Monthly Archives: April 2020

With a Preview of the Industry Post Pandemic, Construction Sites Alter Procedures to Meet Health Guidelines, Operate in NYC

As governors begin the slow, phased process of easing stay-at-home restrictions and allowing businesses to open, the construction projects that are currently operating in New York City provide a preview of the what sites will look like in New York and surrounding states in the near future.

At jobs where developers and contractors are adjusting quickly and attempting to meet new guidelines, workers are wearing masks, even on breaks, and adhering to social distancing rules of six feet between people throughout the day. There are more handwashing stations and tools are being disinfected and not shared among workers. When deliveries arrive, the driver is not getting out of the vehicle.

In some places, employees’ temperatures are checked when they arrive at the site, and construction workers are being told to stay home if they aren’t feeling well.

City inspectors are expected to stop at sites frequently to confirm contractors are sticking to the rules.

There is even the possibility of a drastic change in work hours. According to the New York Times, “Representatives of labor groups and contractor companies are pushing the city to permit 24-hour construction at some locations to reduce the number of laborers on site at any one time.”

Over the weekend, governor Andrew Cuomo said that construction and manufacturing jobs that could follow the health guidelines would be among the first sectors of business to start up again in Phase I of the re-opening plan as New York–as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut–try to get people back to work in hopes that the worst of the pandemic is over for the area. For New York, it will begin upstate after May 15. The governor said he will extend the PAUSE order beyond May 15 for New York City and the surrounding area as he waits for the novel coronavirus numbers to decline there.

Major Long Island Rail Road Connection Among 250+ Construction Projects Still Active Through MTA

It was a year ago that New Yorkers first saw a significant leap forward for the ongoing East Side Access project when Governor Cuomo took an interest. Optimistic eyes looked to a 2022 completion date for a longed-for addition to the metro area’s mass transit system that would connect Long Island commuters directly to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Some people have wondered whether the project would be stopped due to restrictions 

The East Side Access project, alongside more than 250 other major Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) undertakings, still maintains its forward momentum. This steady uptick in work comes with the MTA’s assurances that infection rates among their workers are low and that measures are taken at every job site to maintain healthy, safe standards. 

How the MTA’s East Side Access Project Continues to Move Forward

The first stirrings of ideas for this connection date all the way back to the 1950’s, and the current East Side Access project certainly takes some inspiration from that. With more than eight miles of tunnel, according to the MTA, its full scope stretches to work sites in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. It is one of the largest active transportation infrastructure projects in the entire country, and once completed, it stands to serve over 160,000 customers each day. 

The question is when completion will happen, and how the MTA intends to get there given current regulations. No official new deadline has been announced, giving the impression that 2022 is still that year to look forward to. 

In the meantime, workflow and management has changed significantly to afford a safe but productive work environment, including:

  • Re-organizing staff and working crews to keep them separate during working hours. 
  • Arranging shifts in such a way that a sufficient set of contractors can be on site without too close proximity. 
  • Daily disinfecting of tools and equipment.
  • Strict, stringent policies on temperature checks and reports of any unusual symptoms. No one who is sick is permitted to work. 
  • Site visits conducted via GoPro, allowing safety and other inspections to continue unabated without increasing the number of people present.

Final, Encouraging News: Low Infection Rate Among MTA Construction Workers

The standards the MTA holds to its firms appear to be effective if the numbers are to be believed. MTA chief development officer Janno Lieber has gone on record stating that only 95 out of 5,400 consultants and contractors working for the MTA in their construction department have tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been no deaths in this department, either. With rising concerns among workers regarding risk of sickness and spreading it to others, even as an asymptomatic carrier, it is important and encouraging to see places where social distancing and other safety measures are working. 

Regardless of whether those numbers will change in the future, progress on East Side Access, as well as other major endeavors, carry on throughout the metro area. As a number itself, 2022, continues to look like a hopeful one.


New York To Restart Construction, Manufacturing in Upstate New York in Mid-May As Part of Reopening Plan

On Sunday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s general reopening plan, which will have a regional phased approach. After May 15, Phase One would begin in lesser hit areas and include construction.

“Phase one of reopening will involve construction and manufacturing activities, and within construction and manufacturing, those businesses that have a low risk,” said Cuomo Sunday.

It will start upstate.  The hard-hit downstate areas, including New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County are likely to have an extension of the PAUSE guidelines beyond the May 15 expiration of the current order.

When projects restart, workers will have to abide by public health guidelines. Industry leaders are working with the state and individual businesses will be tasked with creating a plan to get back to work while keeping the novel coronavirus infections at bay.

There will be 14 days between phases with the state monitoring health numbers and looking for flare-ups before moving to the next step.

Phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses considered “more essential” with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by other businesses considered “less essential” or those that present a higher risk of infection spread. As the infection rate declines, the pace of reopening businesses will be increased.

Gary LaBarbera, the president of Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, released a statement, agreeing with Cuomo’s decision to put construction first.

“It makes perfect sense for the construction industry to be at the front end of the remobilization of the work force,” Labarbera said in a statement.

Pennsylvania to Restart Construction May 1

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf announced that all construction projects can restart on May 1. Non-essential construction was shut down as part of the state’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic on March 21.
The May 1 date is a week earlier than Wolf’s original green light for construction. As of Wednesday’s statements from Wolf, construction sites will be opened before the rest of the state, which is still scheduled to start a multi-phased reopening on May 8.
Wolf emphasized that federal and state health guidelines must be followed as businesses slowly reopen and any flare-up of coronavirus cases could lead to closing things down again.

Some Essential New York Construction Projects Pausing Amid Safety Concerns and Rising Debts

The number of construction jobs that continue in the New York City metro area, despite the stop order on non-essential work, with government records shows over 1,000 projects still in progress when CISLeads reported on this topic at the start of the month. The map shown in that April 6th publication has ballooned to over 4,000open projects. Key among these are affordable housing ventures, a stipulation that has kept many residential projects going despite the shutdown. However, a growing trend that’s beginning to crop up is that, for safety’s sake, several affordable housing contracts are either slowing or pausing in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. There is also a growing concern that delays are going to cause rising debt problems for construction firms as lenders eye upcoming deadlines.

Why Are These Essential Construction Projects Still Shutting Down? 

Affordable housing is considered an essential part of construction, where other forms of residential construction are not, because it serves an already existing, but growing, demand for housing at a time of financial crisis. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, below-market-priced housing remained a primary concern for New Yorkers and found its way into the blueprints of many a project, as you can see in these four posts from the past year: (1) Making Every Floor Count (2)  Manhasset Square Redevelopment, (3) Bronx Point Complex and (4) Transforming Flushing. This need can only increase in a time of economic anxiety and massive shutdowns to contain the spread of coronavirus. 

The fact that some of even these essential projects are pausing indefinitely is an understandable reason for concern. Around the 12th of April, it was reported that at least 28 affordable housing ventures have volunteered to shut down. Ron Moelis, CEO of L+M Development Partners, stated that protecting his workers from undue exposure was at the height of his concerns, and it was for their safety that he chose to pause his firm’s tasks. Leaders at the New York Building Congress noted that the struggle is similar for many companies in the field. One must decide between finished sites that provide much-needed resources to the people of New York and the health and protection of their laborers, and a balance must be maintained. 

As deadlines continue to loom for some of these projects, with lenders keeping a close eye, some experts have speculated a potential danger for the construction industry in general. While Bloomberg reports that most banks acknowledge that now is not the time to turn antagonistic about debts, questions of timely return of investment remain. 

How Are the Remaining Open Projects Handling The Workload in Pandemic Conditions?

It is important to note that the earlier-mentioned reporting suggested around 30 stopped projects, but this is 30 out of more than 300 still open. Related Corporate Properties, for instance, is one such firm with projects still running, most notably Hudson Yards, and their example seems to be common. A representative from the firm reported that the site has fewer than 12 workers on site, all of whom submit to regular screenings for fever, wear protective gear, and sanitize the work area regularly. A staff of this size may seem untenable to the casual onlooker, but it is the price of progress while maintaining safe social distancing and cleanliness at this time. 

Whether more firms will press toward their deadlines or choose to pause for safety’s sake remain to be seen. The landscape for essential construction work will likely be ever-changing in the coming weeks. 


New York and New Jersey Stay-at-Home Orders, School and Business Closures Extended to May 15

In their daily coronavirus press conferences on Thursday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy extended their stay-at-home orders in each state until May 15. Murphy made the announcement, specifically discussing the closure of NJ’s public schools, but said he remains hopeful that with public health guidelines in place longer he can make a “different” announcement in a month.

Murphy mentioned construction when asked about the Turnpike Authority’s planned April 28 meeting, which would address possible toll hikes, and if he is allowing that meeting to go forward as planned. He said it could, but only if it was done in a virtual setting and allowed a longer period for public comment. Figuring out the budget is the key to continuing vital infrastructure projects.

“Transportation money needs to be the main source of transportation projects,” he said and noted that the state must continue to provide

“Construction as a general matter for rest areas [and] big highway projects, that’s going on because NJ goes on,” he said.

Cuomo discussed the strategy for reopening New York, which will actually be the strategy used by seven Northeast states–NY, NJ, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island–in an alliance of I-95 corridor states created this week. (The plan will be created by a group consisting of a head public health official, a chief economic development officer, and the governor’s chief of staff from each state.)

Cuomo tweeted the guidelines for the plan, reiterating what he has said in the past–this will not be a reset to the way things were before the shutdown, but the beginning of a new way of doing business until a viable treatment or widespread public vaccine is established.

“Employers will need to develop new practices around workplace social distancing rules, transportation, customer interactions, and more,” he tweeted. “We need proactive protocols in the event of an infection at a workplace.”

The return to business will be phased in on a “priority scale,” he said.

“Business will reopen based on the risk posed,”  he tweeted. “We will work on a regional basis.”

Construction Comes to a Close for the Cove in Long Island City

At the hind end of March, just ahead of the stop-work order for all non-essential construction, at least one major project managed to beat the clock, with only a few finishing touches needed for the entrance, sidewalk, and a few interiors. The Cove, situated at 43-12 Hunter Street in Long Island City, has reached its full height. 

With 30 percent of its rental units listed as affordable housing, it is very likely (though as of this publication unconfirmed) that the remainder of its needs for full completion will be met. Construction projects involving affordable housing are among those deemed still essential as COVID-19 continues to keep many ventures closed, including residential developments. 

A Timeline for the Cove’s Ongoing Construction

The Cove’s long journey to completion truly began three years ago, when plans by Rockrose Development were first announced in April of 2017. The seeds for this project were sown when Rockrose purchased the property for $1 million back in 2006, with plans to develop new rental space across the street from another Rockrose-developed property, the Hayden, a luxury rental property. When the plans were officially announced, SLCE Architects was the firm attached to the design, who further report that interiors are by Slade Architecture

Ground broke in early 2018, with excavation complete by July of that year, which is also when the first renderings of the Cove, previously dubbed “the Triangle,” were revealed to the public. Reports at this stage show that it was conceived as a mixed-use space early in its development, featuring luxury amenities but also retail space on the ground floor. No mention of affordable housing is present in reports made by March of 2019, when roughly half the structure’s curtain wall had been fully assembled. 

News that 30 percent of the apartments would be affordable housing would not come until September of 2019, when reports began to officially refer to the project as the Cove, likely owing to the growing demand for such initiatives in the metro area. 

What Can Be Found in the Finished Cove? 

The Cove, fully completed, rises 18 stories of reinforced concrete, spanning roughly 90 thousand square feet and some change. Within that structure, the following will be found:

  • 4,000 square feet of retail space;
  • 123 rental units; 30 percent of them (about 37 units) will be designated as affordable housing;
  • Studio, 1-bath apartments averaging 505 square feet;
  • 1-bed, 1-bath apartments averaging 705 square feet;
  • 2-bed, 2-bath apartments averaging 815 square feet;
  • A residential lounge for simple public gatherings;
  • An outdoor rooftop terrace; and
  • A fitness center.

In the Cove, while there are some smaller projects still yet to finish, most have to do with services that might not be deemed essential, such as retail and fitness centers. Currently, open rentals in the space are still pending, but this may be subject to change in the near future as the need for housing continues in spite of a pandemic.

Construction Industry Assists in Health Crisis as Makeshift Hospitals Pop-Up in NY and NJ

While most of the Northeast is on hold, the construction industry continues to provide its essential work in New York and New Jersey. Not only have transportation, utility, housing, and emergency projects continued, contractors and developers have stepped up to assist FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers with some of the many temporary hospital facilities popping up in New York and New Jersey—the two states hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic at this time.

Here are some of the fast-moving projects answering the call of the health care crisis by transforming convention and expo centers, college campuses and even a racetrack into makeshift medical facilities.

At the Meadowlands Convention Center, a general hospital has opened to care for those who require unrelated care and less severe COVID patients. The pop-up field hospitals at the Edison Convention Center and Atlantic City Convention Center are in progress. The Atlantic City site is scheduled to open on April 14.

Meanwhile in New York, construction is underway to convert the Westchester County Center’s main arena, several smaller main-level rooms and a second-floor theater into a hospital. At SUNY Stonybrook and SUNY Old Westbury sites, 250-bed treatment tents are scheduled to be completed on April 19. And three 1,000-bed units are set to begin construction at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York Expo Center in the Bronx and CUNY College Staten Island.

Hopefully, these sites will be enough to handle the influx of patients and, before too long, they can be returned to their intended purpose.

Hudson Yards Construction – An Update, Latest Progress

First breaking ground in 2012, the 28-acre Hudson Yards project remains New York City’s single largest private real estate venture in the metropolis and even the nation at large. Its progress in the ensuing eight years has been incremental, coming together through multiple single projects. It presently stands near the end of its first phase, with the final half to follow. 

In the last year, CISLeads posted previously about the opening of the final phase of the High Line, a floating oasis that connects via the Coach Passage to this ongoing, monumental project, where recent developments give us a new look into Hudson Yards’ future and the future of its projects. 

Two Major Hudson Yards Structures Continue to Rise

In late March, it was reported that 450 Eleventh Avenue was finally reaching street level. The proposed 531-room hotel at its completion will rise to a height of just over 480 feet, and as with many skyscrapers, a steady base is needed, and this is the part of this particular construction project that is beginning to come to a close, at long last. Walls for the foundation appear to be finished, and work on the ground floor slab, as of the 21st of March, seems ready to begin. 

Perhaps the second most notable new structure taking shape in the Hudson Yards project is that of 50 Hudson Yards, significant because it is the final part of phase 1. Set in midtown, 50 Hudson Yards is set to far outpace 450 Eleventh Avenue’s apex at a gargantuan 1,011 feet in height. This project is coming together quickly, with it almost doubling in height since December. Construction will center around shaping this giant into 2.9 million square feet of leasable commercial space.

While both buildings are set to be completed in 2022, the city’s recent stop work order on all nonessential construction work may change this; either project may be continuing labor for the sole purpose of finishing any phases that would be dangerous to leave undone

The Related Company Seeks Federal Funding to Complete Second Half of Hudson Yards Project

With phase 1 set to finish in the next two years, eyes are already turning toward a smooth transition into phase 2. Stephen Ross, a real estate developer best known for the Time Warner Center development with The Related Company firm that he chairs, has been rallying in the hopes of securing federal money to bolster phase 2 of this extensive project. A loan to the tune of a little more than $1 billion is needed to kick off this last part of the project, which promises a multitude of construction projects extending into the next decade. It is moving forward in conjunction with Amtrak. At present, sources suggest that this is because the funding they are seeking requires cooperation with the local railroad in order to be viable. No official reports have been released since the stop work order on nonessential construction.

The Future: Years of Potential

Phase 1 is set to finish after 10 years of hard work, from groundbreaking to the final plate of glass installed. While many of these smaller projects promise to carry forward for at least another couple years, they are part of a larger whole that, if phase 2 is as extensive as the first, may show up to another ten years of additional work for New York construction workers. With recent orders to halt nonessential construction, interested parties will have to listen for updates on this long and ongoing project.

Non-Essential Construction to Shut Down in NJ Friday April 10 at 8 p.m.

Today New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order that will close all non-essential construction sites in the state indefinitely as of 8 p.m. on Friday April 10.

Exclusions to that order include work at hospital and school sites, as well as transportation and utility projects, affordable housing, individual housing sites that can adhere to strict limits in workers that allow workers to be safely distanced from each other. Any emergency repairs and work needed to safely secure a construction site would also be allowed.

Following the governor’s announcement of the executive order, UTCA sent this statement:

“As we anticipated infrastructure work is deemed “essential” and our projects will continue to be allowed to operate.

The following are categories of work to be deemed essential; however, when the Executive order is available, we believe the language contained in the order will provide more flexibility regarding the continuance of construction projects.

  • Transportation projects, utility sector (both public & private) projects and most other public works projects.
  • Construction necessary for the delivery of healthcare services, hospitals, Pharmacies, Pharmaceutical etc.
  • School Construction
  • Residential projects with affordable housing components
  • Homeless shelter related projects
  • Individual housing sites that can adhere to social distancing of workers on-site at any given time
  • Work needed to safely secure a construction site”