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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 99, no. 2556: Articles]: March 10, 1917

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REAL ESTATE AND (Copyright. 1017, by The Record and Guide Co.) NEW YORK, MARCH 10, 1917 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE BUREAU OF BUILDINGS Marked Increase Last Year as Compared With 1915 —Zoning Resolution One of the Influencing Factors By HON. ALFRED LUDWIG, Superintendent of Buildings, Manhattan BUILDING operations in the Borough of Manhattan showfed a marked in¬ crease in 1916 over 1915. Plans for 564 new buildings, having an estimated cost of $114,690,145, were filed with the Bureau; in addition, 3,884 buildings were altered at an estimated cost of $19,387,- 899. This aggregates a total estimated expenditure of $134,078,044 for the year, compared with 1915 an increase of $60,- 405,370, or 82 per cent. The average cost per building amounted to $203,350, against $132,213 for 1915. While the above figures would seem to indicate that building operations in Man¬ hattan had approached close to a maxi¬ mum, as compared with previous years, yet sight must not be lost of the fact in making any comparison that a Targe part of the increase was caused by reason of the expected passage by the Board of Estimate of the Building Zone Resolu¬ tion. This measure has been before the Board for some time, and as soon as its passage appeared to be a foregone con¬ clusion, many owners, architects and others, in order to secure exemption from its provisions, filed plans for new structures. In July the estimated value of build¬ ings for which plans were filed amounted to $45,472,250, and in June to $16,126,500. While it is probable that many of the structures included in the above would in any event have been erected, yet there is no doubt that the Zone Resolution acted as an accelerating force and but for this latter, owing to the extremely high cost of all materials entering into the construction of buildings, it is doubt¬ ful if the year just passed would have shown any increase in building opera¬ tions over the previous one. The year 1916 in many respects has been one of the most eventful years in the history of the Bureau of Buildings. Three measures of far-reaching effect have been added to the laws relating to building construction. The first measure to which attention should be directed is the Lockwood- Ellenbogen bill, Chapter 503, Laws of 1916, an amendment to the Greater New York Charter. This act gives exclusive jurisdiction to the Superintendent of Buildings over the construction and al¬ teration of buildings, except in so far as they are affected by the Tenement House Act; to the Fire Commissioner it gives jurisdiction over existing buildings, or in other words the Fire Commis¬ sioner will look after the housekeeping and the Superintendent of Buildings after the construction of buildings. In addition the Act creates a Board of Standards and Appeals, consisting of tht Fire Commissioner, the Superintendents of Buildings of the five boroughs, the Chief of the unifcrined force of the Fire Department and six other members ap¬ pointed by the Mayor. One of the latter is designated Chairman and must devote his entire time to the duties of the office. This Board has jurisdiction in .general over all matters relating to buildings and appurtenances thereto that come within the jurisdiction of the Fire Commissioner and the Superintendents of Buildings. The functions of tlie In¬ dustrial Commission within (ireater New York passes to this new Board and the Commission will exercise no jurisdiction HON. ALFRED LUDWIG. hereafter in this city. Power is given to the Board of Standards and .Appeals to make rules and regulations for carryin.g into effect laws (including the Labor Law), ordinances, rules, etc., relating to Iniildings and appurtenances thereto. In general, the powers of the Board arc broad and in the future will exert a strong influence to standardize methods and procedure in the several boroughs, so that the practice throughout the Greater City will be uniform. Personnel of the Board. The six appointed members of the Board of Standards and Appeals, with the Chief of the uniformed force of the Fire Department, constitute the Board of Appeals, the Chairman of the former Board being also Chairman of the lat¬ ter. The Board of .Appeals takes over in a general way the powers of the foriner Board of Examiners, which by this Act went out of existence on Octo¬ ber 1, 1916. The jurisdiction of the new Board is, however, much greater than that exercised by the Board of Ex¬ aminers, for whereas appeals to the old Board were limited to cases involving an expenditure of $1,000 or more, there is practically no limitation as to the value or nature of cases that can be taken to the new Board of Appeals. All orders (including violations) issued by the Superintendent of Buildings can be appealed excepting only Unsafe Orders. The object of the Act has been to con¬ solidate, as far as possil)le, in the hands of two departments the functions former¬ ly exercised by four or more, and to separate the jurisdictions of the Fire Department and the Bureau of Buildings, so as to avoid conflict of authority and performance of unnecessary work on the part of the public. Where formerly it was necessary in practically every case to file plans with either the Fire Pre¬ vention Bureau or State Labor Depart¬ ment, and occasionally with several other departiTients, in addition to filing plans with the Bureau of Buildings, now it is only necessary to file with the lat¬ ter Bureau, except in case of plans for tenement houses which still must be filed with the Tenement House Depart¬ ment for approval. The second event of importance was the passage by the Board of Estimate of the Building Zone Resolution on July 25. 1916. This measure divides the city into L"se, Height and Area Districts. The Use Districts restrict as to occu¬ pancy, certain sections being for resi¬ dential use only, others for business and still otlier sections are unrestricted, where any occupancy is permitted. In tlie Height Districts a limitation is put upon the height to which buildings may be erected, varying from one to two anct one-half times the width of the street, depending on the character of the occu¬ pancy. The Area Districts make pro¬ vision for yards and courts in order to provide better light, and air. Possibly no measure that has been en¬ acted in recent years is comparable to¬ il in importance froin a realty point of view and that its effect upon real estate especially and upon the city generally will be widespread and beneficial seems to be beyond question. Practically for the first time in the history of this city a well considered scheme for the regula¬ tion of heights, areas and uses of build¬ ings is in effect. On' March 14, 1916, the last of the Articles of the Revised Building Code went into effect. After more than ten years of endeavor the revision of the Building Code is an accomplished fact, excepting only Article 25, relating to theatres. For many years the city was operating under laws governing building construc¬ tion that in many respects were much beyond the times, and many attempts from 1905 to 1916, were made to so re¬ vise the laws as to make them corre¬ spond to the best modern practice; each attempt proved a failure, however, until Rudolph P. Miller, former Superintend¬ ent of Buildings for the Borough of Manhattan, was appointed Engineer to the Building Committee of the Board of Aldermen. The former policy of attempting fo enact a Building Code was abandoned, as experience has shown its futility and the policy of revising the Code. .Article by .\rticle, was adopted. Formerly strong dissatisfaction or opposition to a single article or section served to defeat the entire measure, although the re¬ mainder was entirely satisfactory and acceptable. By taking up each article singly, much of the Code was revised and enacted into law with compaAtive- ly little opposition. Those articles, formerly sources of contention, were taken up in conferences with the Engi¬ neer, Rudolph P. Miller, and the differ¬ ence thrashed out, and the article formally whipped into shape, fairly sat¬ isfactory to all concerned. The various new laws affecting build¬ ing construction in this city have had the effect of increasing very materially the work of the Bureau and also in de¬ laying action on applications and plans, awing to the unfamiliarity of the ex¬ aminers with the new laws for som'e_ months after their passage. Several years ago, after careful con^ sideration, a new system of filing plana according to lot and block, was inau- (Continued on page 329).