Kim Vauss

Manhattan is built to the sky with steel, concrete and glass, but a growing trend threatens to transform the composition of the famous horizon. Emboldened by the burgeoning prefabricated wood engineering process called mass timber, architects are beginning to envision the wooden high-rise. But will the Building Code oblige?

Mass timber is a process of making structural panels from glued together wood slabs. The process of crisscrossing slabs in sandwiched layers is called cross-laminated timber (CLT). (more...)

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The Obama Administration recently published a Housing Development Toolkit that aims to promote urban development by emboldening developers and bypassing bureaucracy. In many instances, New York City, with its recently passed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), is a step ahead of the Toolkit’s core objectives. Other recommendations are impractical or politically untenable for the city. Here are the ten principles in the Housing Development Toolkit and their potential for implementation in New York. (more...)

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New York City Council is currently floating two bills that may drop the hammer on illegal conversions. The first allows circumstantial evidence to be used to issue violations for illegal conversions. The second targets unlicensed professionals doing illegal plumbing and fire safety work.

Section 28-210.1 of the Administrative Code defines illegal conversions in New York City as the conversion of “any dwelling for occupancy by more than the legally authorized number of families.” Intro 0393-2014 intends to add to this 28-210.1 that the Department or any law enforcement entity acting to enforce this section “shall be authorized to issue a summons or notice of violation for a violation of this section based on readily observable circumstantial evidence which evidence may be refuted before a court of competent jurisdiction or before the environmental control board prior to the imposition of a final determination.”

The bill goes on to define circumstantial evidence as a greater number of:

  • mailboxes than legal dwelling units
  • operational facility meters than legal dwelling units
  • doorbells servicing a dwelling than legal dwelling units

Fines for violations are $1000. (more...)

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Local Law

Lobby Design By

New York City’s Lobbying Law requires lobbyists to register with the city. On June 30, 2016 the city concluded an amnesty program allowing lobbyists to register without penalties. The New York State amnesty has been extended to September 30th, 2016. It’s clear the city wants to enforce lobbying practices, including in real estate and construction.

What is a lobbyist?

A lobbyist is anyone who is part of a lobbying firm retaining clients. (more...)

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The Quality Housing Program was established in 1987 to help maintain the architectural character of New York City neighborhoods. The program includes rules concerning height, bulk, lot coverage, street line and more. Quality Housing is mandatory in contextual R6-R10 districts, but only optional in non-contextual R6-R10 districts.

Under what circumstances would a non-contextual building voluntarily opt-in to Quality Housing?

More FAR

FAR in non-contextual R6-R10 Districts depends on height factor. (more...)

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The redevelopment of industrial areas for residential use has been a trend throughout New York City’s recent history. Thirty years ago it was happening in neighborhoods like Soho and Tribeca. Today luxury residential development has expanded to industry parts of Dumbo and North Brooklyn. However, a new residence cannot be established in just any manufacturing district. New residences are only allowed in what are called Special Mixed Use Districts. (more...)

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Nineteen Sixty Eight may be the most important year in New York City building development. That year the Department released an updated Building Code. It took forty years to release another. This left a lot of buildings under the 1968 code.

Administrative Code Section 28-101.4.3 allows prior code (or pre-2008) buildings to be “preformed in accordance with the requirements and standards set forth in the 1968 Building Code.” A building administered by prior code is not subject to the more stringent fire safety and accessibility rules of the current code. (more...)

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