Bureaucratic Insanity @ The NYC DOB

There are times when all you can do is shake your head in disbelief… Let me go back in time to explain…

November 2005 – The prior owner of our townhouse submits plans to the DOB to convert it to two family.

July 2006 – The plans still aren’t approved, so the owner submits a smaller set of plans just to do demolition. They’re approved in August and a permit was pulled on August 2, 2006.

November 2006 – The original full set of plans are finally approved.

January 2007 – A permit for the full job was pulled.

February 2007 – Plans were filed and approved to build a construction fence.

March 2007 – Plans were filed and approved for structural, mechanical and plumbing. No permits were ever pulled and none of the work was ever done.

July 1st/2nd, 2007 – The permits for demolition and renovation expired on the 1st and were renewed on the 2nd.

July 14, 2007 – A violation and full stop work order was issued for not having the renewed permits for the full job posted. However, a permit was in effect and as far as we can tell no work was ever done on that job.

August 2007 – The permit for the construction fence was pulled. It was renewed 11 days before it expired.

July 1, 2008 – All permits expired.

March 2010 – We purchase the building.

April 2010 – We submit plans to renovate the building.

August 2010 – Our plans are approved.

December 23, 2010 – We pull a permit to do work (but don’t actually start).

January 3, 2011 – An inspector stops by the house and issues another violation for not having resolved the stop work order on the building from 2007 even though the stop work order was issued for not having a permit when a permit existed and no work was being done and we still weren’t doing any work.

Our problem at the moment is how to get rid of the stop work order from 2007. It should never have been issued in the first place – no work was being done and there was a permit in effect at the time (it just may not have been displayed at the property). But now that it exists it won’t go away… In fact we got another violation 3 days ago for not resolving the first one. We thought if the violation was for not having a permit, that getting a permit would resolve it, but no… You can have a permit and get a violation for not resolving a stop work order that was issued for not having a permit (when there was a permit).

Our contractor’s expediter is saying that we should withdraw the previous owner’s job application. The problem we see with that is that that job is the primary job number for our job. Because that job was never started (or completed) and our job has roughly the same scope of work our job continues that job. If we withdraw it we worry we’ll void our current approval and permit.

To me it’s just absurd that DOB is enforcing a stop work order that probably never should have been issued in the first place when we’ve resolved the underlying issue. It’s also absurd that you can get a stop work order for not having a permit posted when you’re not doing any work. It’s also absurd that it doesn’t seem anyone can press a “resolved” button somewhere and make it all go away. I mean a full stop work order in a situation like this? Please…

UPDATE: The expediter got back to us. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds… They do recognize that the original 2007 stop work order was an error and it should get cleared without a problem, though it will take them a few days to handle it. And the stop work order a few days ago was because we technically had two “Alt-1s” active at the same time. In other words two sets of building plans had been approved for the same place – the 2005/2006 set and the 2010 set. Thing is, we’ve been told previously that the old plans cannot be resurrected – once they’re expired for two years they’re completely dead. So it’s still a bit crazy that we got a violation / stop work order for not formally withdrawing plans that can’t ever be reopened. Why can’t the system just automatically withdraw them for you?

The one lesson from this is that you should clear all violations and pull ALL your permits before starting your mortgage. If we were paying $5,000+ a month on a mortgage while all of this was happening I’d be freaking out right now. As it is, it’s just a somewhat amusing irritation. Hopefully the expediter won’t charge us an arm and a leg to take care of it.

1 thought on “Bureaucratic Insanity @ The NYC DOB

  1. hi Jay

    sorry to hear about your woes with DOB and SWOs, it’ll be an undertaking to resolve it. but while you’re at it, ask your expediter about transitioning your approved application to be the primary active job number. I understand your wanting to keep approved plans by the prior developer in place but in the long run, it probably wouldn’t work and create more paperwork hassle than any short term benefit you might enjoy, especially when it comes to closing out the job to get C of O. from DOB perspective, the job folder is the most important records they have on a project and everything else associated with the job number is the paper trail they follow. on any job application, there can only be one Alt 1 application and currently in your job folder, there are two, yours and the developers because you’ve decided to link your new application to his. ideally, one application should have been withdrawn before the other one was started or even approved. if you had wanted to make full use of the developer’s approved plans, you could have done so by resubmitting revised drawings under the SAME job number. and since the developer’s also had other applications outstanding such as mechanical/structural tied to his Alt 1, any changes your architect made to drawings, also had to be carried to these applications as well. you would have had to get the engineers to update their drawings, re-stamp, and re-sumbit them. chances are you would have had to paid for these extra services and whatnots. now you’re all caught up in the developer’s past violations and even though your application is separate from his, but by being in the same job folder, you’re guilty by association.

    I think the best way to get out of this mess is to get your own separate work folder, and yes, it’ll mean you have to submit separate applications for structural, HVAC, fire sprinklers, and concrete/foundation if there’s any, and all these ancillary applications will be tied to yours and yours only Alt 1, and your GC can pull all the necessary permits required for each and every application. it’s painful I know, but I don’t see another way… if I had know, I would have suggested from the getgo the same thing.

    I recently caught up on all your trials and tribulations so you have all my empathy. I work as a designer and owner’s rep so that’s how I know the ins and outs, and have learned from my and others’ mistakes. it’s funny that you mentioned about showing to a meeting with the plan examiner as I’m fastidiously attend all mine on behalf of my clients, and am not above wearing a short skirt and batting my eye lashes to moving things along… just saying!

    best of luck.

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