New rules require more up-close, hands-on inspections for façade reports

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152 W 49
Google Street View image of 152 W 49 St.

Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca has announced this week the publication of a new amended rule governing exterior wall inspections and repairs, strengthening the existing Façade Inspection & Safety Program (FISP).

The rules will be in effect on Feb. 20.

Known as “Local Law 11” inspections, this program requires all owners of buildings over six stories tall to hire licensed professionals to perform a comprehensive façade inspection every five years and submit these FISP reports for review.

For details of this rule change, see this announcement from late December.

“Building owners are on notice – maintain the safety of your façades, or you will face stiff fines and rigorous enforcement,” said Commissioner La Rocca.

“We are strengthening the tools we already have to ensure that New Yorkers are kept safe from deteriorating façades. New rule changes and more proactive field inspections will better equip us to hold negligent building owners accountable and protect the public.”

Among changes in the new amended rule, FISP reports will now require more up-close, hands-on inspections, as well as enhanced experience requirements for privately contracted Qualified Exterior Wall Inspectors (QEWI), increased penalties for property owners who fail to make repairs to unsafe façade conditions and a new requirement for landlords to post information on the status of the façade in the lobby of the building.

The final rule, published in The City Record, is part of a slate of recent actions DOB has taken to increase façade safety in New York City, following a December 2019 fatal façade collapse that occurred in Midtown, Manhattan.

Project manager and architect Erica Tishman, 60, died when she was struck and killed by a piece of debris that fell off a building at the corner of West 49th Street and Seventh Avenue near Times Square on Dec. 17.

This rule change was proposed in November 2019. DOB also implemented enhancements to the existing agency façade inspection process, conducted a citywide sweep of façades in need of remedial repairs, and doubled the city’s existing dedicated façade inspection team with the addition of 12 new staff to the unit.

Since the proposed rule was first announced there have been several changes to the final rule, including an increase in penalties to property owners for late and missing FISP reports.

“The safety of all New Yorkers is our highest priority,” said La Rocca. “All buildings in New York City, regardless of height, are required by law to be maintained by their owners in a safe condition.”

She also encouraged members of the public to report any suspected dangerous conditions by filing an official complaint with 311, or to 911 in the case of an emergency.

“I commend the Department of Buildings for taking additional steps to enhance building safety, expanding critical regulations that keep the people frequenting our sidewalks and streets safe,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.

“New York is the biggest city in the country, and it is imperative that building owners comply with these regulations to safeguard human health and life. These new rules should make it clear that the City will not tolerate neglect in building maintenance, especially when it puts people in danger.”

Council member Ben Kallos called the changes bold and necessary.

“Building owners now have zero excuses. The new stiffer regulations are in effect because New Yorkers should not have to worry about our buildings crumbling and injuring or even killing them due to negligence. It is clear we can no longer leave buildings in dangerous conditions because the consequences can be fatal,” he said.

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