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Could non-essential construction work be continuing under special permits? that don’t apply?

Photo by Gerard Flynn/file

As all non-essential build projects were placed on hiatus last week, permits for essential work have skyrocketed and construction for luxury housing continues under the restrictions of the COVID-19 crisis.

In the past week, 300 to 400 essential work permits have been filed with the city Department of Buildings and an interactive map depicting where these sites are located has relabeled “emergency work” to “approved permits” by the agency since Wednesday, a source has observed.

The DOB, however, said this is not an accurate assessment of the number of new essential work permits and that certain measures need to be taken at construction sites that will more or less be devoid of attention for an unknown period of time.

“After the nonessential construction worksite restrictions were put in place, over 300-400 new ”emergency work” permits were filed with the DOB in one week, last week,” a source told amNewYork Metro. “Residential luxury condo sites that were formerly shut down last week are up and running as usual this week, starting Monday. These sites do not qualify under the absurd over 20% “affordable housing” tax abatement loophole.”

While the DOB said it would seem that “Essential Construction Requests” have spiked as permits are approved on a case-by-case basis by department plan examiners, the number of these sites comes nowhere near the number of non-essential work on halt orders.

A DOB spokesman told amNewYork Metro that at least 35,000 work sites citywide have been shut down by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order.

But sites such as 526 Union Ave. in Brooklyn were observed by sources as problematic.

Here, workers can be seen unloading rebar and pouring concrete despite the fact they are not essential. The DOB says this is because they were allowed to pour ground floor slab and build retaining walls prior to closing down the site.

The DOB said this is just one of a number of construction sites where flooring and retaining walls must be finished before the freeze on all work can be observed as a matter of safety.

“To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the expert staff at the Department of Building have been hard at work implementing the Governor’s Executive Order to halt all non-essential construction in New York City,” a DOB spokesman said. “While the vast majority of construction sites are subject to this order, our diligent plan examiners are carefully reviewing every work application we receive to ensure that any needed essential work and necessary emergency work can still proceed during this shutdown.”

As for the labeling change in the map, the DOB says they have established subcategories that provide more nuanced information on the map.

Three of the newest developments in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, do list on the DOB’s interactive map as essential due to them being affordable housing. Examples such as 386 Leonard St. or 117 Newton St. are just to name a couple within a couple within a couple of blocks of each other.

However, these listings on Streeteasy or Trulia depict the two sites as market-rate apartments and condos, and they cannot be found on NYC Housing Connect where affordable housing is usually available.

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