GOV. ANDREW CUOMO’S order to stop all nonessential and nonemergency construction in late March caused a lot of disruption among coops and condos, particularly those in the midst of Local Law 11 facade work. But even before the shutdown, construction companies were feeling the effects of the shelter-in-place orders.
“Boards didn’t want us to work,” says Michael DiFonzo, the president of Central Construction Management. And the reasons vary. Early on, one of the most persistent problems was noise. With offices closing and more people working from home, the presence of crews replacing windows and repairing facades proved to be disruptive. But as the coronavirus crisis wore on, the issue became one of safety – and no small amount of fear.
“The No. 1 reason for buildings to stop us,” DiFonzo says, “is they didn’t want workers coming into the building. Jobs where we don’t have access from the sidewalk bridge or a scaffold, we have to go in the building and to the roof. We still have to do safety checks on the roof, and there are buildings that have stopped us because of that.”
Some construction workers were also reluctant to expose themselves to possible contamination by working in close quarters with fellow crew members. “The real thing that stopped us,” DiFonzo says, “was workers not wanting to come to work. They were calling in and saying, ‘I don’t think it’s safe for me to go out.’ Or, ‘My wife is in the medical industry, and I can’t leave my children at home.’ Between health concerns and child care issues, I’ve had difficulty manning the jobs.”
The Department of Buildings (DOB) has published an online interactive map of all ongoing essential and emergency work (available here: https://on.nyc.gov/2JS4xSD. In a letter to clients, RAND Engineering & Architecture explained that these include “projects and inspections necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and building occupants, such as Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) inspections; repair of emergency facade conditions (until it is safe to shut the site); restoration of heat, electricity and other essential services. … Owners of FISP buildings currently in Unsafe status may also apply for a waiver from DOB that allows work to continue.”
If a building’s construction site has been shut down, the board is still responsible for having it inspected regularly, either by the board or a certified inspector. For more information, boards can download the DOB’s guidance for securing construction sites during the COVID-19 shutdown here: https://on.nyc.gov/3d0D5Pa.