Scorecard: Construction

Written by City & State on . Posted in Real Estate/Construction.

The Issues

Superstorm Sandy: Over a year has passed since the storm hammered New York, and it will take years before the rebuilding and recovery are complete. Both the Cuomo and Bloomberg administrations have issued in-depth reports and recommendations, though much of the work, such as making the coastline more resilient and updating building codes and standards, has yet to be done.

Public-Private Partnerships: Public-private partnerships, or P3s, have been a buzzword since Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office, and he signed legislation in 2011 paving the way for design-build, a limited type of P3 that makes a developer responsible for both the design and construction of a project. Design-build is planned for the project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge, one of Cuomo’s top priorities. But full-fledged P3s are not yet allowed in the state, except on state authority projects, such as the Port Authority’s new Goethals Bridge.

The Scaffold Law: A long-running battle in Albany centers on the Scaffold Law, a unique provision in New York that holds employers and property owners liable when construction workers are injured in gravity-related accidents and proper safety equipment was not provided. Some lawmakers and tort reform advocates want to amend the law to take workers’ behavior into account, though trial lawyers say the law provides a critical safeguard that protects workers.

The Players

The State
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has seized the reins of the project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge, and progress on the key piece of infrastructure after years of inaction by the state could provide him with a political boost. His administration also released the state’s first-ever 10-year capital plan earlier this year, which experts applauded as an important step toward prioritizing key projects. Two Cuomo appointees, Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Tom Prendergast, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, oversee key construction projects upgrading the state’s transportation infrastructure, while Joan McDonald heads the state Transportation Department.

The City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s top commissioner on the regulatory front is Robert LiMandri, who plays an integral role in a city where real estate is a driving force. Other key players include Kyle Kimball, who heads the city’s Economic Development Corporation, and Amanda Burden, who chairs the city’s Planning Commission, though the Bloomberg administration only has a few weeks left in office, and the mayor’s appointees are all likely to be replaced by the new administration. The Real Estate Board of New York, headed by Steven Spinola, and the New York Building Congress, of which Richard Anderson is the president, are influential players in the construction industry.

Labor and Contractors
Unions continue to be a powerful force in New York, and they play a major role in the construction industry. Gary LaBarbera, the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council, a union umbrella group, is an influential figure on the labor side of the industry, and Louis Coletti’s Building Trades Employers’ Association is a key group representing contractors.

New York City Construction Spending

(2014 and 2015 numbers are estimates)

Number of New York City Construction Jobs

(Source: New York Building Congress)

The Incoming Administration

Jill Lerner, the president of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and Rick Bell, the organization’s executive director, have proposed that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio create a new deputy mayor position to oversee housing, planning, design and construction. The following are some potential appointees suggested by AIA’s leaders for the post they envision, as well as for some of the city’s key existing construction-related positions.

Position: Deputy Mayor for Housing, Design and Construction
Suggested Appointees: Jonathan Rose, real estate executive; David Burney, Department of Design and Construction commissioner

Position: Housing Preservation and Development
Current Commissioner: RuthAnne Visnauskas
Suggested Appointees: Shola Olatoye and Katie Swenson, Enterprise Community Partners vice presidents

Position: City Planning Commission
Current Chair: Amanda Burden
Suggested Appointees: Regina Myer, Brooklyn Bridge Park president; Vishaan Chakrabarti, Columbia University; Ray Gastil, former director of City Planning’s Manhattan office; John Shapiro, the Pratt Institute

Position: Buildings Department
Current Commissioner: Robert LiMandri
Suggested Appointees: Fred Mosher, Buildings Department deputy commissioner

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