Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, New York City was in the midst of a construction boom. In the months after March 27, 2020, when Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the pause of all nonessential building projects in New York, construction companies have had to navigate uncertainty about when and where they are allowed to operate. The no-build order, which has affected thousands of construction sites, subjects violators to a hefty fine for every infraction — as much as $10,000 per offense.
In addition to complying with the law, construction company owners and developers have the burden of maintaining safe workspaces and protecting their assets from further financial losses in the long term. Thinking for the future, site supervisors are wise to ensure that shut-down sites are in shape to reopen when the time comes. This includes keeping sites free from any obvious construction hazards. Work tools and materials should be stored safely, warning signs should be posted visibly and emergency lighting should be installed where needed.
For a construction project to be deemed “essential” under the governor’s original executive order, it must have been necessary for public health and safety reasons. Hospitals, affordable housing and infrastructure repair were the main projects allowed under the order, as well as small projects where construction work was being completed by a single worker. Ongoing projects were also allowed to continue if halting them would be unsafe. Furthermore, government entities were exempted from the executive order, so local municipalities could continue their own construction projects.
Only about 800 projects were considered essential as of April 3, while approximately 35,000 construction sites were ordered to close. Three weeks later, close to 5,000 sites were allowed to open. Under loosened restrictions, any construction project in which ground had already been broken could proceed if the project was for a business permitted to engage in walk-in trade, including but not limited to restaurants, retail stores, hotels and banks.
On May 15, counties in New York’s Finger Lakes region, Central New York, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and North Country were allowed to reopen nonessential construction as long as social distancing and sanitation measures were put into place. Sites in New York City and Long Island, however, were not allowed to resume nonessential construction. Governor Cuomo cited June 13 as a potential reopening date, depending on whether the regions had met criteria for COVID-19 controls.
Based in downtown Manhattan, the attorneys at Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson are well-versed in the construction laws of New York City and New York State. We advise construction companies on compliance with state and local orders, and we represent workers injured in site accidents. To schedule a free case evaluation with our firm, call [ln::phone] or contact us online.