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ENGINEER’S CORNER: Parking Structures: NOT the New Façades

By Paul Millman, PE, RA

Garage owners—whether in New York City or the Empire State in general—know that free parking is only a thing in Monopoly. Yes, parking structures are revenue centers, but all the more reason to inspect and maintain them, especially now that most will be subject to new inspection requirements. Last year, in response to an upstate parking garage collapse, New York State passed a rule that amends its Building Code to mandate a garage inspection program.

This new State program requires two things: inspection by a qualified, New York State Professional Engineer and submission of their Conditions Report. The report must categorize any deterioration requiring immediate repair, identify conditions deemed safe once repaired, note problems which could lead to deterioration and unsafe conditions, and propose corrective options.

The New York City Department of Buildings is developing its own version of the State’s new inspection rule. Superficially, it may resemble the City’s Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP, aka Local Law 11), already familiar to many building owners. But alarms that “garages are the new façades” are misleading for several key reasons: façades are constantly exposed to the elements, whereas most parking structures in the five boroughs are protected below grade; façades can be 100 years old or more, while most parking garages are half that age (or newer); as horizontal structures, garages are more easily inspected—using a step ladder instead of rigging or boom trucks; and garage inspections require a PE, whereas façade inspections allow either a PE or a RA. So in most respects, garage inspections in the City will be more easily accomplished—and potential defects more easily remediated—than their façade equivalents.

Whether you own a garage in White Plains that’s already subject to a schedule of inspections [see the State’s assessment schedule below] or have one in Queens and await the City’s adaptation of the program, be proactive in getting your garage inspected and repaired now. File a clean report and avoid the inspection rush and repair headaches when demand is high. And if you own a garage that could be considered a “classic,” you should follow this developing story closely.


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