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Looking Ahead: The Future of Construction in New York City

What will construction look like when the stop order is lifted?

Throughout April, we’ve wondered what it would take to lift the pause of nonessential construction. We now have our answer.

Governor Cuomo announced on April 28 that if New York City’s hospitalization rate continues on its current track and meets the CDC’s 14-day decline requirement, the city can move into phase one of Cuomo’s re-opening plan. That includes getting low-risk construction sites back into gear.

But while it looks like nonessential construction may indeed be restarting on May 15, things will not look like they did before. As we can see from sites deemed essential that continued operating during the stop period, workers get their temperatures taken as soon as they come to the site, masks are worn at all times, and work has had to move more slowly to stick to social distance requirements. On the bright side, the construction industry has made great leaps forward in keeping their sites clean in order to stop the spread.

On the permits and approvals side, the Department of Buildings has put a number of precautions in place to limit in-person contact without completely shutting down, which may stay in place for the time being. This includes migrating filing procedures normally done in person to mail-in, drop-off, and online procedures.

Many clients are taking this time to get their plans filed and approved so that work can start once the governor lifts the stop work order. With all these changes, you might expect the DOB to take longer than usual to approve your files. But in fact, in some cases the altered processes are helping to speed things up! In the case of professional certified plan approval applications, Outsource has seen the DOB approve applications in as little as five business days, and up to fifteen days when they raised questions.

Nonetheless, Outsource advises you to plan ahead up to 30 business days, since there are several applications which run on different paths through different offices that might need more time. In particular, fire alarm exam approval timing is still estimated at 8 to 10 weeks for issuance of initial comments as well as timing of review for resubmissions, but this may change in the future as the FDNY is close to launching their online submission portal for fire alarm application reviews.

With all this in mind, New York architects and managers can start preparing and looking forward to, if not normal operations, then at least a new start in the near future.