NYC administration seeks faster completions and payments for construction projects

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lorraine Grillo
First deputy mayor Lorraine Grillo

New York City’s current administration says it wants to speed up procurement payments and streamline the construction project completion ​​process.

First deputy mayor Lorraine Grillo says that on April 13 the Adams administration brought together representatives from corporations, construction and design firms, building associations and labor unions to create a committee devoted to reforming the way the city gets large capital projects through the bureaucracy and ready for shovel-ready production, Crain’s New York Business has reported.

Grillo and chief efficiency officer Melanie La Rocca outlined at an April 14 event some ideas about how the Adams administration plans to improve the city’s business relationship with private development partners.

They were speaking at a Midtown breakfast organized by the Citizens Budget Commission and mapped out the administration’s vision to make it easier for private developers to conduct business with the city, Crain’s reported.

The officials described how they want to apply a business-friendly approach in implementing the city’s $100 billion capital plan to preserve affordable housing, reinforce climate resiliency measures and modernize infrastructure in the next four years.

“As we see things along the way that we can fix, and we can fix quickly, that’s going to happen throughout the life of this committee,” Grillo said. “We know this is going to take months and months, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to wait six months or nine months to come out with a report.”

Grillo recalled her frustration in completing projects while she was president and CEO of the School Construction Authority and as commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.

“Honestly, truth be told, it’s just a flawed process,” she said. “On the city side, getting paid or getting that change-order approved, takes months. And that project stops cold, and all we do is lose time and money.”

She said there should be a contingency written into contracts for change-orders that allows projects to move forward and leaves auditing and reviews until after a project is finished.

Grillo and La Rocca suggested making permanent some of the less-stringent regulations written into COVID-19 emergency work orders.

The emergency regulations allowed the city to use the design build model where the designer, contractor and subcontractors all work under a single ownership and contracting umbrella.

As an example, a $25 million building conversion for a COVID-19 center was completed in just four months, Grillo said.

“Under normal circumstances, that would have taken three years because we can’t use design build, and we just got authorization to extend design build,” she said. “There are so many different tools that will help us move further faster.”

“We have to be honest with New Yorkers about the time we cost them to deal with us,” La Rocca said. “We need to get to a place where we are cultivating ideas from bottom up and coming together here and thinking more holistically about cross-agency problems that need to be macheted.”

Grillo said the new capital process reform committee—which includes city Comptroller Brad Lander—is committed to seeking input from developers, construction workers, architects and engineers on what they need to cut or approve to get projects completed.

“The purpose of this group … is to sit together and figure out a way, whether it’s changing a law, whether it’s asking for executive orders,” she said. “Whatever it takes to get this to work for New Yorkers.”

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