The Importance of Local Law 11
Local Law 11, which is New York City’s “Facade Inspection Safety Program” (FISP), was enacted to make building facades safe and to protect pedestrians below. The impact and failure to comply with Local Law 11 could have catastrophic consequences, as was recently seen on New York’s Upper Eastside at the St. Tropez, whose south facing façade came crashing down to the street below in the middle of the night, miraculously with no pedestrian injury.
Local Law 11 and its predecessor, Local Law 10, was enacted and signed into law in 1980 by Mayor Ed Koch shortly after a piece of masonry fell from the façade of a building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, killing a Barnard College student. Other accidents, as for example a shower of bricks that fell from a Madison Avenue office building, led to efforts for the more stringent requirements of Local Law 11, which passed in 1998.
Local Law 11 requires all facades of buildings with six or more stories above an exposed basement wall be inspected every five years by a licensed professional engineer or registered architect, a “qualified exterior wall inspector” and certified safe. In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Local Law 38, which required the Commissioner of Buildings to establish staggered inspection cycles for buildings governed by the façade evaluation requirements established under Local Law 11. Each Building’s filing window is now determined by the last digit of its block number. The following summarizes the staggered filing deadlines for Cycle 8. Filing Windows are determined as follows:
4, 5, 6 OR 9
0, 7 OR 8
1, 2 OR 3
Weaknesses in the façade need to be corrected, re-inspected and certified safe. Local Law 11 requires a physical inspection consisting of at least one drop from a scaffold or other observation platform from roof level to ground level. The inspection report needs to be filed no later than 60 days after the inspection. The engineer or architect who stamps the inspection has to actually be at the site, conducting the inspection. The engineer or architect should make recommendations for investigation and remediation of the exterior envelope as well as the structural systems along with a thorough analysis and evaluation of the building facades upon which the building owner can base construction and rehabilitation decisions and maintain compliance with Local Law 11 requirements. Local Law 11 requires qualified exterior wall inspector to designate the building as either, safe, safe with a repair and maintenance program (SWARMP) or unsafe.
Any exterior restoration project over fourteen stories requires a certified site safety manager. If unsafe conditions are discovered during the inspection, NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), which enforces Local Law 11, will send its own inspector to inspect the building. Even if repairs are in progress and adequate safety measures are in place, the inspector will still issue one or more DOB violations. These citations are used mainly to track cases and encourage timely repairs. The more serious Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations usually involve court appearances and penalties. If a DOB inspector finds, upon re-inspection, an unsafe condition, that repairs are not underway and adequate safeguards are not yet in place, that inspector could write an ECB violation. An owner who fails to correct any unsafe condition will face a penalty of $1,000 per month, until the condition has been corrected, and an acceptable amended report has been filed.
One common problem that buildings often find while doing Local Law 11 inspections is that during the inspection or repair process, other problems become evident that have to be addressed, such as for example deteriorating roofs and roof decks, window casings, terraces and air conditioning supports.
When the building gets an inspection report from a professional detailing work that has to be done before the next Local Law 11 inspection, Local Law 11 Compliance Division of the New York City Department of Buildings requires that report to have a timetable by which the work has to be done.
Contact Gary Wachtel now, or call him today to arrange for your initial appointment, and let his experience be your advantage – 212-371-6500.