CENTER FOR AN URBAN FUTURE —  April 2017  — by Eli Dvorkin, Maria Doulis, and Jonathan Bowles — This report finds significant problems with NYC’s process for managing capital construction projects for libraries and cultural institutions, with the median capital project taking more than four years and costing roughly twice as much as a new office building. The study, a collaboration between CUF and the Citizens Budget Commission, puts forth recommendations for creating a more cost-efficient capital construction process for libraries, cultural groups and other nonprofit organization.

After more than a decade of skyrocketing attendance, many of New York City’s branch libraries, museums, and performing arts institutions are bursting at the seams. The average library is over 60 years old, and many are either too small to adequately serve the rising number of patrons, poorly designed for the way people are using libraries today, or in need of basic repairs just to keep their doors open. Meanwhile, dozens of the city’s cultural institutions—many of which were built more than 50 years ago—could also benefit from a makeover or an expansion to accommodate the hordes of new visitors driven by record population growth and an unprecedented boom in tourism.

But while tackling the infrastructure needs of New York’s museums, performance spaces, and libraries necessitates a new level of financial support from city government in the years ahead, it will also require fundamental changes to the city’s maddeningly time-consuming and unnecessarily expensive capital construction process for nonprofit institutions.

As this report details, infrastructure projects for libraries and cultural institutions managed by the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the city’s chief capital construction agency, take much longer to complete and cost significantly more than similar capital projects that are managed by the institutions themselves or overseen by other governmental agencies.

Our report features an analysis conducted by the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) of 144 DDC-managed capital projects at cultural institutions and libraries from fiscal years 2010 to 2014. The findings are troubling. The median capital project in our analysis took more than four years to complete, and 17 lasted for more than seven years. Meanwhile, the median cost for new buildings in our sample was a staggering $930 per square foot—roughly double the cost of new office space in the city.

Beyond the data, we conducted dozens of interviews with top officials at cultural institutions and libraries, as well as architects, private construction managers, engineers, and even officials at DDC. These conversations depict a city nonprofit capital design and construction process that is badly in need of reform.

Click here to read the full report.