- That the legislation should contain provisions which make it easier for an individual to become both a Licensed Plumber and Licensed Fire Suppression Contractor, since most persons have the requisite knowledge and experience for both licenses.
- That the Council should expand the DOB’s seizure and forfeiture abilities to allow DOB to seize vehicles and tools used in connection with unlicensed or unregistered activity at work sites other than new construction of 1-3 family homes. Alteration work of existing buildings, e.g., from single-family homes to 50-story commercial buildings, are more of a concern in the construction industry than just the activity on 1-3 family homes, which cannot legally occur if installed by non-licensees.
- That the proposal to place a monetary cap of $50,000 on Category 1 Limited Plumbing Alterations, despite the work already being extremely limited under such definition, is completely arbitrary and sets barriers for homeowners, cooperatives, and others looking to have a licensed plumber complete limited plumbing work in a building in any 12-month period.
- That the proposal to require a company licensed by the DOB to have its NYC office be “dedicated” to the licensee’s business be removed; Licensees have complied with the NYC office requirement for years but the additional mandate of having to make sure such space is dedicated to the business makes absolutely no sense given today’s commercial space costs and modern office arrangements.
On Thursday, March 25, 2021, the New York State Senate passed S.4738, which ensures that modular construction projects in New York City comply with licensing requirements.
High-rise modular construction in NYC cannot currently be forced to comply with the NYC Administrative Code requirements that traditional stick-built construction projects are required to follow: a NYC Department of Buildings (DOB)-licensed master plumber, NYC DOB-licensed master fire suppression contractor, and NYC DOB-licensed master electrician must conduct and oversee the work covered by such licenses. Licensing of these skilled trades ensures that experienced, qualified individuals are conducting complicated and dangerous work (e.g. gas piping, sprinkler, and electrical installations) and ensures that such work complies with the very stringent NYC Building Code. Work conducted by an unlicensed, unqualified, and inexperienced individual not familiar with NYC Building Code, regardless of whether that work is done in a factory or at a jobsite, can result in catastrophic consequences.
We commend Senator Jessica Ramos for her attention to this especially important matter and for the NYS Senate’s support of safe construction in New York City. We look forward to working with Assemblyman Erik Dilan on his same-as bill in the NYS Assembly.
On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, Terence O’Brien, Senior Director of the Plumbing Foundation, testified virtually at the NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection Hearing in support of Intro. No. 1576, which proposes to increase the penalties imposed on owners failing to comply with the mandatory installation of and reporting requirements for backflow prevention devices.
“Backflow” occurs when drinking water is contaminated by hazardous substances. It happens when street pressure pushes water into buildings where dangerous materials and chemicals may exist, and no device prevents that now contaminated water from re-entering the drinking water supply. Sometimes water flow can be reversed due to a water main break or a mistaken or accidental cross connection between the building’s water distribution and drainage systems. Therefore, it is vital that buildings install and maintain backflow prevention devices to prevent the harmful results of contaminated water, which can contain bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella.
Senior Director O’Brien urged the passage of Intro. No. 1576 to properly incentivize compliance with the law. The NYC Administrative Code currently allows first-time fines to be imposed anywhere from $50–$1,000 for violation of the requirement to install a backflow device. Such fines do not provide enough of an incentive for owners to comply with the law. In a former Council hearing, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) clarified that the Department fines building owners $500-$5,000.* In contrast, a backflow device itself can cost up to $20,000. This is why the industry believes fines should be increased, so that owners do not continue merely paying the lower fine but rather comply with the law and actually install the required devices.
O’Brien testified that Intro. No. 1576 addresses the problem as outlined above. It would increase the monetary penalties to be imposed on a building owner or operator who fails to comply with installation and reporting requirements for backflow prevention devices.
The installation of backflow prevention devices is a public health priority. It is apparent that the understanding of and compliance with backflow prevention is still an issue at large in the City. Steep fines must be imposed on owners who fail to comply with the law in order to property incentivize compliance.
*Hearing on Intro. No. 821, Committee on Environmental Protection, The New York City Council (Oct. 30, 2017).
The Plumbing Foundation is pleased to inform the industry that on April 9, 2019, the New York City Council passed Intro. No. 1157-B, which establishes qualification requirements for those inspecting and cleaning, coating, and painting water tanks. We commend the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Health Committee, as well as the co-Sponsors, and the entire City Council for passing legislation that ensures that water tanks are properly maintained. The City Council passed several other bills in the package, including on the reporting of inspections, to further strengthen the laws surrounding water tanks. There have been several reports of contamination and neglect of inspections and maintenance of the City’s water tanks. Click here to read a recent article covering the issue.
The Plumbing Foundation worked closely with the City Council on Intro. No. 1157-B, which for the first time in the NYC Administrative Code and the Health Code defines a water tank inspector as (i) a licensed master plumber pursuant, (ii) a person who works under the direct and continuing supervision of such a licensed master plumber, or (iii) a registered design professional. Prior to this legislation, the law was silent on who is required to conduct such inspections, which were commonly done by landlords and building owners themselves. Requiring that the inspector is a qualified and experienced person will ensure the integrity of such inspections and the health of NYC residents.
Intro. No. 1157-B also establishes more stringent criteria for those cleaning, coating, and painting water tanks. The new legislation will now make sure that the person conducting maintenance on water tanks is either a water tank inspector (i.e. a licensed plumber, someone working directly for a licensed plumber, or a registered design professional) or is a person who holds a commercial pesticide applicator certification in category 7G issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation or works under the direct supervision of a person holding such certification.
Establishing clear criteria for who can maintain a water tank will decrease the instance of contamination and increase the safety of the necessary potable water source from diseases like E. coli and Legionnaires’.
- Number of all facilities that DEP estimates requires the installation of one or more backflow prevention devices;
- Number of such facilities DEP has determined to be hazardous facilities;
- Number of all facilities in which backflow prevention devices were installed in the preceding calendar year;
- Number of hazardous facilities in which backflow prevention devices were installed in the preceding calendar year;
- Number of annual backflow prevention device test reports filed with the department in the preceding calendar year;
- Number of violations issued in the preceding calendar year for failure to install a backflow prevention device; and
- Number of violations issued in the preceding calendar year for failure to file an annual backflow prevention device test report with the department.