The LL-11 Game Changer

The façade division at the NYC Department of Buildings, endeavoring towards ‘zero defects’, has recently begun performing audits and site inspections upon receiving submissions of LL-11 reports – both SAFE and SWARMP.

To handle the work flow, the Façade Division has hired dozens of inspectors to perform follow up inspections of the property conditions and descriptions covered by the submitted LL-11 inspection reports. These inspectors are not performing hands on inspections. These inspectors are using high powered telephoto lenses to review conditions. These inspectors then challenge the classification of the conditions and therefore the judgement of the licensed professionals retained to perform the inspections, which results in rejections of the submitted reports and the issuance of violations to the subject client properties.

In the past, the DOB would hold the submitted report until questionable items were addressed or a satisfactory explanation was provided. Now, ECB court appearances are required along with Certificates of Correction to satisfy these challenges.

This Game Changing strategy means that the NYCDOB now has exclusive discretion in determining façade conditions for client properties, regardless of the opinion, hands on inspection, institutional experience and judgement of the design professional.

The intention of this new strategy to make NYC safer. However, the unintended consequence is to make ‘very good’ the enemy of perfect.

Cowley Engineering will continue to perform our inspections and use our judgement consistent with our industry’s standards. Client properties should expect:

  1. rejected LL-11 reports,
  2. the issuance of violations requiring resolution,
  3. civil penalties,
  4. trivial façade repairs that require filing,
  5. sidewalk protection to perform trivial repairs,
  6. site safety plans for tall buildings,

all as a result of an audit or visit from a DOB inspector.

Local Law 11 Update (8th Cycle)

I attended a Local Law 11 industry presentation recently at the NYCDOB.

The Facade division has taken a lot of heat due to the recent masonry cavity wall failure (65th and 1st avenue) and the loss of life from a falling portion of ornamental terra cotta on West End Avenue, among others.

There is the realization that its been 36 years since the façade law was put in place yet façade failures are still occurring.  The façade division is conducting a re-think of the way they will be reviewing 8th Cycle Local Law 11 submissions with the intent of future rule changes.

To start with, Cycle 8 submissions will be scrutinized more thoroughly.  The department has added significant quantity of staff for thorough reviews of submissions as well as personnel to field verify the engineer’s condition assessment.  The department will be looking for such things as:

  1. Were there an adequate number of inspection drops?
  2. Were invasive probes performed?
  3. Were natural stone and terra cotta elements sounded and thoroughly examined?
  4. Was the cornice overhanging the street thoroughly examined?

The department has also raised the fines associated with No Report Filed (NRF) status of which there were approximately 700 last cycle.

Action Items

Expect higher inspection and rigging costs. Multiple drops, invasive probes, identification for removal and replacement of non-ductile elements (terra cotta, natural stone) will become normal.  The façade unit is raising its standard so the inspection process must exceed the minimum requirement.

Beware of SWARMP classification.  SWARMP status will trigger follow up inspections by façade unit field personnel.  Expect challenges to the SWARMP classification and violations for UNSAFE conditions.

Remove and restore to original condition all balcony enclosures that have not been permitted.  The DOB has rescinded their June 1, 1976 memo regarding balcony enclosures and now requires proof of legal condition, proof of filing and proof of wind resistance.

Permanent rule changes to follow.

Falling Terra Cotta UWS

See the link:

310 West End Avenue near 74th street

Decorative terra cotta fell to the street severely injury child and grandmother.

NYC Local Law-11 Penalties

All fees and civil penalties are required to be paid at the time of filing of the façade report. The Amnesty Program civil penalties will be calculated based on the last date of the amnesty window – June 30, 2015.

Fee schedule is as follows:

Cycle +Filing Date    Failure to File     Late Filing        Total Amount owed

Cycle 5 – 2/21/2002       N/A                      $40,250             $40,250
Cycle 6 – 2/21/2007       N/A                      $25,250             $25,250
Cycle 7A – 2/21/2012   $3,000                  $10,250              $13,250
Cycle 7B – 8/21/2012   $2,000                  $8,750                $10,750
Cycle 7C – 2/21/2013    $2,000                 $7,250                  $9,250

(For example if FISP report wasn’t filed in cycle 6 and 7B total civil penalty will be $25,250+10,750=$36,000)


1. The amounts above do not include a FISP report filing fee of $265.00 per report.
2. Separate payments should be made for the following items:
a. Filing Fee – Any form of payment is acceptable for FISP report      filing fee ($265.00 per report), i.e. cash, check, credit card, etc.
b. “Failure to file” & “Late filing” civil penalties – Must be separate certified bank checks or postal money orders for each civil penalty.
3. Façade Batch Intake Form (FBI1) and Facades Cashier Civil Penalty Form (FCP) (see attached example of FCP form) shall be submitted with the report.
4. Buildings exempt from filing fees and/or civil penalties shall file FISP reports regardless of exemption.


LL-7 Cycle Amnesty

The Department of Buildings is implementing a limited duration Amnesty Program to owners who failed to file a Façade Inspection Safety Report (FISP) during Cycle 7.

Owners who didn’t file Cycle 7 report but may have one ready but not submitted, that during the limited time period from May 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015 they may file an early Cycle 8 report regardless of their assigned sub-cycle (A, B or C). Early filing of Cycle 8 report will allow owners to administratively close Cycle 7.

As part of this amnesty, please note the following:
1. This is a program that only allows an early Cycle 8 to be submitted and at the same time, administratively closes out Cycle 7. It is not a program to accept late Cycle 7 reports.
2. All late fees, civil penalties and ECB fines accrued for failure to file during any previous cycles must be paid prior or at the time of filing. The amnesty is contingent upon payment of fees, fines and penalties
3. Please be reminded that since inception of Cycle 8 DOB accepting FISP reports in electronic format only (see DOB website for further details).
4. This is one time amnesty and will not be considered in the future.

NYC Local Law 11 Cycle 8 update

Earlier in February I attended a 8th cycle update meeting at the NYCDOB.  Key take aways are:

1. All reports must be in a digital format.  This doesn’t mean via email.  The reports must be submitted on a CD or DVD and coded in such as a way so subsequent versions can be tracked.  The TR-6 must be filed in paper format with an original seal from a Professional Engineer and original signatures from a property officer.  The filing fee cannot be paid electronically, so payment must be made by check.

2. The facade division is moving away from the SWARMP classification.  The NYC code requires that buildings be maintained in a SAFE condition.  The SWARMP category was created by the facade division however it isn’t defined in the NYC code.  Look for the facade division to more critically review future SWARMP designations and encourage property Owners to move to a SAFE condition by issuing UNSAFE violations.

Local Law Update for Cycle 8

For the 8th cycle of facade inspections, the three groups of buildings (A,B,C) will have over lapping two year filing windows as follows:

Block numbers: 4,5,6,9
February 21, 2015 – February 21, 2017

Block numbers: 0,7,8
February 21, 2016 – February 21, 2018

Block numbers: 1,2,3
February 21, 2017 – February 21, 2019

The August filing has been eliminated.

Retaining Wall Update

2014 Bronx

Condition reports on retaining walls that border public ways and have any portion greater than 10 feet in height are due December 31, 2014.

2015 Manhattan January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015
2016 Staten Island January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016
2017 Queens January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017
2018 Brooklyn January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2018

Inspections of balconies, handrail assemblies & guards

To close out the 7th cycle, the NYC facade division requires that a separate ‘balcony’ statement be submitted by February 1, 2015. A balcony statement includes: the balcony structure, handrail assemblies, guards, and/or railings constructed of any material and associated connections.

The Professional Engineer may refer to the NYC code in place at the time the building was built in determining compliance. (See engineering info below)

What is needed:

A statement must be submitted by the Professional Engineer prior to the start of the 8th cycle.

If there are no balconies*, handrails/guards…no statement is required. *Balconies include terraces, walkways, corridors, fire escapes, roof areas and setbacks.

If the LL-11 status is changed because of the supplemental inspection:

1. A FISP3 must be filed if the status is downgraded to UNSAFE.
2. This and any other change requires the filing of an Amended or Subsequent Report.

It is the discretion of the Professional Engineer to determine the extent of the inspection, the required testing and the scope.

Balcony Enclosures:

Closed-in balconies with screens or walls on or within handrail/guards must be inspected and the status of their stability determined by the Professional Engineer. Permits ARE required for such structures.


There is no DOB fee for balcony statement submittals.
Non compliance reverts to an incomplete report with penalties per the DOB Rule.

Engineering information:

For buildings built prior to the 1968 code, (when railings were not featured prominently in the code) the Professional Engineer should consider the original configuration of the balcony, material and associated degradation. Testing may be performed for a representative sample to determine Factor Of Safety. The code prior to 1968 references a FOS of 1 to 4. A review of the Certificate of Occupancy may also be informative.

In the 1968 NYC code, railing design loads are: 50 pounds per lineal foot – any direction.

In the 2008 NYC code, railing design loads are 200 pounds concentrated at any location, in any direction, along the top rail. The top rail shall resist 50 pounds per lineal foot in any direction. All components (intermediate rails & filler panels) shall resist an applied horizontal load of 50 pounds on one square foot of area.

Buildings Bulletin 2011-017 clarifies the loading of intermediate and bottom rails defined in the 1968 code as 50 pounds force at the most critical location.

Buildings Bulletin 2011-017 further clarifies the 2008 code for intermediate rails, balusters and panel fillers. For vertical loading requirements 50 pounds per lineal foot downward shall be considered and a concentrated upward force of 50 pounds applied at the most critical position.

Buildings Bulletin 2011-017 states that the railings, balusters and components shall be designed separately for the effect of wind when the total wind load on the panel or component exceeds 50 pounds. Wind loading need not be combined with any other live load.

Railings on terraces and balconies

The tragedy at 400 East 57th Street is only the most recent event whereby an unsuspecting person trusted a terrace railing.

Here is what I have seen and what I recommend.

Never trust a railing…its presence is as a deterrant – it is not a safety device;
Aluminum corrodes differently than steel and is more difficult to detect;
Many times corrosive fasteners are used with aluminum railings.

Recommendations for your clients

In January 2013, the DOB issued a Rule Amendment that requires ‘all owners to periodically check the adequacy and structural integrity of all of their balcony railings’.

Unit owners and supers are the closest to the source. Have them report any suspected railing or post condition. If any are reported, have an expert review the condition. Based upon his findings, the expert will advise if more railings should be inspected.

The Board should issue a recommendation that railings shall not be sat upon nor shall they be leaned against. The reason a railing exists is to ‘guide’ the person back to safety. Much the same way a highway ‘guide’ rail (often miss-called a guard rail) re-directs a vehicle on a highway, but cannot stop a vehicle.

Local Law 11 requires the inspection of railings, but this is a costly and logistical nightmare.


This recent change affects filed projects and their activity or more importantly, their lack of activity.
1. If a job was disapproved and there has been no activity for 12 months, the job is considered abandoned and it must be re-filed and all fees re-paid.

2, If a job was approved and there has been no activity for 12 months, the job is considered abandoned and it must be re-filed and all fees re-paid. Upon good cause, the job will be reinstated for an additional 12 months and the full fee will be re-instated. The process can be repeated for an additional 12 months, but cannot exceed three years.

3. If a job has been approved and applicant is issued a permit, after 12 months has passed with no activity, a $100 reinstatement fee and a $100 renewal fee will be assessed. If a job has been approved and applicant is issued a permit, after 24 months has passed with no activity, the job may be reinstated with a full or partial fee, plus a $100 renewal fee.

Prior to this summer, once a project received approval, the applicant could take their time before pulling the permit. Not any more.