The Real Estate Board of New York to The Committee on Fire and Emergency Management of the New York City Council Regarding the FY 2023 Preliminary Budget

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. REBNY thanks the New York City Council Committee on Fire and Emergency Management for the opportunity to provide testimony regarding the FY2023 preliminary budget.

The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) is a critical partner to the real estate industry. REBNY and our members have long had a close working relationship with the men and women of the FDNY and look forward to our continued shared success. With this said, in recent years REBNY members have experienced some challenges regarding fire alarm plan reviews and inspections that we believe could be addressed, in part, by increased funding for the Bureau of Fire Prevention.

The current processing times for project plan review or a request for inspection ranges from 12 to 14 weeks. Should a project plan receive an objection from FDNY, which is common, the applicant will generally have to resubmit the plan, which can take an additional 12 to 14 weeks, and the plan will not necessarily be reviewed by the same staff who reviewed and made the initial objections.

These delays impede a developer or contractor’s ability to construct buildings or receive Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, which have left completed buildings unoccupied for extended periods of time. This has often resulted in significant losses in resources and revenue for building owners and the city as well as delays in getting residents into their homes and commercial tenants into their offices. These issues impact private and public building owners alike as the School Construction Authority (SCA) currently has a significant number of projects on hold due to these challenges.

To improve the processing times, with REBNY’s backing, the FDNY Bureau of Fire Prevention received additional funding for staffing needs to be dispersed over two fiscal years beginning in FY2022. It is our understanding, however, that these resources have not been fully used for additional staff for project plan review or inspections. As this committee continues budget deliberations this year, it would behoove committee members to understand the status of previously allocated funding so that the purposes that it was allocated for can be achieved.

Additionally, while REBNY believes that funding is only part of the solution to alleviating plan review and inspection turnaround times, we encourage this committee to have additional conversations with FDNY leadership to identify if additional funding for inspectors would be needed for FY 2023 and outyears. In addition, we hope the committee will work to identify meaningful policy and process changes that will help reduce delays in plan review and inspection while balancing public safety. It is our hope that we can partner with this committee and the Council on this effort as well.

Thank you for your consideration on these points.