“The number of applications we’re seeing is higher than it has been in decades,” DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler said in an interview.
In 2014 the agency reviewed 90,000 building applications. If permits for renovation are included, the number jumps to more than 140,000, according to DOB data.
“The projections for this year are consistent with what they’ve been last year, if not a little higher,” Chandler said.
He added that, based on conversations with professionals in the industry, there is an expectation that the dollar value of construction will see a slight increase this year.
Chandler is well aware that the DOB is a nexus, if not a chokepoint, for all that activity, and the agency is in the midst of efforts to streamline the DOB’s application process.
The department is in the process of beefing up its staff of examiners and inspectors. The city’s new budget, released by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month, sets aside $120 million to “fundamentally reform” the agency.
Those reforms include two major initiatives that Chandler is overseeing. DOB is in the process of hiring more than 300 examiners and inspectors and is adding “project advocate” positions at all its offices to expedite the application process and facilitate the interaction between other city agencies involved in construction.
So far this year, the DOB has hired 60 examiners and almost an equal amount of inspectors.
The agency is also replacing the building information system that is the repository for all the data on the city’s one million buildings.
The hub for that information is already online, but the goal is to bring it to the “next generation,” by enabling applications, integrating the use of tablets by examiners, scheduling inspections online and, eventually, being able to conduct inspection meetings online.