A bill allowing New York City agencies to construct projects using the “design-build” procurement method would come with a big string attached.

Under design-build, designers and builders team up and bid on projects in one step instead of two, giving builders a greater stake in the design process and reducing the likelihood of costly delays or disputes. Now awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature, the “New York City Public Works Investment Act” (S6293/A7636) would let certain city agencies as well as the city School Construction Authority, Health and Hospitals Corporation and Housing Authority (NYCHA) award construction contracts worth more than $10 million using design-build. 

But there’s a catch: the measure, sponsored by Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Queens), allows design-build only on projects “undertaken pursuant to a project labor agreement [PLA] in accordance with section 222 of the labor law.”

In other words, build-design teams hoping to bid on city projects will first need to cut a PLA deal with New York City construction unions in which they will agree to hire from union hiring halls and abide by union work rules.

Unions claim PLAs save money by getting different construction unions to synchronize their hours and days off. However, a mandatory PLA also shrinks the pool of eligible bidders, leaving the public with fewer choices.

While section 220 of the state Labor Law already forces would-be bidders to pay union rates, non-union contractors can at least deploy skilled workers more efficiently—for instance, having someone perform both carpentry and electrical work. Boxing out these non-union contractors from bidding on public works has been shown to drive up construction costs.

The Cuomo administration has pushed mandatory PLAs in a bid to boost the building trade unions that backed the governor’s 2018 re-election bid as the trades’ share of construction industry work continues a decades-long slideand as some of their pension funds teeter toward insolvency.

Design-build, on its own, has the potential to let New York get more bang for its infrastructure bucks. But this bill, as written, risks neutralizing some, if not most, of the savings proponents envision.

Cuomo has until January 1 to decide whether to veto the bill.

You may also like

“Inflation Reduction Act” Holds the SALT

A “skinny” version of the massive “Build Back Better” legislation proposed last year by President Biden is slated to arrive on his desk shortly. Read More

Judge, Jury and … CFO?

A state court judge at a hearing this morning will consider whether to interfere with New York City authority over its own budget by ordering a preliminary injunction that ices a portion of Gotham’s recently enacted FY 23 city budget. Read More

State Budget Back in the Red

Historically large budgetary surpluses inherited by Governor Hochul are now just a memory with New York facing projected gaps of $13.7 Billion Read More

The Numbers Don’t Add Up on Cider Solar Project

Governor Hochul has just announced approval for the state’s largest to-date solar facility, the 3,000 acre Cider Solar Farm in Genesee County Read More

New York’s health insurance affordability problem gets worse

New York's health insurance affordability gap surged to a new high last year, with state residents paying an average of 16 percent more. Read More

New York Doesn’t Need the Build Public Renewables Act

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called for a special hearing this Thursday to get more input on the Build Public Renewables Act. Read More

US economy clears a key post-pandemic hurdle, while NY still trails

Amid raging inflation and mounting recession worries, the nation's private-sector payroll jobs total finally cleared the pre-pandemic level last month. Read More

NY’s jobs recovery now strongest downstate

The Empire State's private-sector employment gains over the past year have been increasingly concentrated in New York City. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!