Today’s news:

Stalled construction%A0gets goosed

Faced with an increase in stalled construction projects -- which often turn into neighborhood eyesores -- the City Council has passed legislation whose goal is to encourage developers to keep up their properties.

The legislation, which was approved by the Council earlier this month and which has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, offers developers construction permit extensions for as much as four years, as long as they provide the Department of Buildings (DOB) with a specific plan for maintaining the construction sites while work is suspended.

Without the legislation, construction permits would expire should the work authorized by the permit not begin within 12 months of its being issued, or if work has been suspended for 12 months. In addition, according to DOB, “If work is suspended for a period exceeding two years, a developer may not be able to achieve any reinstatement of the permit.”

Participation in the program created by the legislation would be purely voluntary. Those developers who want to secure permit extensions would gain a boon by making sure that the construction sites they own are well-kept. On the other hand, no one can be forced to participate in the program.

Such legislation -- while it is extremely valuable to developers who are marking time till lost financing is restored -- also positively impacts communities where such sites languish, said City Councilmember Lewis Fidler, who has been speaking about the legislation at the civic meetings he has attended.

“The developers get a huge benefit, but the benefit happens to be a win-win,” he told members of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association (MMHCA), gathered at the King’s Chapel, 2702 Quentin Road, for their October meeting. “The one thing we don’t want is a building stopped halfway that’s legal.”

“The bill is not going to resolve every stopped site, but if it makes a serious dent in the problem, it’s a good start,” Fidler opined.

And, he added, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, “Did say, we understand there’s more of a problem that needs to be addressed. That means more of the sites are on the table.”

For those sites whose owners want to take advantage of the opportunity to extend their work permits, the legislation means that a laundry list of conditions would have to be regularly addressed, said Fidler. These include removing graffiti and posters on the construction fence, construction debris, ice and snow on the sidewalk adjacent to the site, standing water on the site, and overgrown vegetation,

“All of those things that have made these sites a blight in neighborhoods like this,” he noted during the October meeting of the United Canarsie South Civic Association (UCSCA), which was held at the Hebrew Educational Society, 9502 Seaview Avenue.

“All these things have to be done anyway, but they haven’t been doing them,” Fidler stressed. “This gives them an incentive.”

A neighborhood like that represented by MMHCA isn’t likely to benefit greatly from the legislation, suggested Ed Jaworski, the group’s vice president, in large part because, “It doesn’t impact so much sites stalled because they have stop work orders” because there are issues with the legality of the projects. But, Jaworski noted, the bill that passed had a good deal that wasn’t in the original bill that benefits communities and their residents.

Fidler concurred. The bill approved by the City Council was considerably stronger than the first bill that was proposed which, Fidler said, “showed tremendous trust of DOB. To pass a bill that allows them to confer a benefit on a developer without telling them what they must get back from the developer was not a good idea.”

The program will confer an economic benefit on the city, noted Bloomberg back in June when the legislation was introduced. “Stalled construction sites pose significant safety challenges and the longer they remain dormant, the more harmful the impact on the city’s economy,” he said at the time. “This legislation will provide a significant incentive for builders to dramatically increase safety by extending city permits so projects get up and moving quickly when capital becomes available, generating economic activity and creating jobs.”

Nonetheless, not everyone is thrilled with the legislation. Randy Peers, the chairperson of Community Board 7 in Sunset Park, said that the board was “generally not supportive” of the program.

“Keeping up their property is something developers should be doing anyway, so the city is rewarding them for something they should be doing,” Peers remarked. In cases where “developers bit off more than they could chew, financially, they are now expecting us to reward them for bad behavior.”

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