While the coronavirus epidemic began with hopes to return to normal operations at the start of April, the deadline continues to be pushed back as the reality of its spread throughout the US became more and more apparent. The state of New York has reported 123,000 cases and 4,259 deaths as of this writing, according to Worldometers. At the tail-end of March, Governor Andrew Cuomo added to his PAUSE program by issuing an order that all non-essential construction labor come to an immediate halt, with violators potentially liable to up to $10,000 in fines.
What Counts as Essential Construction?
The new order would suspend most commercial and residential construction, with a few noted exceptions. This has left many firms and laborers wondering what projects will remain open, as this is likely to shape the face of the New York construction scene for some time to come. Essential projects would include any of the following:
- Infrastructure projects including roads and bridges, utilities, and transit systems like the subways.
- Affordable housing and homeless shelter projects are permitted to continue.
- Emergency sites, such as hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare facilities in development can continue.
- Construction projects that would typically be deemed non-essential but count as emergencies, ie, to halt construction and leave it unfinished would be unsafe in its current state. Work may continue until it is safe to shut down the site.
Sites that are not equipped to maintain health and social distancing guidelines, even when they meet the criteria of an essential project, must also close. The government mandate also specifies that single workers, or people who are the “sole employee/worker on a job site” do not fall under construction work under these rules. There is no official confirmation that this means they are banned, but if it is not deemed construction work, then it can’t be deemed essential construction work.
Major Projects in New York City Still Underway, Plus New Developments
Those curious about what ongoing projects remain essential can consult a map provided by the state’s Department of Buildings. Presently, over 1,000 essential projects are still running and can be navigated on the map by project type and location.
Most notable are new developments underway, approved to help extend healthcare to New York’s most vulnerable at this time. Multiple temporary hospitals are in the works throughout the state, including the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on Staten Island. It will add 750 hospital beds to care for patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Additional locations are coming together to handle non-COVID-19 affected patients in order to handle overflow, creating more space within hospitals to house the infected.
Construction in New York City – Moving Forward
With only essential projects remaining open, construction work is taking a sharp turn away from largely residential and commercial projects for the time being. Laborers on open sites are still expected to social distance, and observe all precautions regarding cleanliness and personal health.