RAND COVID-19 Update: Essential vs Non-Essential Construction FAQ

Dear Clients,

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued an informative FAQ and updated guidance regarding the enforcement of essential vs nonessential construction per Governor Cuomo's "NYS on Pause" Executive Order 202.6. As of the latest update, the pause has been extended to May 15.

Frequently Answered Questions
The New York City Essential and Non-Essential Construction FAQ covers many common questions about local law compliance, emergencies, violations, securing and maintaining sites, essential construction requests, Certificate of Authorization, and more.

Key Points:

  • Local law compliance inspections and tests (elevators, facades, boilers) are considered essential work.
  • Facade inspections are permissible during the pause.
  • Suspended scaffolds, industrial rope access, boom lifts, and other facade inspection related equipment can be used during the pause.
  • The penalty for performing non-essential construction work is a maximum penalty of $10,000 issued to each permit holder found in violation on the site.
  • The penalty for not practicing social distancing on an essential construction site is a maximum $10,000 issued to each permit holder found in violation on the site. Safety guidance can be found on the DOB COVID-19 Response page.
  • Essential Construction Requests must be made by the applicant of record (a registered design professional) via www.nyc.gov/dobnow for the DOB's consideration and response. While the request is being considered, work must be suspended except to secure and maintain the site.
  • Essential Construction Requests that are denied can be appealed twice at maximum.
  • Once an Essential Construction Request is approved, a Certificate of Authorization must be printed and posted at the work site. If the pause is extended, a new Certificate will need to be posted.
  • Sidewalk sheds may be removed during the pause if the associated hazard it was installed to protect has been made safe.
  • Plan reviews and approvals for non-essential construction work will continue. Only essential construction work will be permitted. Professionally certified PW1 applications in DOB NOW cannot be submitted with a PW2 work permit application.

Types of Construction Allowed to Continue
The DOB has further clarified that the following types of construction projects are allowed to continue during the pause:

Emergency Construction

  • Projects necessary to protect the health and safety of occupants and including:
    • Emergency work ordered by the DOB
    • Restoration of essential services (heat, hot water, cold water, gas, electricity, or other utility services)
    • Work that is necessary to address conditions requiring corrective action that severely affects the life, health, safety, property, or a significant number of persons. This includes Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) inspections and repair of emergency facade conditions.
  • Construction necessary to continue a project that would be unsafe to allow to remain undone, but only to the point that it is safe to suspend work.

Essential Construction

  • Transit facilities on private properties
  • Utilities
  • Hospitals or health care facilities
  • Homeless shelters
  • Public or private schools
  • Affordable and public housing
  • Construction for projects in the energy industry that:
    • Are needed to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency
    • Provide support for basic human services (e.g. health, safety, housing, food, and other components of well-being)
    • Can proceed to a point where the project can be safely suspended.
  • Construction for existing (i.e. currently underway) projects of essential businesses.
  • Construction work that is being completed by a single worker who is the sole employee/worker on the job site.
  • Construction work by local government agencies as determined by the City.


We Are Here For You
RAND continues to practice safety procedures in accordance with CDC, WHO, and local, state, and federal guidelines as we work to ensure the safety of clients. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns. Our staff is, as always, available to answer your questions and relay updates via telephone, email, or video conference. Contact us at 212-675-8844 or info@nullrandpc.com.

Stephen Varone Signature

Stephen A. Varone, AIA, President
RAND Engineering & Architecture, DPC


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