be performing many tasks. This increases the risk of incomplete or inadequate reports – performed with the best of intentions – as well as increased risk of accidents with inexperienced people handling rigging, scaffolding and sidewalk bridges.

CNYC is working with other groups in the real estate industry to establish procedures and wording that will be acceptable to the Department of Buildings and that will acknowledge that all building systems always need observation and maintenance to keep them safe.

The United Nations has proclaimed 1999 the International Year of Older Persons, bringing attention to the changing needs of the older population. Census projections show that people age 65 and over will represent 13% of the US population in the year 2000 and 20% by 2030. Since New York is the city where it is easiest for seniors to live, it houses far more than this proportion of seniors.

The American Association of Retired People (AARP) has recently concluded a study featuring the demographics of the baby boomer generation, including experts' perspectives on boomers' future housing needs. Results will be presented at a March 12, 1999, breakfast for housing professionals called, "Universal Citiscape; Housing for the Age Boom".

Organized by AARP, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, National Design Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the MetLife Mature Market Group and the New York City Department for the Aging, this conference is one of several collaborative initiatives. Another is the Cooper-Hewitt Museum exhibit entitled, "Unlimited by Design", which features devices and amenities to help make buildings – the public areas and the interiors of apartments – more commodious for seniors. It opened last November and will be at the museum until Sunday, March 21, 1999.

CNYC is eager to hear from its members. Your accomplishments, successes, triumphs, goal achievements and even war stories are of interest. Whether faced with mortgage refinancing, roof replacement, management/Board transitions, and/or major projects, your efforts are deservedly "recognition-worthy".

CNYC invites members to share their special stories. Tell us how you've handled the challenges facing your cooperative or condominium. Let others benefit from your experience and accomplishments; your trials/ tribulations; war stories, and let CNYC recognize YOU!

We encourage members to participate in this network exchange of information and board recognition, individual and/or collective. Special stories will be featured in CNYC's Newsletter for the benefit of our reading audience. Please forward your stories to CNYC at 250 West 57th Street, Suite 730, New York, NY 10107-0730. We look forward to hearing from many of you soon. Happy writings!

New lead paint disclosure regulations go into effect nationwide on June 1, 1999. The US Environmental Protection Agency requires that whenever there is a renovation, repair or maintenance activity which disrupts more than two square feet of painted surface in a pre-1978 building, the renovator must make certain disclosures to the building owner and occupants prior to the commencement of work; proof must be recorded that such disclosure was provided; and an EPA-approved pamphlet on lead hazards must be given to the owner and offered to occupants who request it. Renovators are defined as anyone who is paid to perform the renovation work, including building owners or managers that employ their own maintenance staff. Applicable work can include work done by carpenters, plumbers, electricians, drywallers, painters, etc. Renovators must maintain careful records of all these activities and keep them for a three-year period. Work performed inside apartments is subject to similar disclosure requirements.

As the time for meeting these requirements approaches, your building will want to add appropriate EPA information to your renovation policy and to institute procedures for verifying that these disclosure requirements are met.

In the Autumn 1998 Newsletter, we told of deadlines relating to underground tanks. These requirements do not apply to residential buildings. We regret inconvenience that this error may have caused.


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