State, DOB Halt Non-Essential Construction Due to COVID Crisis
New York State has halted non-essential construction. On March 27, Governor Cuomo amended the executive order, which required non-essential businesses and nonprofits to limit in-person work to curb COVID-19 transmission to include the suspension of all non-essential construction. Following the state’s move, on March 30, the city’s DOB announced that all work on non-essential construction and demolition sites is suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
According to the governor’s office, only work on roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or healthcare facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters will be considered essential. And anyone violating this new rule could see fines of up to $10,000 from the state.
According to the executive order and DOB’s guidance, only emergency construction, essential construction, and construction work that’s limited to a single worker on a job site are allowed to continue. Emergency construction is construction needed to protect the health and safety of building occupants. This includes work needed to restore essential services such as heat, hot water, and utilities and work needed to correct a harmful condition in a building that may affect life, health, safety, property, or significant number of persons.
The DOB says it will regularly inspect all construction sites to ensure compliance with emergency orders. Violations for performing non-essential construction work will result in a maximum penalty of $10,000, issued to each permit holder found in violation on the site. And violations for not practicing social distancing on an essential construction site will result in a maximum penalty of $10,000, issued to each permit holder found in violation on the site.
Essential Construction Requests
In order to perform essential, emergency, or solitary construction work, the project’s registered design professional must electronically submit an Essential Construction request. An essential construction request portal has been set up at www.nyc.gov/dobnow. The DOB will review all requests on an individual basis and determine if the construction work is allowed to continue. According to the DOB, if you observe a condition at your site that you deem to be an emergency, you should address the condition immediately and submit the appropriate application to the DOB within two business days of commencing the emergency work.
For jobs in approved status, an essential construction request must be submitted to proceed with an initial work permit application (PW2). Antenna, Construction Fence, Curb Cut, and Sidewalk Shed work types and jobs at a BIN that has already been identified as essential are exempt and can proceed without submission of an essential construction request.
Here is more specific information relating to the type of essential or non-essential construction work you might have to navigate during this time of the COVID-19 emergency:
Elevators. Only elevator work necessary to maintain safe elevator service is permissible during this suspension of non-essential construction work. This includes in-progress modernization work of currently out-of-service elevators and repairs of out-of-service elevators. This applies to all occupied buildings, regardless of the number of elevators they have.
In addition, the DOB considers the installation of door lock monitoring devices—the technology that keeps elevator doors closed and prevents elevators from being allowed to move while the door is open—necessary work to protect the health and safety of occupants.
Facades. Only façade restoration work necessary to correct conditions labeled as Unsafe in a Local Law 11 Façade Inspection Report, or necessary to address any condition requiring immediate corrective action that severely affects life, health, safety, property, or significant number of persons, can continue during this suspension of non-essential construction work. The DOB reminds building owners that there must be appropriate protection such as a sidewalk shed to protect the public.
Facade inspections are permitted during this suspension of non-essential work, and equipment necessary to perform facade inspections (such as suspended scaffolds and industrial rope access) can be used during this suspension of non-essential work. Also, cavity probes that are required for cavity walls as part of Local Law 11 facade inspections are permissible. The DOB says that probes on other types of walls or buildings will be evaluated based on the reason for performing the probe, such as correcting an emergency condition.
Plumbing, fire suppression, electrical, HVAC, boilers. Work on these items during this suspension of non-essential construction work can be performed only if the work is necessary to restore the interruption of essential services, or necessary to address any condition requiring immediate corrective action that severely affects life, health, safety, property, or a significant number of persons.
New applications for electrical or Limited Alteration Application (LAA) permits require completion of an essential construction questionnaire to perform emergency or solitary work. On the application in the DOB NOW: Build platform (found through www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/industry/dob-now-build.page), complete the Essential Construction tab, located under the Scope of Work tab. The questionnaire must be completed in order for the application to be submitted. Electrical and LAA jobs can’t be submitted in the Essential Construction Request portal at www.nyc.gov/dobnow. Permits already in effect are required to remain active until the end of the term for which they were issued and must be renewed for as long as work remains suspended. There are no changes to the permit renewal process.