Difficulty achieving project approvals from the Department of Buildings has been an on-going challenge for landscape architects. Most department officials only focus on buildings – after all that’s the name of their agency. But in the spring of 2011, Landscape Architects began experiencing absolute road blocks at the agency. To gain DOB approval Landscape Architects had to pay an architect or engineer to sign and seal their landscape drawings and forms. This was even necessary when the landscape architect was the prime consultant on the project.
That practice will finally come to an end on October 1, 2014. After a concerted effort by the ASLA-NY DOB Task Force, the DOB added language to the latest revision to the building code that included a definition of landscape architect and a reference to the professional licensing of our profession including the land development tasks we perform. This was codified in Local Law 141 of 2013 (see excerpt below) which, in one of his last acts as mayor, Michael Bloomberg signed into law.
Landscape Architects will be allowed to submit forms and specific plans based on the clause below (you can download the complete document here: Local Law 141 of 2013)
This outcome is a direct result of the advocacy work of ASLA-NY. Our local chapter mobilized both members and non-members alike to volunteer their time to effect positive change for our profession. The effort lasted nearly 3 years, culminating in the Task Force Chair, Adrian Smith ASLA testifying before the New York City Council. Other task force members were in the audience ready to testify and still others came to the hearing but were turned away because the hearing room was too small.
Going forward, Landscape Architects with projects in New York City will have a more streamlined approval process for work that falls under the jurisdiction of the Building Department. For that achievement, gratitude is due the ASLA-NY DOB Task Force:
Adrian Smith ASLA, chair
Elena Brescia ASLA
Terri-Lee Burger ASLA
Susannah Drake FASLA
Michael Koontz ASLA
Kate Larsen Aff. ASLA
Signe Nielsen FASLA
Steven Noone ASLA
Laura Starr ASLA
Karen Tamir ASLA
Annette Wilkus FASLA
Denisha Williams ASLA
Christian Zimmerman FASLA
We should also recognize that National ASLA Advocacy staff helped facilitate our outreach efforts to members and to members of the New York City Council.
LOCAL LAW 141 OF 2013:
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT. A person licensed and registered to practice the profession of landscape architecture under the Education Law of the State of New York.
§28-104.6 Applicant. The applicant for approval of construction documents shall be the registered design professional who prepared or supervised the preparation of the construction documents on behalf of the owner.
Exception: The applicant may be other than a registered design professional for:
4. Applications for work falling within the practice of landscape architecture as defined by the New York state education law, including but not limited to landscaping and vegetation plans, tree protection plans, erosion and sedimentation plans, grading and drainage plans, curb cuts, pavement plans, and site plans for urban plazas and parking lots, where the applicant is a landscape architect. Landscape architects shall not file plans for stormwater management and plumbing systems;
§28-104.6.1 Verification of professional qualification required. The department shall not accept construction documents or other documents submitted in connection with applications for construction document approval or work permits under this code by any person representing that he or she is [an architect or engineer] a registered design professional or landscape architect without verifying, by means of lists compiled and made available by the New York state department of education pursuant to paragraph e-1 of subdivision four of section sixty-five hundred seven of the education law, that such person meets the qualifications established by law to practice as an architect or engineer in New York state.
Adrian Smith is ASLA-NY’s current Trustee and is a past chapter President.