June 22nd - June 28th, 2007
Lawmakers Address Controversial Wicks Law
June 24th: Lawmakers agreed to amend the controversial Wicks Law, which calls for four separate prime contractors on state-funded projects valued at more than $50,000, Engineering News-Record reported. The lawmakers agreed to raise the threshold for projects bound by the law to $3 million and agreed that agencies can avoid the law's requirements by taking advantage of existing project labor agreements.
The General Building Contractors of New York State, representing 180 union and nonunion contractors, filed a memorandum last week expressing its opposition to the new legislation. The group is concerned that the bill's provision allowing local governments to use prequalification for some public project bids could result in corruption.
The Senate bill has already been introduced, and a similar bill is expected to follow in the state Assembly.
New York State Legislature Approves Affordable Housing Incentives for Builders
June 25th: New York's state legislature passed a housing bill last week known as the 421-a program, which will help promote more affordable housing for New York City residents. Beginning on July 1, 2008, builders in many parts of the city will now be required to set aside 20 percent of new units for low- and middle-income housing in order to qualify for added tax incentives.
The new law was slated to go into effect by the end of this year, but lawmakers have extended the current abatement through July 2008 to give builders a little extra breathing room, according to a report in Crain's New York.
Reports this week predict that the city may see a surge in construction as builders rush to start their projects in order to qualify for the abatement before it expires. Crain's reported that their efforts are driving up demand for labor and materials at a time when site managers are already stretched thin and many construction crews are overwhelmed with existing projects. Despite a predicted increase in construction projects in New York, some expect that the changes in the 421-a program could slow construction as builders struggle with construction costs.
JPMorgan Chase Building Architect Says Cantilever Wont Cast Shadows
June 26th: The architect of the planned JPMorgan Chase tower responded to some critics' concerns about the controversial cantilever design that will be erected to house the bank's large trading floors, the New York Post reported. According to "extensive studies" of the sun's path year round, the cantilever will not cast a shadow over the new St. Nicolas Church located on the northern part of the block bound by Liberty, Greenwich, Albany, and Washington Streets.
Others have criticized the design as too big and too ugly. While there is no alternative to the cantilever at this time, the possibility of slightly reducing its size has not been entirely ruled out, according to the Post.
Former EPA Head Whitman Testifies Before Congress
June 26th: Christie Whitman, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, testified before Congress Monday, confronting critics who assert that health risks in Lower Manhattan were deliberately downplayed in the days immediately following the 9/11 attacks, the New York Times reported.
"It's utterly false then for EPA critics to assert that I or others at the agency set about to mislead New Yorkers and rescue workers," Witman testified. "Every statement I made was based on what experts, who had a great deal of experience in these things, conveyed to me," she continued.
According to her testimony, Witman was addressing residents -- not rescue workers -- when she said a week after the attack that the air in Lower Manhattan was safe to breathe. The agency repeatedly issued strong warnings to workers to wear protective equipment but had no power or ability to enforce such requirements, she continued.
Whitman's testimony was countered by harsh criticism about the federal agency's response. "Our government has knowingly exposed thousands of American citizens unnecessarily to deadly hazardous materia," said Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, before which Whitman was called to testify.
Building Code Approved, Effective July 2008
June 28th: New York has finally approved a new modernized building code that will affect the construction of homes, apartments, skyscrapers, and other buildings throughout the city, the Daily News reported.
The code was approved unanimously. It includes more stringent safety measures for many buildings, particularly skyscrapers. The new building code will dictate a wide range of construction practices, materials, and methods, including added requirements for fire sprinklers and smoke alarms.
In addition to safety features, the new code also offers an incentive program for builders who use environmentally friendly or "green" materials and calls for greater safety regulations at construction sites.