Wicks Law

New York General Municipal Law § 101

New York General Municipal Law § 101, known as Wicks Law, provides that when the total cost of contract work for the erection, construction, reconstruction, or alteration of a public building exceeds $500,000 or more, independent prime contractors must be used for the 1) plumbing and gas fitting work; 2) steam, hot water heating, ventilation and air conditioning work; and 3) electrical wiring and illuminating fixtures work. Separate specifications are required for each aspect of the project so that each may be separately and independently bid. This ensures expert performance in each of the specified areas, rather than leaving the selection of subcontractors to the general contractor, so as to reduce the likelihood of delayed performance or poor quality of work.

Wicks Law applies whenever any one of the three specified types of work is present.

In A. S. Reynolds Elec. Co. v. Board of Ed. of City of New York (1965), the court held that the municipal law does not require that each of the three types, plumbing, heating, and electrical, be present in the contract to which Wicks Law applies, but will apply whenever the amount of work is above the set limit of $500,000 and whenever any of the three types of work are present. On public works projects which do not meet the set $500,000 minimum, bidders must submit a separate sealed list of the subcontractors the bidder will use on the contract work and the amount to be paid to each subcontractor for the types of work specified in the municipal law. Although a fairly new requirement, effective July 1, 2008, various statutes, including the Education Law, General Municipal Law, Public Housing Law, and State Finance Law, require a sealed list of subcontractors on public works projects. The New York Legislature gave the commissioner the power to enforce any provision of the Wicks Law. The commissioner may issue stop-bid orders and may move in court to enjoin any violation of the stop-bid order.

Bid specification that requires general contractors to coordinate and schedule all work on the job violation the Wicks Law and are illegal.

Separate prime contractors are to be supervised and coordinated by the owner, who may contract these responsibilities to another party which is not a prime contractor on the job. In General Bldg. Contractors of New York State, Inc. v. City of Syracuse (1972), the court held that bid specifications which required the general contractor’s superintendent to coordinate all work on the project violated the provision of the General Municipal Law relating to separate specifications for certain public work. Efforts to repeal the Wicks Law since it was enacted in 1912 have largely failed, mainly due to the organized and effective lobbying of mechanical and electrical contractors and trade unions. However, the New York City School Construction Authority, created in 1988, was exempted from compliance with Wicks Law, and the exemption has been extended several times. Wicks Law was constitutionally upheld by the Second Department of the Appellate Division in Building Contractors Ass’n, Inc. v. State (1995).

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