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Crain’s New York, NATALIE SACHMECHI, 6.8.20

The city will once again be filled with the sounds of power tools and heavy machinery that New Yorkers have come to miss.

The city’s 33,556 nonessential construction sites will restart today as phase one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reopening plan begins. His March 27 executive order halted all construction projects that did not qualify as essential work, leaving about 80% of the city’s projects in the lurch and 43% of the industry’s workforce jobless.

The Department of Buildings has put an emphasis on safety for construction workers, developers, engineers and architects.

The DOB set some rules for the groundbreaking. Anyone on a construction job is required to wear a mask and maintain a 6-foot distance from others. Building sites should be stocked with hygiene stations, and a log must be kept with the name of everyone on the premises, as well as a log that tracks daily cleaning.

“I’m excited because it’ll be great to see women and men working,” said Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress.

Scissura said he will be making his way to a construction site today with a mask and plenty of hand sanitizer.

Employers are encouraged to develop their own site-specific game plan for a safe work environment in addition to the DOB’s requirements.

The plan includes a 30-day transition period for workers to become educated and acquainted with the new practices. They won’t be fined for violating them during that time. Once 30 days have passed, the DOB said, it will begin issuing fines of up to $5,000 for each transgression.

New York City, which bore the brunt of the pandemic’s wreckage, was the last of the state’s 10 regions to get the green light from Albany to resume activity. The Mohawk Valley, Central New York and other areas are already in phase two, which the Mid-Hudson region is scheduled to enter Tuesday.

During the pandemic, around 8,000 sites were still active and more than 200 stop-work orders were issued against sites for violating the executive order. They face fines of up to $10,000.

Developers hopeful of a quick reopening filed 1,236 applications for new buildings between March 30 and June 7, according to the DOB.

“Workers have been on sites since 6 o’clock this morning,” Scissura said. “People are excited to get up and go back to work.”

Most of the projects that Structure Tone works on—85%—are open as of today, said Mike Neary, president of the construction management company.

About a third of the company’s projects were essential—which was a great test run in terms of trying out the protocols that sites have to follow now that they can all open, Neary said, adding that things went smoothly this morning. At some sites, people are arriving in shifts to avoid cluttering elevators.

Some of his clients have chosen to delay the reopening of their project because they want to re-evaluate the design of the building and try to optimize the sites for social-distancing requirements.

Spotify, which is working on expanding its World Trade Center offices, is moving forward with the original plans, Neary said.

Neary said he has been implementing temperature checks in his back office and at his sites. The checks aren’t required but are a welcome precaution, he said.

Cuomo announced Sunday that office buildings could block entry to people who refuse to have their temperature taken.

The industry is likely to take a while to get back on its feet. “You’re not just going to be able to turn the stick on Monday and go back to where we were,” said Lou Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association. “It’s going to take time to ramp up.”

Still, it’s a critical time for the city, Scissura said. After 9/11 and the financial crisis, it was the construction industry that led New York’s recovery and got its wheels rolling again.

“The way you do it,” he said, “is to build, build, build.”

Published on

Jun 8, 2020 by New York Building Congress