New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Co-ops and Condos in Limbo as State Bans “Non-essential” Construction

New York State

Coronavirus, non-essential construction, facade repairs, co-op and condo boards.

Non-essential construction sites will be locked down on April 3.

March 30, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will freeze most construction statewide in response to the pandemic sweeping New York, after an outcry from workers and word of Covid-19 cases on jobsites around the city, The City reports. The edict has left co-op and condo boards in limbo, unsure if repairs to facades and other components of their buildings will be allowed to continue.

“All non-essential construction must shut down except emergency construction," Empire State Development (ESD) said in guidelines issued on March 27. Sites must wind down by April 3, and the shutdown is scheduled to last through April 21. The agency further defined essential construction as "a project necessary to protect health and safety of the occupants, or to continue a project if it would be unsafe to allow it to remain undone until it is safe to shut the site."

Stephen Varone, president of RAND Engineering & Architecture, tells Habitat: “Obviously, the facade work we’re doing on co-op and condo buildings protects the health and safety of people. I don’t think a ton of thought about FISP (the Facade Inspection and Safety Program) went into this.” Varone notes that most of the publicized complaints have centered on large crews working in close proximity on new buildings, which has led to the spread of Covid-19. He says he has contacted the Department of Buildings, seeking clarification of the new ruling.

“If there’s an unsafe condition, it’s debatable,” says Peter von Simson, chief executive of New Bedford Management. “But if it’s not a life-safety issue, then you’re not allowed to work.”

Those who break this rule would face fines of up to $10,000 per violation, ESD said, adding, "Essential construction may continue and includes roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters."

Kirk Gibbs, 57, an electrician at a new parking garage construction site, tells the New York Times: “I’m essential to the pocketbooks of rich contractors and essential for spreading the virus, but that’s about it. It’s not essential for us to be here right now.”

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