DOWNTOWN — City officials are hoping to dramatically reduce the time it takes to get building projects approved by digitizing the process — an online-only system that will replace office visits with web cam conferences and require electronic architectural drawings.
Currently it can take developers months to gain all the OKs needed to begin construction, with numerous agencies needed to sign off on details ranging from sprinkler system designs to sewer connections.
The new system, which comes at a nominal cost to the city, is designed to accelerate the process "from months to minutes,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gathered with other officials Wednesday to announce the launch of the “NYC Development Hub."
“We all heard horror stories about delays in the approval process that cost time and money,” Bloomberg said.
The program, which the city has been testing for several months, will require engineers and architects to submit all building plans electronically to a secure online system that can be accessed by staff from departments across the city.
The project's focus is a new high-tech “hub” at the Department of Buildings headquarters equipped with web cams, interactive smart boards, tablets and other screens that allow staff to hold live web conferences with developers and staff from other agencies, including the FDNY, Department of Environmental Protection, City Planning, Parks and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Plans can be discussed and marked up digitally, in real time, eliminating the need to ferry documents back and forth, schedule numerous appointments and wait in lines.
"Welcome to the digital age at the Department of Buildings," Commissioner Robert LiMandri said, explaining that the plan's forerunner, launched this summer and called Get it Done, had led to the approval of more than 1,400 projects.
Bruce Beal, executive vice president of the Related Companies, said his staff began using the new hub a little more than a month ago for a new project at West 30th Street and Tenth Avenues and has been impressed.
“This will make projects happen faster," he said, predicting it could cut approval times in half.
The DOB reviewed nearly 460,000 construction plans in 2010.