The process that the Department of Design and Construction currently uses to manage New York City projects has resulted in developments that are severely delayed and woefully over budget.

This is mainly because designers do not understand the real cost of constructing the project and contracts are awarded to construction firms which do not have the ability to float construction costs if there is a hold up in payment by the city when discrepancies occur.

Current Condition

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager overseeing projects from animal shelters, roads and sewers, police precincts, senior centers and parks. DDC’s construction contracts are handled through an open competitive bid process which often results in the lowest bidder, rather than the lowest, responsible bidder being chosen. Their Design and Construction Excellence Program, which has been in effect since 2005, pre-qualifies architecture and design firms then contracts with them so they have exclusive rights to respond to RFP’s for design services for DDC projects where construction costs are projected to be $50 million or under.

Skyrocketing Costs and Projects Delayed

The program was designed to decrease the amount of time required for DDC to procure design services but does not focus on actual construction costs or timelines. In October of 2016, DDC announced 26 firms that will have exclusive rights to bid on design RFP’s until 2019.

The program has resulted in project costs skyrocketing and projects being delayed. DNA info wrote a story about the program.

The following are some examples of projects that suffered time delays and cost overruns because the focus of the DDC is on reducing the time it takes to design a project rather than focusing on the time and cost of the total project.

  • 121 Precinct station house on Staten Island original price tag of $3 million cost $73 million in 2013.
  • The renovation of Central Park police station house went from $26 million to $61 million.
  • Queens Hunters Point Library branch in Hunters Point went from $20 million in 2004 to $30 million in 2017.
  • Spring Street Salt Shed went from $10 million to $23 million 2016.
  • Kew Gardens Hills Library went from $3.1 million to $9.628 million
  • Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage, which houses Sanitation Department trucks, went from an original cost of $147 million to $214 million.
  • Staten Island Animal Care Center went from $3.1 million in 2013 to $8.2 million. The project is still under
    construction.

In April, 2017, The Center for an Urban Future released a study called Slow Build that provided ideas to speed up the renovations of Libraries and Cultural Facilities while saving the city money.

The Malliotakis Plan Common Sense Project Management Initiative

The Malliotakis administration will adopt the following practices to save taxpayer dollars while delivering the project in a timely manner.

  • Assemblywoman Malliotakis is a co-sponsor of a bill in the State Legislature to allow New York City to adopt a holistic approach to design and construction by permitting the use of Design/Build for certain projects. Current state law mandates a less efficient approach to completing construction projects whereby design work and construction work be bid out, awarded, and completed separately. This requirement is counterintuitive to the intent of protecting taxpayer money because the process requires that the project be designed by architects who have been pre-approved by the DDC. Once the design is accepted and a projected cost assigned to the project, the construction of the project is put out to bid. More often than not, the architects projected cost is much lower that the bids provided by contractors – putting the project over budget before shovels hit the ground. If the project requires changes due to unforeseen circumstances, additional costs and delays are incurred. The private sector and certain New York State–funded projects utilize design/build to reduce delays and control costs. By teaming up architects with contractors during the project bid process a more realistic cost for the project will be offered. This process will also expand the pool of bidders capable of completing the job. Smaller Minority/Women/Disenfranchised Business Enterprises will be more likely to submit a bid when they are part of the process from the onset where they can truly understand the work needed to complete the job.
  • Include all relevant agencies in the design review process to reduce the time it takes to begin the project. By including agencies such as Fire, Transportation, Public Design Commission etc. at the onset of the process, it will reduce costly delays.
  • Award projects to the lowest responsible bidder rather than to the low bidder alone. Awarding the bid to a contractor who is capable of completing the project and who has offered a reliable, cost effective bid will save taxpayer dollars and reduce project delays.
  • Adopt a standardized set of rules to be used by all city agencies that have authority to review and approve costs related to projects. Utilizing a standardized review process will make it easier for contractors to understand the payment process which will help them: properly estimate the manpower needed to gather assemble the documentation necessary to correctly invoice the agency; reduce project delays due to non-payment of invoices which can easily bankrupt small M/WBE contractors; expand the pool of eligible bidders to ensure that agencies receive truly competitive and accurate bids.

Nicole for NYCRelated News

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