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From ASLA NY: Success for Landscape Architects

Achieving project approvals from the Department of Buildings has been an on-going challenge for landscape architects in New York City. Most department officials only focus on buildings – after all, that’s the name of their agency. But in the spring of 2011, the challenges turned into absolute road blocks at the agency. To gain DOB approval landscape architects had to hire 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.

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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 result is a direct result of the advocacy work of ASLA NY. The local chapter mobilized both members and non-members alike to volunteer their time to effect positive change for our profession. The effort lasted nearly three years, culminating in Task Force Chair Adrian Smith, ASLA, testifying before the New York City Council. Other task-force members crowded into the hearing, and still others who had come to witness the proceedings were turned away because the hearing room was too small to accommodate the crowds.

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
Isabel Castilla
Susannah Drake, FASLA
Sergio Ghiano
Justine Heilner
Michael Koontz, ASLA
Kate Larsen, Aff. ASLA
Signe Nielsen, FASLA
Steven Noone, ASLA
Elizabeth Silver
Laura Starr, ASLA
Lisa Switkin
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 the New York City council members:
Julia Lent, Hon. ASLA
Roxanne Blackwell
Kevin O’Hara (formerly with ASLA)

Excerpts from LOCAL LAW 141 OF 2013 (boldface type added for emphasis):
§28-101.5 Definitions

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.

Comments August 13, 2014 7:44 AM
A big congrats to all in the NY Chapter group above for securing this victory! Re. the inability for NYC DOB to allow RLAs to do stormwater management work: it should be pointed out that throughout the state of NY, RLAs are able to design, oversee and stamp SWPPPs (stormwater pollution prevention plans) administered by NYS DEC and this remains a lucrative area of practice. Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this success story with NYC DOB.
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