I don't know much about the law or lawyers, though Sam Waterston has his moments. EV Grieve reader Patrick made some sense of it...
So the provision they violated was Section 28-105.1 of the NYC Administrative Code. Title 28 of the Admin Code is the Construction code, Chapter 1 is the Administrative chapter, and Article 105 is the Permits article.
Section 105.1 says they can't do work until the commissioner issues a permit for the specific work they want to do. Given how fast they started working, we're guessing they just didn't file permits for a bunch of stuff. By not applying for permits, the owners were probably trying to cut some costs (either of filing or of complying with something). Entirely illegal work happens all the time in NYC, of course.
Here's the text of the section. He broke it down for readability purposes.
§ 28-105.1. General.
It shall be unlawful
- to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, remove or change the use or occupancy of any building or structure in the city,
- to erect, install, alter, repair, or use or operate any sign or service equipment in or in connection therewith,
- to erect, install, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any gas, mechanical, plumbing or fire suppression system in or in connection therewith
- to cause any such work to be done
UNLESS AND UNTIL a written permit therefore [sic; therefor? -Ed.] shall have been issued by the commissioner in accordance with the requirements of this code, subject to such exceptions and exemptions as may be provided in section 28-105.4.
The exceptions in 105.4 are 1) emergency work, 2) minor alterations & ordinary repairs, 3) public utility work, 4) ordinary plumbing work, and 5) sign permits. Also note that "unlawful" doesn't mean violation of the section exposes you to criminal liability or liability in tort; just means you gotta comply with it if you're going to go forward.
Writes Patrick: "It's likely only a temporary issue. Go get your last glimpses in, because they'll apply for the permit, have it approved (little in the way, given that it's not under Landmarks protection), then proceed as planned."
[Image via Runnin' Scared]