The list of essential construction projects and permitted work has ballooned sixfold since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a virtual construction shutdown last month, The City reports, citing NYC Department of Buildings data.
The publication says DOB data shows that some 4,936 job sites are now allowed to be worked on, an increase from about 800 on April 3.
Projects added to the list include hotels in Manhattan and Brooklyn, a new Queens Target, and, as the Columbia Spectator first reported, the future home of Columbia University’s business school.
The greenlighted projects also include renovation work on rental buildings under an exception for a “sole worker,” raising concerns for tenants.
In the revised rules compared to the original shutdown guidance, the state has expanded essential building work beyond primarily infrastructure projects, hospitals and affordable housing.
As long as ground already has been broken, construction now can also proceed on any type of business that’s allowed to continue in-person operations during the state’s coronavirus-driven pause.
Private and pubic school construction can continue, according to the broader list, which also includes hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, banks, appliance stores and storage facilities, among other businesses
One worker on a Manhattan hotel project fumed, saying his bosses were treating the pandemic like “a joke,” The City reported.
“To make the hotel essential, they might as well open every job, because that hotel is far from essential,” he was quoted as saying. “That hotel is deemed essential while we are deemed expendable.”
New York City’s essential business rules for construction appear somewhat narrower than the state’s.
In the city, work on essential businesses can proceed only “if it pertains to alterations of existing buildings and has been permitted by the department prior to April 15, 2020, the city guidance says.
DOB notes that the vast majority of the 35,000 sites that were ordered shuttered in March are still closed.
The far-from-complete Target site in Elmhurst, also slated to contain a Starbucks and a Chipotle, will eventually house some type of “ambulatory diagnostic treatment or healthcare facilities” above the 23,000-sq. ft. big box store, city filings show. So 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, said that while a medical office may be in the offing, the core of the planned facility is still a shopping center, the City quotes her as saying.
“Our primary concerns are that they are endangering workers at the site and exploiting loopholes to complete this project,” she said.
The construction work takes up space on 82nd Street and Baxter Street, which are routes to the emergency department entrance of coronavirus-slammed Elmhurst Hospital, Chou noted.
Renovations also continue on at residential buildings, under the exception that allows one-person jobs.
One resident at an Upper East Side rental building said his landlord’s continued remodeling work on apartments puts his family and other tenants, many of them elderly, at risk for a less-than-pressing reason.
“Unless it’s a hot water issue or a heating plumbing issue, this is not the time to have any extraneous people in the building,” said the resident, who didn’t want his name published for fear of retaliation by his landlord.
“Every time I take an elevator down to the basement and I run across a construction worker, that’s a potential interaction that I do not need to be having,” he said.