The Real Estate Board of New York to The City Council Committees on Housing and Buildings and on Parking Structure Safety Bills

Ryan Monell

Vice President of Government Affairs

April 24, 2024

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) has already submitted testimony of most of the parking structure bills being heard today. However, an additional bill, a Preconsidered Intro, T-2024-1867, was added after or original submission. Therefore this testimony is supplemental to that previous submission.

Bill: Preconsidered T-2024-1867

Subject: This bill would require the Department of Buildings to develop a model to predict which buildings are most at risk of being hazardous, and then to preemptively inspect those buildings.

Sponsors: Pierina Ana Sanchez

REBNY appreciates the intent of this legislation, especially considering the tragic garage collapses that have occurred recently. Certainly, those collapses warrant the Council taking a hard look at strategies for ensuring that parking structures are well maintained.

Weight limits in garages are already tightly regulated. Many garages have a weight limit, based on the number of total cars allowed in the garage, which is established in the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) based on the strength of the concrete in the garage. In other garages, the C of O establishes limits to the number of cars on a level-by-level basis. In both cases, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection enforces the limitations on the number of cars that can park in a garage or on a level, issuing significant fines for violations.

To implement changes to the City’s Construction Codes, the Department of Buildings (DOB) promulgated rules, which went into effect on January 1, 2022, requiring parking structure inspections at least once every six years. Inspections were staggered into three cycles, based on Borough and Community District, with Sub-Cycle 1A inspections due by December 31 of 2023, and Sub-Cycles 1B and 1C due by the end of 2025 and 2027 respectively. The rule also specified the qualifications of inspectors and required an annual observation of parking structures. Finally, the rule requires unsafe conditions to be remedied in a timely and safe manner.

In response to the two garage collapses, the City then modified the rule to require all garages to receive an original observation by a qualified professional sooner than many garages would have had their first inspection in order to make sure of the integrity of the structures. Specifically, all parking structures require an initial observation by August 1, 2024, except those who filed an inspection report due December 31, 2023 (Sub-Cycle 1A), or those whose inspection report is due by December 31, 2025 (Sub-Cycle 1B), but who filed the report before August 1, 2024. We believe that this inspection system, which, as noted above, includes an annual observation, as well as current limits on the number of vehicles that can park in a garage and active enfrorcement of those limits, are sufficient to ensure that parking structures are properly maintained.

Furthermore, installing a vehicle weighing station in all entrances of existing garages would be costly and create operational challenges for the garage and the public for several reasons. First, many parking structures in the city operate on a 24/7 schedule and the installation of a weigh station would require disruptive construction work that would necessitate the closure of the garage. Second, in peak parking times, cars being weighed would result in blocked entrances causing cars to line up in the street, disrupting traffic.

Taken together, all the above information indicates that Intro 136 is not necessary to ensure that garages are structurally safe and well operated.

Bill: Intro 170-2024

Subject: This bill would increase penalties for certain violations related to parking structures. First, it would double the standard civil penalty for DOB violations issued to the owner of a parking structure. Second, it would allow for daily penalties for violations for failure to maintain a parking structure. These new violations vary from $1,600 to $20,000.

Sponsors: Councilmembers Amanda Farías, Shaun Abreu, Farah N. Louis

REBNY appreciates that fines related to failing to maintain a parking structure need to be stringent enough to help make sure that public safety is at the forefront of management priorities, and that matters such as immediately hazardous conditions are resolved in an expedited fashion.

That said, owners who are making a good faith effort to resolve issues with parking structures, such as taking measures to remove any threats to public safety while preparing to undertake repairs, should not continue to receive fines. In addition, where reasonable, there should be a cure period for certain violations.

Bill: Intro 176-2024

Subject: This bill would require DOB to create a boilerplate checklist of essential baseline items to be inspected prior to the required initial condition assessment already required to be completed and filed by August 1, 2024.

Sponsors: Councilmembers Oswald Feliz, Christopher Marte, Sandy Nurse, Shaun Abreu, Gale A. Brewer, Shahana K. Hanif, Crystal Hudson, Farah N. Louis

As previously stated, existing DOB rules and City law require owners to conduct either a full inspection or an initial observation by August 1, 2024. This work must be completed by a qualified parking structure inspector who is trained to analyze the parking structure’s condition and the individual building systems that comprise the parking structure. Current rules also require an annual observation of parking structures to further ensure that they are in a safe condition.

While a boilerplate checklist could be useful to help guide the work of that qualified parking structure inspector, it is not necessary to require the owner to complete additional inspections beyond those already required by law.

Bill: Intro 231-2024

Subject: This bill would require parking structure assessments after January 1, 2028, to be conducted every four years, instead of every six years. It would also require garages that are safe with repairs or with engineering monitoring to be subsequently assessed after two, rather than three, years.

Sponsors: Crystal Hudson, Shahana K. Hanif, Farah N. Louis

REBNY believes that the current schedule for parking structure inspections should be sufficient to ensure that they are structurally safe and well-maintained. This includes the recent addition of an initial observation by August 1, 2024 for those garages whose first inspection falls at a later date. The current regulatory scheme also requires an annual observation of garage conditions by a qualified professional to ensure structural integrity.

If inspections are to be more frequent, the law should align with Local Law 11 inspections, so that the same qualified inspector could assess a garage at the same time as a building façade, where garages are a part of or associated with a building.

Finally, REBNY could support follow-up inspections every two, rather than three, years.

Bill: Preconsidered T-2024-1867

Subject: This bill would require the Department of Buildings to develop a model to predict which buildings are most at risk of being hazardous, and then to preemptively inspect those buildings.

Sponsors: Pierina Ana Sanchez

REBNY appreciates the intent of this legislation, especially. Data-driven approaches to figuring out and solving issues is, in general, good policy and practice. We would be willing to work with the sponsor, DOB, and others to make sure the best approach to doing so is arrived at. That said, we are concerned that DOB is already thinly staffed to carry out existing inspections, and we would worry that, without additional resources, they may not be able to add this inspection protocol on top of what they are already charged to do.