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City’s capital construction projects may soon see expedited timeline, lower costs

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The city’s department that manages capital construction projects wants to be more effective

The Queens Library designed by Steven Holl Architects fell under the jurisdiction of DDC. It’s been a long time in the making.
Jessica Dailey

Projects undertaken by the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) have been notoriously plagued by protracted timelines and cost overruns. Now, the agency is taking steps to combat some of the issues that have beset capital projects across the city.

On Thursday the de Blasio administration announced a new comprehensive plan that will transform the processes through which DDC projects must pass to be realized. Called A Strategic Blueprint for Construction Excellence, the plan will ensure that critical infrastructure projects are finished faster and within budget by offering contractors more incentives to meet deadlines. It will also put more onus on DDC staff in terms of making decisions and responding to changes with flexibility.

A few key points the plan addresses include streamlining the process of procuring contractors (which as of now can take over nine months), exploring new projective delivery methods including expanding the Design-Build practice, doing more front-end planning to minimize late-stage changes that often hold projects up, and taking a more proactive approach to community outreach. The plan can be read in its entirety here.

DDC and the Parks Department have come under fire in recent months for scrapping a years-in-the-making plan to bring resiliency measures to Manhattan’s east side. The departments announced a new proposal in September that would bury the East River Park with ten feet of landfill rather than enact a version of the Big U plan that resulted from the Rebuild By Design competition in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. That plan consisted of bringing a series of berms to the park and drop-down flood barriers from the FDR. The DDC claimed its new plan would reduce construction time by six months while also delivering flood protections nearly a year earlier than projected.

But community stakeholders who are invested in creating a more resilient east side say their efforts communicating with the department about what’s best for the community are being totally disregarded. Plus, the new plan chokes the community’s access to the park for three and a half years.

“We don’t like the fact that they didn’t talk to us about it after five years working on a plan that we thought was settled,” Ayo Harrington, an organizer with the new alliance, said before a City Council hearing this week discussing the new proposal.

The new proposal for the east side does prioritize the outcomes of some of the new procedures DDC is putting into place—like an abridged timeline. When pressed on the subject, DDC spokesperson Andrew Hollweck issued the following statement: “Several administrative improvements in the Blueprint will help us during procurement and construction of the ESCR project that will help us deliver ensure on-time, on-budget delivery.”