Press Releases

Roadmap to Improving New York City’s Infrastructure

The New York City Bar Association’s Construction Law Committee has issued a report on how New York City can implement changes to its design and construction practices to improve its infrastructure and increase process efficiencies, generating savings that will enable the City to promote various social goals, including affordable housing. As Mayor Bill de Blasio prepares for his second term in office and undertakes an ambitious agenda, the City Bar hopes this report can be a resource for the Administration and City agencies going forward.

“By focusing exclusively on areas where the City is not constrained by State laws, the Committee has identified opportunities for changes in local laws, policies and practices within the City’s administrative control that, in the Committee’s opinion, would increase process efficiency and permit City agencies to avoid unnecessary costs caused by the status quo,” the report, titled “Improving New York City’s Design and Construction Processes and Practices,” states. “By reforming current City processes, practices and policies that govern planning and construction of public projects, the City would be able to avoid the unnecessary costs they generate, which avoided costs could serve as funds available to increase the total number of projects, including state of good repair projects. Additionally, these savings to project costs would permit reductions in the level of public subsidies needed to promote the same level of private construction of projects promoting social goals, such as affordable housing.”

The report organizes the opportunities for reform it identifies into three distinct roles the City plays in the built environment as “Owner,” “Regulator” and “Economic Development Catalyst.”

  • In the “Owner” category, the Committee identifies opportunities to modernize the capital planning process and the “Asset Information Management System” to better support efforts to keep the City’s assets in a “state of good repair;” to digitize construction-related data it currently collects under law and the construction contract to permit the application of “big data analytics” techniques to inform future practice; and recommends further modernizing of the City’s Vendor Information Exchange System (“VENDEX”) to further increase process efficiencies.
  • Where the City acts as “Regulator,” the Committee recommends methods for reforming the City’s environmental review process.
  • For the City’s role as an “Economic Development Catalyst,” the Committee recommends several improvements to the Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) certification process, and makes other suggestions designed to alleviate the financial burdens of small construction businesses.

The report notes that the American Society of Civil Engineers recently released its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, assigning an overall grade of D+ to the state of good repair of American infrastructure and a C- to the state of good repair of New York State’s infrastructure. With construction, infrastructure and the built environment back in the public spotlight once again, the Committee “hopes that its analyses and recommendations help to provide a foundation for a dialogue about, and further exploration into, the City’s use of its own management tools and techniques to improve the processes underlying project design and construction within its boundaries.”  

Since 2008, the City Bar’s Construction Law Committee has been actively analyzing how to modernize New York State’s public construction procurement laws, which continue to impede state and local government owners in their efforts to make their systems operate in a state of good repair and expand to meet stakeholder needs. See the Committees Built Environment Series Recap & Materials here.

The report can be read here.

About the Association

The New York City Bar Association, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession, promoting reform of the law and access to justice, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association, through its 24,000 members, continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.