Gov. Andrew Cuomo will freeze most construction statewide in response to the pandemic virus sweeping New York, after outcry from workers and word of COVID-19 cases on job sites around the city.
On Friday the governor will decree most residential and commercial building temporarily off limits, according to a spokesperson for Cuomo’s office. Infrastructure and transportation projects will be allowed to continue, as well as emergency repairs, hospital building and work on affordable housing.
Until now, construction work has been classified as essential, exempt from a state “pause” that ordered the shutdown of a wide swath of workplaces.
Cuomo’s shift followed a rush of protest from construction workers and their family members. Significant numbers had begun refusing to show up for work, sources said. Word traveled on Facebook among workers about positive cases on job sites and an electrician’s death.
Stephen Jozef, 57, who had been working on Google’s offices at 111 8th Ave., died from the coronavirus Monday, his daughter said. The electrician was last on the site on March 6, leaving because he grew ill.
“We understand the need for essential electrical work but there are many jobs that aren’t,” his three daughters, Valerie, Amanda and Rachel Jozef, said in a statement.
The carpenters’ union local released a statement Thursday asking elected officials to limit jobs to “truly essential” construction. “Our members’ lives are at stake,” it said.
Cuomo’s move came as some construction sites around the city temporarily closed for cleaning after workers tested positive for COVID-19 — including prized Cuomo public works projects at Moynihan Station and LaGuardia Airport. Both projects will continue under the new guidance.
Some in the industry feared that their coworkers have not yet fully appreciated the threat of the virus as work was allowed to continue.
“They’re being led to believe it’s no big deal,” one steamfitter said.