Jimmy Downes, founder and president of Bronx-based Everest Scaffolding, one of the city's largest suppliers of sidewalk sheds and pipe scaffolding at construction sites, has announced that the company will continue the 25% rent reduction on equipment to its clients through May. Everest initiated the rent break on April 1, when many of the company's clients, including co-op and condo boards, sought some relief during the state-mandated shutdown of all nonessential construction projects during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm hoping construction crews will be back to work by the middle or the end of May," Downes says. "We need to work. One issue when work resumes will be getting workers to the sites. Will they want to ride the subways? Or ride with three or four guys in a car?"
Another issue in a resumption of construction work will be safety on job sites. The New York Times reports that work has resumed at more than 5,000 sites across the city, from Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan to the Far Rockaways in Queens. Safety measure include thermal forehead scans for workers at the beginning of their shift, enforced spacing on freight elevators, and the wearing of respirators while working and during breaks. Tools are regularly disinfected and hand-washing stations have been installed. But such precautions are not universal, and it remains to be seen if they stem a second wave of COVID-19 infections in New York City, the epicenter of the global pandemic.
“There is no social distancing on a construction site,” said a carpenter working on a new hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Downes says there were discussions at Everest Scaffolding about forgiving all equipment rentals during the construction lull, but an inescapable fact of life made that idea impossible. "Insurance is what kills us," he says. "It's ridiculous. And the insurance companies haven't given us any breaks."
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