James Colgate is both a real estate lawyer and an architect, giving him the perspective to serve clients with a wide variety of land use issues, including special permits, zoning variances, and comprehensive advice in navigating complex bureaucratic and political processes. Widely-known for meticulous attention to detail and near-encyclopedic knowledge of New York City’s labyrinthine building codes and regulations, James can solve problems no one else can.

James' clients - developers, lenders, non-profit institutions and public agencies - look to him for advice on all aspects of land use law in New York City, whether it be obtaining determinations from the NYC Department of Buildings or variances from the Board of Standards and Appeals, reviewing or preparing zoning opinions, or advising his clients of potential uses for their properties that they might never have considered.

James’ experience with land use issues is extensive.  Before joining, he was an Assistant Commissioner at the NYC Department of Buildings, where he issued complex interpretations, co-authored laws and managed the department’s legislative efforts to revise the NYC Construction Codes. He has also worked at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development as well as the Department of City Planning. James is a member of the American Institute of Architects; is a certified floodplain manager; and served as FEMA’s floodplain administrator for the City of New York from 2004 to 2014. His skill set is extensive - and unique.

The bottom line - There are few - if any - lawyer/architects who know more about NYC building codes and zoning regulations than James.

Civic Involvement & Honors

    • Manhattan Community Board 2, Member 1995-1996: Land Use Committee, Landmarks Committee
    • Fordham University School of Law – Co-chair, Fordham Outlaws; Special Issues Editor, Fordham Law Review; Louis Stein Scholar for Public Interest Law and Ethics; Adele L. Monaco Memorial Award; Fordham Law School Prize; Fordham Legal Writing Prize; Corpus Juris Secundum Award for Scholastic Excellence in Torts  
    • Fordham University School of Law – Co-chair, Fordham Outlaws; Special Issues Editor, Fordham Law Review; Louis Stein Scholar for Public Interest Law and Ethics; Adele L. Monaco Memorial Award; Fordham Law School Prize; Fordham Legal Writing Prize; Corpus Juris Secundum Award for Scholastic Excellence in Torts  
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Professional Affiliations

    • American Society of Civil Engineers: Committee on Flood Resistant Design & Construction Standards, 2010-present
    • International Code Council: “International Building Code – General” Code Development Committee, 2006-2009 and 2012-2015 cycles
    • International Code Council: “International Building Code – General” Code Development Committee, 2006-2009 and 2012-2015 cycles
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Publications

  • Note, "If You Build It, Can They Sue? Architects’ Liability under Title III of the ADA," 68 Fordham Law Review 137 (1999)

Speaking Engagements

  •  “An ‘Opening’ Argument: The Controversy Over Floodshields & the Protection of Glass Storefronts & Curtain Walls,” Association of State Floodplain Managers Annual Conference (Kansas City, Mo.; May 2, 2017)
  • “Land Use CLE 2017: The History and Impact of Multiple Dwelling Law,” Center for New York City Law (New York, NY; March 23, 2017)
  • “The Challenges of Developing Basement Apartment Conversions,” Citizens Housing Planning Council (New York, NY; February 16, 2017)
  • “Case Study: Regulatory Complexities and Approvals for a New York City Dry Flood Proofing System,” Association of State Floodplain Managers’ Annual National Conference (Grand Rapids, MI; June 19-24, 2016)
  • "Assemblages, Bonus and Beyond - Finding What’s Left in NY Land Development," Young Mortgage Bankers Association’s Winter Luncheon (New York, NY; February 24, 2016)
  • “The Impact of the 2014 New York City Building Code to High-Rise Buildings,” Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (New York, NY; December 15, 2015)
  • “Revised NYC Construction Codes,” New York Society of Architects (New York, NY; February 26, 2015)
  • “High-Rise Building Codes in New York City,” 2nd International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference (Greenwich, UK; June 19, 2014)
  • “New York City after Superstorm Sandy: Regulatory Reform,” Association of State Floodplain Mangers Conference (Seattle, WA; June 5, 2014)
  • “ New York City After Superstorm Sandy: Rebuilding and Resiliency,” Association of State Floodplain Mangers Conference (Hartford, CT; June 13, 2013)
  • “Super-Sized Efficiency: Tackling the Existing Building Sector in New York City,” Greenbuild 2010 International Conference and Expo (Chicago, IL; Nov. 19, 2010)
  • “Research and Regulatory Reform: The Three Major World Trade Center Evacuation Studies,” 4th International Symposium on Human Behaviour in Fire (Cambridge, UK; July 13, 2009)
  • “Sistemas de Sinalização de Segurança Fotoluminescente nas vias de evacuação: Novo código de NY Pós 9/11,” I Conferência NFPA Portugal, Seguridad contra Incêndios, (Estoril, Portugal; Oct. 20, 2006)
  • “New York City’s Local Law 26 of 2004 Resulting from the WTC Building Code Task Force,” Columbia University WTC Evacuation Study: Translating Research into Practice (New York; Sept. 15, 2006)
  • “The WTC Building Code Task Force: Photoluminescent Exit Path Markings & Emergency Action Plans,” Human Behaviour in Fire Network Workshop (London, UK; Nov. 17, 2005)
  • “Building Code Changes in Response to 9/11: Learning from the World Trade Center,” Structural Engineering Institute/ASCE Structures Congress (New York; April 23, 2005)
  • “Lessons Learned from 9/11: The Report of the WTC Building Code Task Force,” 3rd International Symposium on Human Behaviour in Fire (Belfast, UK; Sept. 2, 2004)