COVID-19 & NYC Permitting

23 April, 2020

4 Things Affecting the Permit Filing Process

COVID-19’s uncertainty continues to challenge New York City’s development and construction community. Nonetheless, the City’s permitting expediters and consultants can offer some clarity.

These specialists are speaking regularly with the Department of Buildings (DOB) and other regulatory agencies. They have insight as to how the permitting process has changed due to COVID-19, and how agencies are responding.

As of now, here are the four biggest changes impacting NYC agencies and the permitting process, according to Bohler’s NYC Permitting specialists:


1. A Revamped Submission Process

Agencies are modifying their processes to maintain a safe environment for the public and their staff. Instead of early morning lineups to get in the queue of the DOB’s borough offices, applications are increasingly filed electronically through DOB NOW. In certain circumstances, the DOB receives hard copy applications through a drop box outside the borough office. The DOB then emails applicants when their filing is ready.

Within the DOB, staff is working staggered shifts. Many plans examiners are working from home and conducting meetings virtually.

Other City agencies are following a similar process. This includes the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Transportation (DOT), Fire Department (FDNY), Transit Authority, Department of Parks & Recreation, Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and others critical to the entitlement process.

The Bottom Line:

The process is different, but DOB and other agencies continue to process applications. Engage a permitting consultant who has aligned their operations with the agencies’ new way of working.

Even before Governor Cuomo put New York State on PAUSE, Bohler’s permitting department was working remotely at full capacity. Our teams are still conducting research, filing applications, and working to secure approvals. Additionally, our teams are seeing increased virtual communication with DOB staff.

2. The Changes Keep Coming

Agencies are making changes daily. Office hours are modified. Staff in-office hours are adjusted. Procedurally, agencies reverse how and when applications are accepted. Some jobs have filing restrictions, limiting the filing to certain days, within specific hours. Applications that were previously submitted via a drop off bin can be suddenly, and without notice, switched to eFile.

The frequent change further complicates an already complex process.

The Bottom Line:

Staying abreast of the status, current working conditions, and temporary rules of the DOB and regulatory agencies is key. It’s more important, however, to engage permitting specialists who are responsive and adaptive to the ever-changing landscape.

Bohler’s permitting specialists are regularly communicating agency changes to our clients. The team is helping applicants adjust their permitting strategies, and swiftly changing course when these unforeseen changes occur.

3. Construction Mandates Bring Essential Construction Requests

With non-essential construction placed on hold as of March 31, owners must submit Essential Construction requests to the DOB to be considered for continuing construction. Only the original applicant-of-record can initiate the request.

While permit specialists are unable to submit the request on behalf of the applicant-of-record, the specialists can provide helpful insight and assist with front-end strategy for these requests.

Bohler’s permitting team continues to help owners and their architects and engineers navigate the DOB’s submission process, virtually. The Bohler team is also guiding these project partners and professionals through the required back-up documentation.

4. Both Sides Working Together to Advance Applications

Applicants aren’t the only ones adjusting to a new submission process–agencies are, too. Agency staff and permitting consultants are increasing collaboration to keep applications moving forward.

Both agencies and applicants want to keep projects moving. Bohler’s team has worked to advance both essential and non-essential, non-professionally certified projects to better position our clients now and for an open economy when that returns.

One way to combat the uncertainty owners and developers may be experiencing now is to offer insight into the current state of City agencies. Though the process is different, it’s still possible to move both essential and non-essential projects forward. This is not only good news for New York City project owners, but a positive outlook for the rest of the country. If progress can continue in the epicenter of the pandemic, it can move forward in the rest of the country, too.

If you have questions about the current New York City entitlement process, contact our specialists. Our teams are continuously communicating with officials, reviewers, and inspectors to understand their current operations and to help our clients maintain momentum. Learn more about Bohler’s NYC permitting and consulting services.

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