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Some Condo Building Continues Amid Nonessential Construction Ban

Despite a ban on nonessential construction in New York City, work on several luxury condominiums and office buildings has been allowed to continue.

Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo reversed course and deemed some construction nonessential March 27, 1,220 projects have been approved to remain active through the coronavirus crisis as of Monday, according to a map compiled by the Department of Buildings. 

This includes some luxury condo and office projects, The Real Deal reports, despite guidance from the governor’s office that orders sites close unless they are emergency construction, homeless sites, affordable housing and hospitals. 

Sometimes, projects may not have to be wholly within the bounds of the guidelines' essential categories in order to be considered essential overall. 

For example, if a portion of a project is for affordable housing, then the entire project could potentially continue, with the thought that the affordable housing could not be completed if the entire project was unable to continue, Herrick Feinstein LLP partner Brendan Schmitt, a construction law expert, told Bisnow Monday. 

“If there’s components of the construction that are qualifying, then construction will be able to continue,” Schmitt said.  

Essential emergency construction includes any “work necessary to address any condition requiring immediate corrective action,” or a project where it would be unsafe for the work to remain undone, according to the Department of Building’s guidance released March 30. 

One condo project that has been able to continue is 200 Amsterdam Ave. It was permitted to do so because it is considered emergency construction and finished most work this weekend, officials from developer SJP Properties told TRD. The luxury condo tower was at the center of legal controversy earlier this year when a court ruled the developers had to deconstruct several stories from the tower.

The exceptions to the partial ban are the latest in rapidly evolving policy around construction as the state attempts to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Leaders in the construction field have said that they are using this time to rethink their overall vision for building in the city.