Residents and Workers to Gov. Cuomo: Make Residential Construction Essential

While Governor Cuomo recently announced that reopening would begin in New York, starting upstate, it is looking as though some of the harder hit parts of the state, including Manhattan and Long Island, might be waiting for a good deal longer. This news came to some displeasure for local residents and officials in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, especially with regards to construction and construction jobs. 

Locals report the need for home repairs and unfinished projects to be finished, with contractors and construction firms unable to take on non-essential work. As a result, laborers and local residents alike are demanding that Cuomo declare residential construction an essential business so that work can continue. 

Long Island Reopening Vs. Upstate Reopening: Why the Disparity? 

On Friday, officials in Long Island discussed the possibility of a reopen and return to business as usual remaining at least as far as seven weeks away, at the end of June, at least an entire month after other parts of the state will resume business operations. The main issue, they say, is that the criteria laid down by the state to be eligible for reopening will take at least that long for Nassau and Suffolk counties to meet. These include criteria such as a documented, 14-day decline in both coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths on a rolling three-day average, a rise in available hospital beds in the region, and a 90-day stockpile of PPE. 

The metro area is one of the hardest-hit locations nationwide, much less in the state. The communities in Long Island have a much longer road ahead of them than areas upstate, and with another possible seven weeks ahead, the urgency for essential residential construction work in the area is that much direr. 

Residential Construction and Job Dependency

Over 8,000 residential construction jobs are presently on hold in Long Island, something Suffolk County town supervisors and mayors are seeking to rectify in their recent letter to Gov. Cuomo. The letter acknowledges the severity of the need to help stem the tide of COVID-19 but underscores that the housing crisis did not vanish in that time. 

One of the main reasons demand for Cuomo to reclassify residential construction is a matter of nationwide precedent. No other state in the union has made residential construction non-essential. Meanwhile, projects to build houses, apartments, and senior living remain shuttered. Long Islanders are awaiting homes or watching their current, unfinished homes deteriorate while construction stalls and laborers wait to return to their careers and care for their own homes and families. 

Essential Residential Construction: The Work That Comes with It

The number of available jobs has the potential to skyrocket provided that residential construction is deemed as essential as officials insist that it is. These would include:

  • New construction. There is, of course, new construction that seeks to help alleviate an ongoing housing crisis. Everything from houses to apartments and condos for people at all income levels remain a need, but not all can be deemed an affordable housing project. 
  • Senior living. While affordable housing is deemed essential, as are senior health care facilities, senior residential facilities are not. 
  • Remodels and rebuilds. Many currently-standing homes with set plans for remodels and major refurbishments (such as roof installation) have been on hold for months and exposing properties to the elements. Although not deemed fit for emergency construction, despite that high-rise and other urban construction projects receive exceptions to prevent the same kind of structural deterioration and damage. 

As far as locals, laborers, and officials in Long Island are concerned, there is everything to gain for their respective communities from making residential construction essential. Provided proper social distancing guidelines are followed and enforced just as they are in other essential construction jobs; they believe there is little reason to differentiate them. 


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