You may have heard of Local Law 11, a regulation in New York City that requires repairs and maintenance of buildings.
What is Local Law 11 in New York City?
In NYC Local Law 11 of 1998 also referred to as the Façade Inspection Safety Program or FISP, requires that all buildings over six stories have their facades inspected every five years by an Architect or Engineer who must also be a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector or QEWI a status granted by the NYC Department of Buildings.
When the QEWI completes their inspection report they submit the building in one of three categories: Safe, SWARP, or Unsafe. Any deficiencies must be corrected in an allotted period of time depending on the building’s status. After the deficiencies are remedied the QEWI will issue an amended report with the updated status.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Manhattan based architecture firm Fontan Architecture. In this post I am going to review a few key points explaining Local Law 11 and why it exists.
What Is the Purpose of Local Law 11?
On multiple occasions in New York City people have been killed by falling debris from building facades. This is why the City of New York enacted Local Law 11 in 1998 to require façade inspections of buildings over six stories in order to protect the safety of the public.
In 1979 a college student was killed by a piece of terra cotta that fell from a building façade. After her death in Mayor Ed Koch enacted Local Law 10/80.
Local Law 11 was enacted in 1998 after a large section of brick wall collapsed on Madison Avenue in 1997. New York City created more comprehensive requirements to previous regulations, and enacted Local Law 11/98 which is now referred to as FISP.
In 2015 a two year old was killed by falling debris. In 2019 a woman was killed by falling debris as well in New York City. In the case of 2019 case criminal charges were brought against the building owner.
How Does Local Law 11 Work?
The process for Local Law 11 runs on a five year cycle. When a building is due the owner must hire an Architect or Engineer who also holds the status of QEWI at the NYC Department of Buildings. The QEWI must inspect the building and assess its conditions in accordance with the Façade Inspection & Safety Program requirements.
Upon completion of the assessment the QEWI will file a report with the DOB and place the building in one of three categories. SAFE, SWARMP (Safe With a Repair and Maintenance Program), or UNSAFE. Unsafe being the most serious condition.
If the building is in Safe status, there is nothing to do, and you will simply wait five years until your cycle comes up again. If the building is SWARP or Unsafe the architect or engineer must come up with a plan to repair the building and file plans with the DOB. The owner will then hire a general contractor to perform the repairs under the direction of the architect or engineer. Upon completion of the repairs the QEWI will file a new amended report to change the status of the building.
Local Law 11 in NYC
Local Law 11 exists to protect the public from potentially falling debris. Ignoring these requirements not only poses a hazard but will also incur violations and penalties on the property. It is important that all buildings are properly inspected and maintained to avoid dangerous conditions.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Local Law 11/98.
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.