Few places on earth present the unique building challenges that Manhattan does, whether it’s five stories or 100 stories. With 238 (and counting) high-rise buildings crammed on one small island, a miscalculation of inches can cause catastrophic problems.

That is why it’s critical for real estate owners, developers, and commercial lenders to partner with a construction company that knows, and has extensive experience building, in New York City to mitigate risk and ensure that a project comes in on time and within budget.

New York City can be a logistical nightmare if a construction company has never built here before. Many potential challenges have to be addressed before the first shovel is put in the ground. Building in Manhattan is as much about knowing the various neighborhoods, people and businesses who call it home, as it is about the potential physical, logistical and administrative obstacles. Putting the time up front to plan will help make sure the rest of the project flows smoothly.

Before construction even starts, the city mandates that the preconstruction survey includes neighboring access agreements. A construction company often needs to underpin neighboring properties before they can physically excavate and build their own foundation. Many times, builders without experience in the Manhattan market look to start work without those access agreements, or underestimate the potential roadblocks a difficult neighbor or community activist can cause, only to find out they have to stop work, delaying the project and increasing cost.

There are also the traffic restrictions, street closures and the subway. These obstacles cause restrictions that can affect deliveries of building supplies, which may or may not be allowed during normal business hours. Likewise, the site neighbors could be an art gallery, a school, a hotel or a residential property. That could affect the hours permitted to work. Failure to consider these factors in a plan could impact a budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) and create significant inefficiencies while construction crews have to wait.

Community outreach also needs to be an important part of the initial preconstruction checklist, maybe just as important as getting the right building permits. A construction company needs to take into account the time frame they will be working and impacting the local neighborhood.  Friendly and cooperative neighbors will allow the project to move forward more efficiently, with fewer unanticipated work stoppages.

New York City is often caricatured as too many people trying to make a quick buck. That kind of thinking doesn’t cut it in the commercial construction business. Builders looking to come in and build the biggest building the fastest way to make the most money will never be successful in this market. You can’t cut corners.

Running a successful commercial construction project requires a holistic, long-term approach and deep community ties. It’s not just a matter of moving rocks around or even knowing how to deal with each government agency. A construction company needs to have a true understanding of New York City, its neighborhoods and its people. A builder who does not understand this can turn an already challenging process into a logistical nightmare.

– Peter Serpico, CEO