Safety sweep of 1,331 facades found that 220 needed additional pedestrian protections
New York – Today, Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca announced enhancements to DOB’s existing façade inspection process, and a doubling of the Department’s existing dedicated façade inspection team with the hiring of 12 new staff positions to the unit. Property owners with buildings greater than six stories in height can expect more frequent and thorough proactive inspections from the Department under these tough new policies. In addition, DOB announced the results of their facade safety sweep that immediately followed the fatal facade incident that occurred on Tuesday, December 17. This sweep built upon DOB’s overall efforts to hold building owners accountable for unsafe conditions.
“In the wake of this tragedy, we are doubling-down on the proven tools at our disposal. New Yorkers should know that we are out in force holding owners feet to the fire, so they get repair work done as quickly as possible while still protecting the public,” said Commissioner La Rocca. “With our enhanced inspection protocols and expanded staff, owners who choose to skirt their obligations will face swift consequences.”
Starting today, when a building is found to have an unsafe façade, or ones with defects requiring remedial repairs, they will not only face potential enforcement actions, but will also receive additional proactive re-inspections from the Department to ensure any required pedestrian safety measures are properly installed and maintained. DOB will be conducting follow-up inspections within 60 days of every Class 1 façade violation we issue to ensure that any required public protection measures have been properly installed. If the owner fails to implement these required public safety measures as ordered in the initial façade violation, city contractors will be brought in to perform the work at the owner’s expense. In addition, DOB façade inspectors will now be conducting further follow-up field inspections 90 days after the issuance of the initial Class 1 façade violation, to ensure that the public protection measures are properly maintained, and that repair work has commenced to remediate any unsafe conditions. After that, DOB will be conducting additional field inspections every 90 days to ensure further compliance with DOB orders. Property owners who are found to be disregarding our orders during any of these follow-up inspections will face additional enforcement actions.
This new process will strengthen the Department’s ability to ensure that property owners aren’t endangering the public by failing to take required action to keep their building safe. In addition to these strengthened violation inspection protocols, all buildings in New York City greater than six stories in height – not just those that have previously received a violation – will now face the possibility of proactive DOB safety compliance reviews. 25% of these taller buildings, subject to Local Law 11 of 1998, will be selected at random to receive these safety reviews, increasing the Department’s ability to proactively identify unsafe conditions on building facades and push owners to take action.
In addition, the Department is updating our Façade Inspection & Safety Program (FISP) to enhance requirements for periodic exterior wall inspections and repairs performed by property owners. Our updated façade rule will include additional experience requirements for façade inspectors hired by property owners, adds a new requirement that owners post and maintain the building facade status in the lobby in a manner similar to elevator certificates, adds a new requirement for more hands-on inspections of facades fronting public rights of way, and greatly increases penalties for failure to make repairs to unsafe façade conditions.
DOB will be bolstering the ranks of our existing façade inspection unit, hiring 12 new staff positions, including 11 inspectors, with expertise in façade construction and structural stability. They will join the current staff of 11 dedicated façade inspectors, 11 administrative support staff, and 6 technical staff. This expansion represents a doubling of our current inspection staffing in the unit, allowing this dedicated team to meet their increased obligations under these process changes.
“Building owners who fail to keep New Yorkers safe from known facade defects must face appropriate consequences. It is vitally important to inspect rental and co-op buildings across the city, including the outer boroughs, on a regular basis as per Local Law 11 and take swift action if violations are not immediately corrected,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee. “Thank you to the Mayor and Buildings Commissioner for hiring additional inspectors in an effort to ensure that no other pedestrian falls victim to the entirely preventable tragedy of debris falling from a building facade.”
Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the Council Committee on Housing and Buildings, said, “In addition to thoroughly investigating the events leading up to Erica Tishman’s death, we need to make sure our city is using the most up to date inspection protocols to ensure that building facades are not posing a danger to the public. We also need to be able to deploy every tool at our disposal to keep New Yorkers safe, and that includes using new methods such as aerial drone inspections, thermal imaging cameras, and other new innovative technologies. We need to be sure our City’s building managers, experts, and inspectors have the latitude to make use of tools already use in outside the City. As we continue to investigate this tragic incident, DOB’s proposed facade rule changes will contribute to a new way forward in bolstering the safety for New Yorkers. Let that be part of how we honor Erica Tishman’s life.”
“There are more than 5,300 open citations for unsafe facades in New York City according to recent reports. We must prevent building owners from putting pedestrians at risk by failing to secure their facades, and hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law when they fall short. I’m pleased to see Commissioner La Rocca and the Department of Buildings acting to prevent future tragedies by enhancing the facade inspection program,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman.
“Public safety is government’s highest calling, and the steps being announced by DOB today will help ensure that safety even further,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The tragic death of Erica Tishman was preventable, and while these new facade enforcement efforts cannot bring her back to life, they can help avoid another tragedy.”
“In the wake of the tragedy that occurred in my district earlier this month, I have been working with the Department of Buildings to ensure that an accident like this never happens again. Today’s announcement is a positive step to ensuring that facades are kept up to code and accidents are avoided. As a city, our principle responsibility is to ensure the public’s safety. We won’t stop until that’s guaranteed,” said Council Member Keith Powers.
“As our city’s skyline continues to change, building owners cannot compromise public safety by ignoring the need for urgent remediation to the facade. I want to thank Department of Buildings Commissioner, Melanie E. La Rocca, for implementing stricter policies to increase inspections, enforcement, accountability and transparency,” said Council Member Farah N. Louis.
“Pedestrians should not have to worry about New York City’s buildings crumbling and injuring or even killing them. It is clear we can no longer leave buildings in dangerous conditions, and if a landlord won’t the city must do the repairs to keep everyone else safe,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Commissioner Melanie La Rocca is taking bold steps at the Department of Buildings to hold building owners responsible for needed facade repairs or rolling up her sleeves and getting it done herself. While I initially proposed the city inspect sidewalk sheds under Int. 1353 of 2019 and make necessary repairs within 90 days under Int. 1389 of 2016, the Department of Buildings is being even more aggressive at 60 days. I look forward to a safer city with a lot less scaffolding with fewer if any collapses as this new program moves forward.”
“Increasing enforcement and strengthening the facade inspection process will make New York City safer for everyone—workers and the public alike. The NYC DOB is taking important steps forward to ensure that preventable tragedies are indeed prevented,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).
“The American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York is strongly supportive of increased oversight by the Department of Buildings. By hiring much-needed staff and holding building owners more accountable, the Department is taking necessary steps towards creating safer conditions for those in the construction industry and general public alike. The tragic loss of an AIA New York member, Erica Tishman, to unsafe building conditions, demonstrates why these measures are necessary. We applaud Commissioner La Rocca’s efforts to improve building and construction safety,” said Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director, AIA New York.
“BTEA contractors are always prepared to help our partners at the Department of Buildings keep New Yorkers safe. We stand ready to assist, and applaud the Commissioner in her efforts to bolster the rounds of safety inspections and testing accompanying the new hires of inspectors that will be conducting safety inspections of building facades ” said President and CEO Louis J. Coletti, Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA).
“Public safety is paramount, which is why we support the actions of the Department of Buildings to ensure facades are properly maintained and the public is protected. Going forward, it is important that the City, the industry and other stakeholders put in place procedures that use the latest technologies and bolsters public confidence,” said REBNY President James Whelan.
Following the tragic death of Mrs. Erica Tishman on Tuesday, December 17, DOB Commissioner La Rocca took swift action and ordered a sweep of every façade the Department had previously identified as requiring repair work or with an “unsafe” FISP designation. In roughly 30 hours, DOB inspectors visited all 1,331 buildings included in this enforcement sweep to determine if they required additional pedestrian protections. Of those, 220 lacked proper protection and will receive a Class 1 violation requiring them to put up protective measures. Failure to comply with DOB orders will result in additional enforcement actions.
The safety of all New Yorkers is our highest priority. All buildings in the City of New York, regardless of height, are required by law to be maintained in a safe condition. If a member of the public suspects any potentially dangerous conditions on a building facade, they are strongly encouraged to tell the Department about it by filing an official complaint with 311, or 911 to report emergencies.
The Department of Buildings promotes the safety of all people that build, work, and live in New York City by regulating the lawful use of over one million buildings and construction sites across the five boroughs. Thanks to an unprecedented infusion of resources since the beginning of Mayor de Blasio’s administration, DOB has added more than 250 additional inspectors to its ranks since 2015 in an effort to increase safety at buildings and construction sites in our city. This increase in inspectors has led to a 26% decrease in work site safety accidents citywide since last year.