City may allow other types of construction

New guidance suggests Department of Buildings has discretion

Melanie La Rocca, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings
Melanie La Rocca, commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings

The city may allow more types of construction under the state’s partial ban.

In guidance issued by the Department of Buildings on Monday, the agency stated that in addition to utilities, health care facilities, homeless shelters and affordable housing, “other essential construction as approved by the Department” would be exempt from the state’s “New York on Pause” order.

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Until at least April 15, employees of all non-essential businesses are prohibited from reporting to work. Initially, all construction was considered essential, but last week, the Empire State Development Corp. released new guidelines that restricted most construction types.

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It’s unclear what other construction city’s buildings agency may approve. A message seeking more information wasn’t immediately returned. Starting Tuesday, however, owners and construction companies can start filing applications for their work to be considered essential.

The Department of Buildings also further defined what is considered affordable housing and thus spared from the construction ban. Multifamily projects in the city where at least 30 percent of the units are income-restricted are exempt, as are projects that are part of the city’s inclusionary housing programs (either voluntary or mandatory), according to the agency.

Many developments receive the Affordable New York tax break, formerly known as 421a. Most options available under the program call for at least 30 percent of the units to be affordable, meaning that many rental projects under construction could be considered essential.

The agency’s guidance also appears to allow work on private or multifamily buildings to address emergency conditions or to house specific populations, such as victims of domestic violence. If it is within public housing, work related to heating season is permitted.

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at