Most co-op and condo boards have put construction, renovation and apartment-combining projects on hold because of the mandated “pause” on nonessential construction work during the coronavirus pandemic. Notable exceptions are job sites that are classified unsafe and present danger to residents or the public. Also allowed to continue are work on infrastructure projects, hospitals and affordable housing.
Despite the state- and city-mandated pause orders, according to city Department of Building (DOB) data, the number of “essential” construction projects and permitted work has ballooned sixfold since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a virtual construction shutdown last month, the nonprofit The City news website reports.
Some 4,936 job sites are now allowed to be worked on – up from about 800 on April 3, according to the DOB. Among them are hotels in Manhattan and Brooklyn, a new Target store in Queens and the future home of Columbia University’s business school.
Under a revision of its original shutdown guidance, the state has expanded its definition of “essential” building work. As long as ground already has been broken, construction can proceed on any type of business that’s allowed to continue in-person operations during the state’s coronavirus-driven “pause.”
The DOB notes that the vast majority of the 35,000 sites that were ordered shuttered in March are still closed. But some local residents say they’ve been shocked to see work going forward on a wide-ranging set of long-term projects while the pandemic still claims hundreds of lives per day.
For instance, work goes on at the far-from-complete Target site in Elmhurst, Queens, which is also slated to contain a Starbucks and a Chipotle. Since the 23,000-square-foot complex will eventually house “ambulatory diagnostic treatment or healthcare facilities,” the DOB is allowing construction to continue.
Patricia Chou, a member of the grassroots community group Queens Neighborhoods United, which has long opposed the development, says: “Our primary concerns are that they are endangering workers at the site and exploiting loopholes to complete this project.”
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