As construction sites continue to bustle with action along Greenpoint’s waterfront, the state recommends that everyone stay inside to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
All non-essential businesses have officially paused across New York so that everyone can socially distance while overly burdened hospitals treat the influx of infected patients.
Nail and hair salons, clothing and record stores, and many restaurants have closed, but residential and commercial construction work remains essential according to the list of essential businesses released last week by Governor Cuomo.
Local residents began writing to Greenpointers last week about their concerns of the large groups of construction workers congregating and performing tasks side-by-side at work sites in the neighborhood.
A women who lives near the intersection of West and Noble Streets sent a photo of the construction workers at 29 West St. where she says social distancing is not being practiced causing her to worry that potentially infected workers may be harming each other and the greater community. The Greenpointers Instagram post erupted into a debate between people who say construction is not essential work, and others who say that the workers need to continue in order to support themselves and their families.
NY construction workers are still working on luxury condos, skyscrapers, and sites where workers have tested positive for coronavirus. They told me “It’s a fucking disaster” and “We’re jammed in the freight elevator like sardines” https://t.co/BuALxSq2DS
— Alex Press (@alexnpress) March 25, 2020
Another women who wrote to Greenpointers who wishes to remain anonymous said that construction workers often take lunch breaks in groups on her stoop near Huron and West Street, making her uncomfortable to leave her apartment at times.
Construction crews near the Greenpoint Landing site on Commercial street were also photographed congregating side-by-side last week as social distancing was once-again not being practiced.
And yet another tipster who lives in a new luxury waterfront apartment building in Greenpoint said that building maintenance and construction workers are often outside of her door in the hallway raising concerns of the potential spread of the virus within the building.
In a New York Times article on Wednesday, workers voiced their concerns as well:
None of the recent safety protocols recommended by public health officials are practical at a job site, workers said. They share tools, and procedures require that they closely watch over one another.
There is no social distancing. Some workers wear protective masks, which are in short supply.
“They are exposing themselves in groups to the virus,” said a construction manager in New York City who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from his employer. “You have these people getting paid very little and being forced to work to build condos for $20 million each.”
Construction sites are particularly dynamic workplaces, with new workers coming and going all the time, greatly increasing the number of people who come in contact with one another, said Jack Dennerlein, a professor at Northeastern University whose research includes health and safety issues in the construction industry.
According to a report published in THE CITY, “Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office confirmed that the city is allowing work to go on at sites where employees have logged confirmed coronavirus cases.”
Other cities such as Boston have put a hold on construction during the coronavirus crisis and NYC politicians such as City Council member Brad Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have called for NYC to do the same:
Essential construction includes work on hospitals and health care facilities, transit, utilities, public infrastructure, supportive housing and homeless shelters, as well as emergency repairs such as heat and hot water in existing residential buildings.
Essential construction does not include new construction or rehabilitation for typical residential or commercial construction. We know that delay on development projects incurs additional construction interest, and that economic recovery funds will be needed from the federal, state, and city government to help address this hardship.