Well, today was plan review day and we got rejected, AGAIN. The reasons this time were just bizarre…
The first thing that was rejected was the energy review. Our architect did this complex analysis using a web-based program provided by the federal government where you enter all the characteristics of the building including wall types, window types, light fixtures, etc. and it confirms compliance with the 2010 standards that are in effect for New York State. But the plan examiner rejected it because NYC is still on 2007 energy standards and the 2010 standards aren’t being phased in until later this year. They literally told us to come back in 24 days, on July 1, since they’ll accept our architect’s energy analysis on that date. So we got rejected for showing compliance with a more demanding standard that they’re going to use in less than a month. Go figure.
Second major item was the sprinkler system (again). This time the plan examiner wanted documentation that there was sufficient pressure in the water main to support the sprinklers being on the domestic water supply despite the fact that the code specifically states that sprinkler systems with 30 or fewer heads can feed off the domestic water supply. He also wanted all the pipe sizes and sprinkler heads specified, but that’s typically done when the sprinkler system is certified – it doesn’t need to be done at this point and requiring it now is just being difficult.
The biggest issue that he raised is that he’s insisting we do a pressure test on the water main to do the calculations to determine the sizes of pipes that are required for the sprinkler system. It takes 4 to 6 weeks to get DEP to do a flow test, so that means we can’t go in for a plan review until that’s done. Again, the flow test is typically done after DOB approves the overall plan – he’s just being obstructionist IMHO.
At one point the plan examiner insisted that we needed 2 hour fire rated walls around the stairwell, not 1 hour walls. Our expediter stuck to his guns and then it took the plan examiner 10 minutes of searching the code to realize we were right and he was wrong. Why do they have people doing plan exams who don’t know the code? If the code is just horribly complicated then why not have plan examiners specialize in certain building types? If we had someone who really knew the code issues for townhouses then maybe they’d know the code well enough to do their job properly.
Then the plan examiner was telling our expediter that he saw errors in the “I-Cards” for the building. I-Cards were the predecessor to Certificates of Occupancy, which came out in 1938. So in other words, he was holding us responsible for errors previous building owners made dating back to 1938 or before. I mean please… The whole point of our rehabbing the building is to bring it up to code and get a C of O. How can inaccuracies on the old I-Cards matter when the point of the exercise is to make them obsolete by getting a C of O?
Next time Dan and I will go to the plan review to prove the point that we’re not some nefarious slumlord trying to build a crappy substandard building. We’re just regular guys. Plus, with the enormous workload that DOB is under right now I just don’t understand how it’s productive for them to keep having us come back over and over again for stupid little things.
Now imagine if we were trying to purchase the place with a rehab loan and needed to get approved plans to close the loan. Obstructions like this can really hamper redevelopment of blighted buildings – for no good reason because they can tank deals. And it’s the reason why it can take FOREVER to close when the buyer needs financing to purchase. I’m sure more than a few deals have gone bad because DOB took too long and the contracts expired.
I’m heartbroken you were rejected again! I’ve been following your blog for months and I must admit you’ve converted me into a total renovation geek. I’m in the final throes of gut renovating my flat on 158th Street so I’m going through the same process but on a MUCH smaller scale. Keeping my fingers crossed that the DOB examiner is more reasonable next time!
Love your blog guys… keep at at. You’ve convinced me to follow in your footsteps…!