By Andrew Pisani
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Buildings (DOB) continues to uphold its mission of protecting the public through enforcement of the Construction Codes and Zoning Resolution. For Manhattan property owners with certain retaining walls, that means scheduling an inspection and submitting the report by December 31, 2020.
Owners of properties with a retaining wall that 1) faces a public right-of-way and 2) has any portion of the wall extend ten feet or higher must have their retaining wall inspected every five years by a Qualified Retaining Wall Inspector (QRWI). The QRWI must submit a condition assessment report of the inspection within 60 days of completion.
The initial law went into effect in 2014, and the five boroughs were staggered as follows:
|Bronx||January 1, 2014 – December 31, 2014|
|Manhattan||January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015|
|Staten Island||January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016|
|Queens||January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017|
|Brooklyn||January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2018|
Per the above chart, Bronx property owners were required to submit their five-year report in 2019. Manhattan reports are due in 2020, Staten Island in 2021, Queens in 2022, and Brooklyn in 2023.
All retaining walls must be given one of four ratings by QRWI:
- Safe with Minor Repairs or Maintenance
- Safe with Repairs and/ or Engineering Monitoring
Steps for Compliance
- Identify if your wall must be inspected. If you have a retaining wall on your property that measures at least ten feet at any point and faces a public right-of-way, you must have the wall inspected by a QRWI, who will submit the assessment report. Owners that share a retaining wall with one or more neighbors may hire a single QRWI to inspect the wall.
- QRWI conducts inspection. The QRWI conducts the inspection and determines rating of wall.
- QRWI submits condition assessment report and filing fees. Within 60 days after completing the assessment, the QRWI must submit a report to the DOB that meets, at a minimum, the criteria spelled out in RCNY §103-09. Filing fees are also payable for each property owner for whom the report is being submitted. (Note: A wall with multiple owners may have one report submitted, but each individual owner must pay filing fees.
Retaining wall inspection reports must be saved as PDF files and submitted electronically; paper reports will not be accepted. The PDFs need to use the following naming convention for retaining wall inspection reports, separating each element with a hyphen:
[Street Address]-[Building Identification Number (BIN)]
For example, a report for 100 Main Street and a BIN of 1079215 would be named “100 Main Street-1079215”.
All filings are done online and sent to LRetainingWalls@buildings.nyc.gov. Building owners can also use this email to submit any questions on whether their property is required to file a report.
The penalties for noncompliance—both in terms of filing reports and correcting deficiencies—are steep.
- Late filing. $250.00 per month
- Failure to file. $1,000 per year
- Failure to correct an unsafe condition. $1,000 per month, prorated daily
Despite the continuing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, non-viral life safety matters remain a priority. Property owners with publicly facing retaining walls of ten feet or more would do well to schedule the inspections as planned, rather than hope for an extension from the DOB.
If you have any questions, please contact Metropolis Group at 212.233.6344.