De Blasio hails design-build passage as a budget saver

Register now

New York City could save up to $400 million in building costs through use of design-build project delivery following state clearance, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in one of his final legislative approvals of 2019, signed the NYC Design-Build Act, which empowers city agencies to combine design and construction bids into one contract.

Two Queens lawmakers, State Sen. Leroy Comrie and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, both Democrats, sponsored the bill.

“Design-build means less red tape and more new-and-improved libraries, roads, and bridges," de Blasio said in a statement. "Now we’ll be able to save time and money on critical projects that truly matter to New Yorkers."

Until the signing, the city government had limited ability to use design-build. The state, through design-build, has constructed the $4 billion Mario M. Cuomo Bridge connecting Westchester and Rockland counties north of New York City, the $1.5 billion expansion of Jacob Davits Convention Center on Manhattan's West Side and the $873 million replacement Kosciuszko Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Queens on Interstate 278.

Cuomo said the latter, which opened in August, finished four years ahead of schedule.

The watchdog Citizens Budget Commission supported the bill despite some concerns that call for future amendments, CBC President Andrew Rein said in a letter to Cuomo.

"The bill ties the use of the alternative procurement and delivery methods to the use of project-labor agreements, which could affect the city’s ability to evaluate and revise its PLAs over time," Rein said. "Similarly, the protections for public sector capital project managers and the prohibitions on using outside contractors to maintain assets built through design-build could offset some of its efficiencies."

One major project on the city's plate is the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway reconstruction, with a de Blasio-appointed panel expected to issue a report soon. De Blasio and city transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg have said the city could save millions on the BQE project by using design-build.

Repairs to New York City Housing Authority units and replacement jails for Rikers Island, which the city intends to close, are also ripe for design-build use.

"This is the dawn of a new era in the city of New York — one that will allow agencies to deliver to their communities the infrastructure they so desperately need," said Lisa Washington, executive director of the Design-Build Institute of America.

"Design-build is the fastest growing and most popular method used to deliver construction projects in America and the innovation, cost and schedule savings inherent in this process will now be allowed to flourish in one of our nation’s most important cities."

According to DBIA, design-build will deliver nearly half of U.S. infrastructure projects by 2021. North Dakota and Iowa are the only states without design-build authority.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Infrastructure Budgets Andrew Cuomo Bill de Blasio City of New York, NY New York