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It's New York City's Turn to Benefit from Design-Build

Photo of Carlos Scissura Carlo A. Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress

NEW YORK CITY—New York City is in a period of unprecedented growth, with population, tourism and private sector development hovering around all-time highs. Of course, this surge in popularity is increasingly straining the city’s aging infrastructure networks, which were already in dire need of expansion, modernization and, in some cases, replacement. 

For this reason, the New York Building Congress has made the extension of design-build authorization to city government a top priority for 2018. Design-build is a highly efficient and streamlined approach to public sector building that combines the design and construction of a project into a single contract, allowing for more effective collaboration between designers and contractors. 

Design-build is already in use at five New York State agencies. Under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, it has been used to great success on a range of new bridges, airport facilities and schools, as well as for emergency construction following Superstorm Sandy. The resulting reductions in both cost and schedule have been dramatic.

In New York City, we saw design-build at its finest when the new Kosciuszko Bridge was completed on budget and four years ahead of schedule, giving the city its first new bridge in more than half a century. Similarly, construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge, just north of the city, continues to progress ahead of schedule.

Now it’s the city’s turn to benefit from design-build. As Mayor Bill de Blasio has noted, the city is in the planning stages of a number of potentially transformative public works projects throughout the five boroughs, all of which would spare city taxpayers considerable cost and aggravation if design-build were an option. It would allow city agencies to make maximum use of their infrastructure dollars, resulting in further job creation and economic growth.

While it may not be suitable across the board, there are many projects that would benefit substantially from design-build. Chief among the candidates is the rehabilitation of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway triple-cantilever. The repair process of this vital 1.5-mile artery in Brooklyn Heights is going to be costly and disruptive to residents. But with design-build, city officials believe they can shave $300 million from the cost and reduce the construction timeline by two full years.  

Other projects that Mayor de Blasio has requested design-build authorization for include the renovation of Rodman’s Neck Training Facility in the Bronx and the construction of a new NYPD 116th precinct in Southeast Queens.

The benefits of design-build are undeniable at this point, and the need for it in New York City is acute. 

State Senator Martin Golden has pledged to reintroduce this key piece of legislation when the state legislature reconvenes in 2018. The New York Building Congress applauds his leadership and urges the rest of the state legislature to follow his lead.

Carlo A. Scissura is the president and CEO of the New York Building Congress. The views expressed here are the author’s own.

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