The approval process for new construction plans in Manhattan has always been a source of frustration for developers. Government red tape has made it notoriously slow; many projects have been delayed for months or years, and some die in the approval stage. Not only that, but more desirable neighborhoods like the West Village and SoHo have especially strict regulations. It’s no wonder approval took forever: The Department of Buildings and 6 other government agencies reviewed each plan, and the paperwork moved slowly from one agency to another. In order to expedite this process and create more business and jobs in Manhattan, Mayor Bloomberg announced the creation of the NYC Development Hub, a secure on-line website run by the DoB designed to accelerate the approval process for new construction. This change should have an immediate effect on condo development; under the new system, every agency can review the digitally submitted plans at the same time. Plus, representatives from those agencies will create their own mini-hubs to participate in video conferences with architects and engineers while reviewing their plans.
It would be foolish to give the impression that the old system was unnecessary, it was just unnecessarily slow. Last year, New York City’s Department of Buildings reviewed 457,000 new construction applications, meticulously sorting through each one in order to ensure that they complied with each and every safety regulation. The list of safety regulations is so long that it’s easy for engineers and architects to miss things here and there, so delays are common; the Department of Buildings can require an engineer to alter a detail as small as the width of a staircase, for instance. These changes are crucial for the safety of New Yorkers living in newly constructed luxury apartment buildings in Manhattan, so Bloomberg didn’t want to change that at all. The new system is designed to maintain those rigorous standards. In a press release from the Mayor’s Office, Bloomberg said, “More construction projects mean more jobs for New Yorkers, and the NYC Development Hub simplifies the way building plans are received and reviewed so those jobs can be created as soon as possible – without sacrificing public safety.”
As the last quote demonstrates, this change is about two things: the economy and jobs. Especially jobs. While Manhattan has been spared the worst of the recession, the future is uncertain, so every detail counts. Bloomberg has always been acutely aware of this and consequently has done his best to work with entrepreneurs and business moguls. Developers have always been at the forefront of economic growth, especially considering how many construction jobs result from new building construction, not to mention the jobs in that building that follow. Hopefully, the NYC Development Hub will speed up development in Manhattan and encourage developers to plan more aggressively.