Photograph of a woman and a dog sitting in a park in NYC.
Photograph of a woman and a dog sitting in a park in NYC.
OneNYC 2050 : Volume 9 of 9 : Modern Infrastructure

Implement Best Practices For Asset Maintenance And Capital Project Delivery

To support the long-term sustainability of the City’s budget, we must continue to refine asset management practices and streamline capital-project delivery. Too often, capital projects suffer from schedule delays and cost overruns due to the complex regulations, process inefficiencies, and engineering challenges inherent to the process. DDC’s A Strategic Blueprint for Construction Excellence provides a thoughtful framework for improving capital-project delivery at the agency — the successful implementation of which should be emulated across the City.
Anticipate Maintenance Needs And Make Smart Repairs

The fiscal crisis of the 1970s clearly demonstrated the risks associated with deferred maintenance. By neglecting asset management, the City would have to contend with crumbling infrastructure and higher costs in the long run. The modern approach New York City employs today reflects the need for constant assessment and maintenance. By anticipating infrastructure needs and making smart repairs, the City can preempt the need for the costlier capital projects that would otherwise be necessary to replace failing assets.

  • Achieve a State of Good Repair
    The most recent Preliminary Ten Year Capital Strategy dedicates 55 percent of planned spending to achieving a state of good repair. This money will go toward repairing and rehabilitating assets, allowing the City to lengthen their service life and reap the full benefits of investments made in new assets many years ago. Whenever possible these assets are repaired in ways that make them more resilient and reliable over time.
  • Improve and expand asset condition assessments
    Each year, DDC manages the inspection and assessment of nearly 250 City assets, including service-providing facilities, libraries, and waste management facilities, through the Charter-mandated Asset Information Management System (AIMS). However, these assessments must be made more robust in order to capture all the critical information required for project scoping — much like the assessments the School Construction Authority performs annually on its own assets. To this end, DDC will expand its asset surveys to 800 inspections per year. At the same time, it will make a subset of the assessments more actionable by enhancing building condition surveys to be used by sponsor agencies for capital project prioritization and initial scoping.

    The City, through DOT, remains committed to vigilant, proactive asset management, best demonstrated through its stewardship of the bridges and routine in-depth condition assessments. Recent assessments have led to investments to rehabilitate the iconic East River bridges, DOT has also performed assessments on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queensboro bridges, including analyzing the Brooklyn Bridge’s capacity to carry an expanded bike and pedestrian pathway. DOT also plans to explore new technology for real-time monitoring of individual bridges and tunnel components. By combining component-level condition data with work histories, DOT will be better able to improve its understanding of deterioration rates and asset life cycles, allowing for timely and specific interventions to keep the City’s bridges and tunnels in a state of good repair.
    The Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) has also expanded its asset condition assessments, first focusing on four pilot asset types: synthetic turf fields, retaining walls, recreation centers, and comfort stations. DPR established a small assessment team to focus on inventory, inspection, scope, and cost estimation in order to prioritize projects and funding requests needed to address asset conditions.
  • Use sensor technology to improve asset management and quality of life
    New York City agencies are using sensors, data analytics, and internet-connected smart infrastructure to monitor the water supply, improve the flow of buses, and track air pollution. The increased precision and frequency of available data regarding these assets has made it possible for agencies to plan maintenance more effectively, track local variations in environmental conditions, and even save New Yorkers money (e.g., predicting leaks using water-meter readings). Over time, the use of sensors can also improve the City’s geospatial data and understanding of its subterranean assets.

    To remain at the forefront of smart cities around the world, New York City will centralize its approach to internet-connected sensing and other urban technologies, publishing a full Internet of Things (IoT) strategy by 2020. IoT broadly refers to physical devices connected to the internet that can collect data or be controlled remotely.

    Currently, much of this sensor deployment is being pioneered by individual agencies. But new technologies and challenges call for greater interoperability and coordinated deployments. Building on the IoT guidelines released by the City in 2016, which was endorsed by 35 cities around the world, the City will look to institute comprehensive IoT review procedures that emphasize greater interagency collaboration, and sharing of real-time data. The review procedures will ensure compliance with the cybersecurity and privacy protocols established by the City’s Chief Information Security Officer and Chief Privacy Officer. The City is currently conducting pilot projects using this approach.

    The City recognizes that the deployment of sensors and other smart infrastructure, along with equipment for internet connectivity, traffic operations, and public safety, may strain already crowded public space. The City will explore innovative strategies such as smart poles, modifications to existing street furniture, and integrated sensor arrays to deploy equipment efficiently, while preserving or enhancing the attractiveness of the streetscape.

Deliver Projects On Time And On Budget

Due to New York City’s density and congestion, high labor costs, and a number of institutional factors, the City struggles to consistently deliver capital projects on time and on budget. To address this issue, the City has worked to improve its capital delivery process to better deliver core infrastructure such as streets, sewers, schools, and parks. The City will devote more resources to scoping projects upfront, streamline procurement, fix burdensome regulations, implement best practices, and deepen public accountability. Additionally, regulations at the State level must be changed to give the City more tools at its discretion, and unlock efficiencies throughout the capital process.

  • Improve project scoping
    By properly scoping projects early in the capital process, risks can be identified ahead of time to avoid schedule delays and costly change orders. Unexpected field conditions frequently change the scope of a project already in construction. The City’s expansion of predesign site testing and front-end planning can allow for both better budgeting and designers to plan for known risks and properly coordinate with utilities. At the same time, an improved change order management system will help minimize the financial and scheduling impacts of these occurrences.Featured in DDC’s Strategic Blueprint, the Front End Planning units perform an early review of project proposals with sponsor agencies and to ensure goals, budgets, scopes, and schedules all align. Bringing architectural, engineering, cost estimating, and project management tools to bear, FEP helps sponsoring agencies understand exactly what they are asking for and how much it will cost. The City will ensure the FEP units receive the additional resources necessary to review all projects that come to DDC.
    For larger-scale projects, the City manages the Capital Project Scope Development (CPSD) Program, which devotes resources to clearly determining project scope, cost, and other key factors before they are included in the capital plan. The City has expanded the program since 2015 and is experimenting with new ways to improve project scoping and design.
  • Streamline procurement, fix burdensome oversight requirements, and advocate for reforms to antiquated State delivery limitations
    The Procurement and Sourcing Solutions Portal (PASSPort) aims to make procurement easier for both agencies and vendors, taking a holistic, streamlined approach that incorporates process improvement, technology, and strong partnerships to achieve success. PASSPort will become the primary platform with which to do business with the City of New York. By streamlining procurement, and being better able to pay contractors on time, the City will be a better business partner. The data digitized through PASSPort will be invaluable in analyzing the capital portfolio, allowing the City to better understand vendor and agency performance.
    Certain regulations at the City level slow the procurement process, significantly delaying capital projects without meaningfully solving the problems they were intended to fix. The City will work with the Council to identify opportunities to reduce unnecessary oversight requirements that slow down projects.Although the City is improving its capital project delivery, the City is limited in its ability to select the delivery method best suited for each project. Currently, Design-Bid-Build is the only method allowed to the City across the board, by law. Exceptions have been made by the State Legislature for large-scale projects such as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Borough-Based Jails System to allow the use of Design-Build, but the City needs to be empowered to select the best method for each project. In addition to Design-Build, Construction Manager (CM) Build and At-Risk provide new models for delivery that can save time and money for the City. New York City deserves the ability to use Design-Build, a benefit State agencies and the MTA currently possess, which can be granted to the City at no additional cost to the State.The City’s construction procurement decisions are also constrained by General Municipal Law (GML) 103, which requires the City to accept the lowest responsible, responsive bid in almost all cases. This law requires the City to award construction contracts on the basis of price alone and precludes evaluation of the quality of the bid, past performance by the bidder, and the contractor’s proposed construction methodology. As a result, we cannot select the proposal that best meets an agency’s goals and minimizes community impacts. Furthermore, there is no guarantee the lowest bidder will ultimately deliver the project as efficiently, economically, or with equal quality workmanship as a contractor whose original bid price was higher. Reform to GML-103 would authorize the City to select the contractor whose bid is judged to provide the best overall value to taxpayers on the basis of all of these criteria.
  • Implement project management best practices
    Modernizing capital project delivery requires the City to take advantage of new approaches to project management, and develop custom-built technology solutions designed for managing complex public projects that integrate well with other City systems.Integrated project delivery is a project management approach that maximizes efficiency and ensures accountability. With this method, integrated teams with dedicated leadership can take a holistic approach to managing projects by overseeing the project through each of the design, procurement, and construction phases. DDC’s project management structure is beginning to utilize these principles, although integrated project delivery must become more widespread across all City agencies.These project management teams must be equipped with the necessary technology systems to be effective. DDC’s Benchmark offers a vision for modern, custom-built project management software. Part of DDC’s $16 million information technology strategic plan, Benchmark incorporates online project initiation, front-end planning, and a project management delivery system that facilitates payment processing. By building Benchmark in-house, the tool is customized to DDC’s needs, is well integrated with other City systems such as the Financial Management System (FMS) and PASSPort, and lays the foundation for partner agencies to integrate into the system as well.
  • Deepen public accountability through expansion of the Capital Projects Dashboard
    The City maintains a dashboard that tracks all capital projects over $25 million, which allows New Yorkers to track and analyze the City’s delivery of projects. As modern project management software becomes more widely used by agencies, the Capital Projects Dashboard can integrate with these systems and expand to include a larger universe of projects and better geographic information.
Maintain the infrastructure we have, and ensure existing infrastructure is retrofitted for climate change and emergency preparedness.
– Resident of Upper West Side, Manhattan