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New effort to safeguard ‘death fences’

The Brooklyn Paper
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Stalled condo projects and big blue “death fences” may be the order of the day throughout Brooklyn, but that doesn’t mean a community’s quality of life has to suffer.

The City Council is hammering out new legislation that would make it worth a developer’s while to better secure their half-completed projects.

If passed, developers feeling the financial pinch can enroll in a special program run by the city’s Department of Buildings, where all of their permits would be continued if they agree to maintain the safety of their construction sites.

According to current law, construction permits immediately expire if work on the site is suspended for more than 12 months. When they want to begin work again, they have to jump through a series of city hoops to acquire the permits they already had, officials said.

To be approved for the new program, one would have to “notify [the Department of Buildings] when permitted work would be suspended and when it will resume” as well as “submit a detailed plan for the Commissioner’s approval specifying how the safety of the construction site will be maintained while work is suspended or delayed.”

If a developer deviates in any way from their plan, their permits would be immediately rescinded.

The bill, which is supported by the city’s Department of Buildings, was mulled over during a hearing by the Committee on Housing and Buildings led by Bushwick City Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan on Monday.

Real estate professionals, developers and property owners all had a chance to chime in on the bill, which was brought to the committee by Manhattan City Councilmember Daniel Garodnick.

“In a moment of history where there is such a heightened concern, we want to ensure that these stalled sites have the best possible safety mechanisms in place,” said Garodnick. “We’ve seen a lot of stalled sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn and elsewhere and we want to create the right incentives for developers to share with the Department of Buildings andcommunity and agree to protocols that are specific to their sight.”

Brooklyn City Councilmembers co-sponsoring the bill include Letitia James (D-Fort Greene), Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge), Michael Nelson (D-Midwood) and Lew Fidler (D-Mill Basin).

“Construction sites are stalled all over the city,” Fidler told members of Informed Voices of Canarsie on the night of the hearing. “For whatever reason their project has stopped, but we want them to maintain it until they can start it up again.” “No one wants to live on a block where there’s an empty pit in the ground where kids can get hurt,” he said, adding that the committee recommended that the DOB maintain a list of stalled construction projects in each neighborhood and conduct routine inspections to make sure that the developer’s safety instructions are being followed.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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