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Kelsey Neubauer



Construction advocates are pushing back against the growing call to halt all non-healthcare construction as the coronavirus pandemic has spread.

After Boston Mayor Martin Walsh declared his city would be temporarily halting most construction Monday afternoon, New York City Council member Carlos Menchaca called for New York to do the same in a tweet Monday night. But construction industry representatives say this will hurt cities in the long run.

During an interview Tuesday, New York Building Congress President and CEO Carlo Scissura told Bisnow he would caution against shutting down sites, saying it would stop essential work from getting done.

“The safety of all workers is critical, but I think that we have to be very careful to shut down,” he said. “A lot of that construction is for people who are going to need services and support in the months to come as things start reopening.”

Scissura said construction workers want to work, and can do so with relative safety while people are not outside. 

“There are still a lot of workers who still want to work, who can still get to work and are building projects that are still very critical for our future that we will need when we come out of this,” he said.  

Stephen Sandherr, the CEO of Associated General Contractors of America, said the measure in Boston would hurt the city’s economy. In a statement released Tuesday, he pointed out that most construction workers already wear gloves and masks on the job site.

“Given the precautions already in place, halting construction will do little to protect the health and safety of construction workers. But it will go a long way in undermining economic vitality by depriving millions of workers of the wages they will need over the coming days,” Sandherr said in the statement. 

The pause in Boston would also prevent the city from preparing for natural disasters in the future, Sandherr said. 

A spokesperson for Menchaca clarified that the council member was only calling for a stop to “nonessential” construction, which may not include public works projects. The ban in Boston exempts emergency work, like utility repairs or work at public facilities.  Neither Gov. Andrew Cuomo nor Mayor Bill de Blasio have publicly endorsed a construction ban as of Tuesday afternoon.  Since his tweet last night, Menchaca has reached out to the mayor’s office and to other council members, but has not yet had conversations with other city officials today about his social media call to action yesterday, his spokesperson said. In New York, there are ongoing discussions around what a ban would look like for the industry. Scissura said his team is taking the next 24 to 48 hours to plan for what will happen if a ban does go into effect.

Published on

Mar 17, 2020 by New York Building Congress