Global Insight


Key steps in a successful NYC permitting strategy

01 March 2018

Although New York’s Department of Buildings is making significant efforts to streamline the approval process, filing a Work Permit still presents considerable challenges.

New York’s Department of Buildings (DOB) recently began implementing updated safety laws, forming new inspection units and incorporating state-of-the-art technology. This is at the same time as being focused on streamlining the approval process, in order to facilitate builders breaking ground faster than ever. However, the process of filing a Work Permit in New York City can still be time consuming, while also increasing costs on the conventional construction budget. Below, we outline the key steps in a successful permitting strategy, which will not only assist in obtaining permits, but will also minimize the number of amendments being filed to the DOB.

Engage an expediter

To obtain a work permit for even the simplest of renovations, a New York State Registered Architect (R.A.) or Professional Engineer (P.E.) will need to prepare drawings of the existing conditions and proposed renovation. The services of an expediter are typically engaged early on during the permit process, to assist in filing the documents and pulling the permits that allow projects to go forward. 

Define a strategy and key milestones

In today’s regulatory climate, obtaining permits requires a clearly defined strategy in order to keep a project on time and within budget. Implementing project milestones is fundamental to obtaining permits in a timely fashion. It is imperative that the project manager drives the project team to achieve these milestones in order to maintain the overall project.

Identify the permit type

There are many permit types, such as construction, boiler, signage, elevator and plumbing, and they will differ for each construction project. A New Building (NB) permit is used for new structures, while an Alterations Type 1 (ALT1) are defined as “major alterations” and result in a change (or changes) to use, egress and / or occupancy.  Ultimately in order to occupy and close out the application, you need a revised Certificate of Occupancy.

There are 2 types of ALT2 applications – Directive 14 or Directive 2.  ALT2 Directive 14 applies to alterations where there is no change to use, egress or occupancy they may be major multimillion dollar renovations but they are not defined as a ‘major alteration’.  The special/progress inspections for this type of application are completed by licensed professionals and a Letter of Completion is issued for close out (not a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy/Certificate of Occupancy).

For ALT2 Directive 2, there is no change to use or occupancy, but egress can be changed under this application.  The final inspection is completed by the DOB in lieu of a licensed professional, because of the change in egress.  The close-out document is still a Letter of Completion (as opposed to a Temporary Certificate Occupancy/Certificate of Occupancy).

Finalize the design before starting construction

While this is always achievable in an ideal world, it may be difficult in the ever-changing construction industry. Strong architectural and MEP teams, along with solid client representation, will help to achieve this. Developing clearly defined construction documents that can be reviewed and approved by the client will help to finalize the construction.

Define a strategy and key milestones

In today’s regulatory climate, obtaining permits requires a clearly defined strategy in order to keep a project on time and within budget. Implementing project milestones is fundamental to obtaining permits in a timely fashion. It is imperative that the project manager drives the project team to achieve these milestones in order to maintain the overall project.

Maintain records to track changes

After the DOB approves an application and plans, changes are common as the job progresses. There may be a minor change in the work, or the need to correct an error in the initial filing may be discovered. The DOB requires applicants to maintain a current and accurate record of their jobs by filing Post-Approval Amendments (PAAs) for these changes.

Certification of Occupancy

An integral milestone of any construction project is receiving the CO (Certificate of Occupancy). A CO is the key document used to certify the legal use and occupancy of a building, and describes how a building may be occupied. A Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) can also be achieved during the construction process. It indicates that the property or partial property is safe for occupancy and allows clients to move into their new or renovated space. TCOs typically expire every 90 days, but this period may be shorter, based on Building Code or inspection unit approval. It is important to ensure that all requirements for TCO are in place in advance of the inspection.


Case study – 10 Hudson Yards

Linesight’s New York team has extensive experience with Work Permits in New York City, and recently provided Project and Cost Management services on Intercept Pharmaceuticals’ new home at 10 Hudson Yards. Just off the famous High Line, Hudson Yards is currently the biggest development in New York City since the Rockefeller Centre. With such a large development, it was imperative that the permitting process was implemented accurately and efficiently. An added complexity to the certification process at 10 Hudson Yards arose in the fact that the base building space was also completing its TCO process at the same time as the Intercept space. The Linesight Project Management team had to ensure that the landlord spaces such as the elevator, lobbies and corridors were TCO compliant ahead of the inspection for the Intercept space.

The first step when embarking on this fit-out was to define the strategy around obtaining necessary regulatory approvals with the client. Defining key milestones allowed Linesight to develop a schedule around initial filing dates, and ultimately, was a key factor in the project being delivered on time. For 10 Hudson Yards, an ALT2 permit was filed, as although it consisted of a large-scale, high-end corporate fit-out, the project did not involve any changes to use or egress.  A TCO/CO was required for this ALT2 permit, due to the fact that Intercept was the first tenant in the space and the building was yet to achieve its TCO/CO.

Intercept Pharmaceuticals had a strict move-in date for its new space; this resulted in an aggressive schedule from the outset of the project. In order to secure a successful outcome for the client, a tactical approach was employed to achieve a TCO and deliver the project in line with the predefined move-in date. This approach involved calculating how long the TCO process would take, aligning that with the client’s move-in date, and then driving the construction schedule, to ensure that TCO requirements were in place ahead of schedule.