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DBIA Milestone: A new New York - Part 1

In the Spring of 2011, the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) experienced one of our largest legislative successes when the Ohio state legislature changed their construction policies that had been in place for 134 years. Our attention quickly turned to New York State, where similar laws had been in place for 100 years. Of course, the efforts to authorize design-build in New York began long before our Ohio success.

In 1912, over 80 years before DBIA, the legislature in New York passed the Wicks Law requiring that state and local projects costing more than $3 million in New York City, $1.5 million in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties and $500,000 in the rest of the state use the multi-prime project delivery method. This method requires separate contracts for plumbing, HVAC, mechanical, electrical, etc. Navigating all of these contracts is confusing and difficult, leading to litigation or costly project delays. Nonetheless, New York had been doing this for a century, and changing the way things had been done for so long would prove to be difficult.

DBIA had made a significant effort to pass legislation authorizing design-build in 2010. At the time, Governor David Paterson had expressed interest, so we began meeting with legislators, committee staff and local interest groups to build support. We worked with key decision makers to include language in the budget proposal, which was approved in key committees. Just as the legislative session was coming to an end, opponents of change, who had long held institutional power in New York politics, made phone calls to their allies in the Assembly who quietly removed the language we supported.

That November, a wave election swept many entrenched politicians out of power, but in New York the gains for Republicans were less drastic. Instead, Governor Paterson decided not to seek re-election and Democrat Andrew Cuomo was elected Governor. Governor Cuomo’s rhetoric about streamlined and efficient government sounded similar to other successful Democratic governors, so DBIA decided to do a presentation on design-build for the Democratic Governors Association in January 2011. There, DBIA’s legislative team met with Governor Cuomo and his staff, who demonstrated a strong interest in our presentation. It was through this meeting that we began to realize that this governor was different and his staff was strongly committed to building quality public projects in less time, with less administrative burdens.


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