GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – New York is the only state in the nation that does not count home construction as an essential business.
Now officials on Long Island are urging the state to reconsider that.
“I got water leaking in my house now because of no roof,” said Rick Allen.
Allen, who lives in Northport, was first beaten down by coronavirus. Now it’s his house that’s taking a beating. A family room that was under construction is leaking and no one will finish the job.
“They’re afraid to do it. A lot of contractors don’t want to get that big fine,” Allen said.
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Home construction in New York is deemed non-essential, but nowhere else in the country.
“Every other state in the union allows for residential construction,” said Mitch Pally of the Long Island Builders Institute.
Pally is pushing for a May 15 resumption of home construction on Long Island, even though the region could be one of the last to un-PAUSE. Pally says suburban work can be done with safe social distancing.
“No interaction with the consumer, the ability to provide revenue, the ability to provide housing for people now. We look at that as separate and apart from whether Long Island can reopen,” Pally said.
The pressure is on from Suffolk County mayors and town supervisors too, who’ve written to the governor, asking to put 8,000 construction workers back on jobs and to also generate revenue.
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“As long as it can be done safely and the construction workers and the people that supervise the construction workers make sure that all the protocols are followed in terms of wearing face masks,” said Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci.
Advocates point to disparities. Affordable housing construction is deemed essential, but senior housing is not. Utilities and transportation construction continues, but not always with social distancing.
Home building is allowed with only one person on the job, but builder Paulo Pironi says that’s unsafe in a different way.
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“If, God forbid, somebody got hurt on a job site, there’s no one to actually call an ambulance or call for help,” Pironi said.
His projects sit idle. The buyer of one home is in limbo.
“He has other people that need to move into his house, so he’s going to be on the street,” said Pironi.
The governor has said the first industries that open first will be the most essential with the least risk. Home builders on Long Island argue they fit both criteria.