NYC Needs to Build Differently from Now On – A New York Daily News Article

That agency, the Department of Design and Construction, known as DDC, is now positioned to help lead the city’s economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. But to do so most effectively it needs to transform how it does business, including through authorization of new flexible construction management tools by the state.

New York City made a transformational change in 1996 by consolidating the design and construction of the city’s public buildings and infrastructure into a single agency. Since DDC began, it has completed over 4,700 public works projects, rebuilding large parts of the city’s water and sewer systems and creating public spaces like the new Times Square and critical public buildings like the NYPD’s modern Police Academy.

Today, in its 25th year, DDC is fulfilling its traditional duties while also managing new shoreline protection programs and leading the city’s effort to build four new borough-based jails. It will be at the forefront of using any funds the city receives from a federal infrastructure package. These are important public projects that will help lift the local economy.

Many past projects have taken too long to build or been too costly, problems we acknowledged in 2019 with a revolutionary set of reforms adapted from the private sector and other leading public agencies and authorities. These reforms have already — despite the pandemic — reduced the average project by six months and promise nearly three years of time savings when fully implemented.

But our own internal plan to improve can only go so far as long as the City’s capital construction process is hamstrung by arcane rules that require state legislation to change.

The state still requires the city to use the outdated lowest-bidder system for awarding most construction contracts even though it harms quality and doesn’t even guarantee the lowest price.

During the peak of the COVID pandemic, the lowest bidder requirement was suspended and DDC built field hospitals, clinics and vaccination sites in a fraction of the time city work usually takes. Three large, permanent COVID Centers of Excellence clinics worth more than $117 million were built in seven months instead of years, all while protecting public funds and utilizing a high rate of minority- and women-owned business enterprises. DDC employed many of these same methods during the 9/11 recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

This shows what DDC can do with the freedom to use modern construction management tools. The state recently granted use of one modern method known as “design-build.” Now let us use other common approaches already employed by the private and public sectors around the country.

One such method we’re advocating for is “construction manager-build,” which saves time and money and encourages the best companies to work on city projects. Other methods also allow for best-value selection of contractors, instead of always choosing the company that submits the lowest bid price but which may not be able to finish the job on time, or on budget. We’ve also asked for insurance reforms that will allow us to expand our minority- and women-owned business bidder pool, promoting competition and fairness.

For the last quarter-century, DDC has built public spaces and infrastructure that will be an enduring part of the city’s landscape for generations. We have proudly played a quiet but essential role in the city’s recovery from major crises, and stand ready to do so again if needed. Now we need from Albany the modern tools that will enable us to continue this work most effectively.

Torres-Springer is commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction.

John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: or (631) 608-1346.

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Long Island Construction Law does not own this content. This content was created by Jaime Torres – Springer and was published to the New York Daily News on September 13th, 2021. You may view the full article here.