As architects, we not only focus on design, technical aspects, and coordination with various parties involved but we also deal with bureaucratic procedures that come with the job. It’s a constantly evolving and challenging aspect of our work that requires patience, persistence, and perseverance. Even after almost 40 years, it can still be frustrating, but having the right contacts and consultants, and knowing who and what to avoid can make all the difference. Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing when someone’s lunch break is. However, navigating bureaucracies online can be even more complicated.

You may be familiar with the frustration of calling an 800 number and if you’re lucky enough to get through to someone, they may not be able to answer more complex questions that could have been resolved with a simple in-person appointment in the old days.

We’re here to make the impossible possible! It’s been a wild ride working across the country over the years, but we’ve managed to accomplish some pretty miraculous feats. For instance, we were able to design 20 townhouses on a tiny lot by the Hudson River without parking or retail – two requirements for development! And let’s not forget the swimming pool we squeezed into a 75-foot wetline footprint on the waterfront.

We’ve also tackled some pretty thorny bureaucratic challenges, like securing a final certificate of occupancy for a 43-unit apartment building on Park Avenue. We managed to resolve all old issues and even cleared three people’s apartments for change of use on the ground floor.

Then there was the time we divided a retail store in Soho, allowing our tenant to access two streets instead of just one, and cutting their expenses in half. And don’t get me started on the retail store we designed above a subway line – we had to deal with the Department of Transportation, whose violations ran deep under our building!

Finally, there was the time we got permission to relocate all six major waste line stacks and cut the flanges of a beam in one of New York’s most prominent apartment buildings. It was all to accommodate an elevator in a triplex on the ground floor, but it was worth it in the end.

Let me share with you some stories of my experiences as an architect.

One of my clients had delayed a renovation and penthouse addition on their townhouse for years. However, when they got divorced and decided to sell, everything had to be rushed. The Building Department tried to revoke all approval and demanded that the construction be taken down. It was a tense situation, but we managed to hold back the client’s attorneys and push through to receive the certificate of occupancy.

In Beverly Hills, we faced an unexpected challenge when our drawings were not approved because the flowers we had chosen for the front property line were not approved. Yes, you read that right, the type of plant mattered more than the structure itself! It was frustrating but also a reminder of how even the smallest detail can have a big impact.

A seemingly simple task in Boca Raton turned out to be anything but simple. We couldn’t replace a cracked tile in a recent shower installation without refiling with the city, which meant waiting for several months for the process and drawings to be approved. The Building Department only allowed construction during the summer months, which made everything even more challenging.

And finally, in New York City, even the simplest bathroom work requires multiple filings, usually at least four. These have to be approved and signed by building boards, their architects/engineers, and then go through numerous steps for approval, accompanied by tenant safety approval, and when appropriate, landmarks and site safety division. It’s a long and complicated process, but it’s what we do as architects to ensure everything is safe and up to code.