Construction, real estate groups hash out reopening agreement

The deal includes staggered working hours and pay boost for extra shifts

BCTC's Gary LaBarbera, BTEA's Lou Coletti and REBNY's James Whelan
BCTC's Gary LaBarbera, BTEA's Lou Coletti and REBNY's James Whelan

Construction and real estate groups are hammering out an agreement on how to reopen certain private construction sites once the state lifts its stay-at-home order in New York City.

The Building Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, the Building Trades Employers Association and the Real Estate Board of New York are negotiating terms for sites where the labor is all union, or a mix of union and non-union but a collective bargaining agreement is in place.

The groups are considering staggering start times at sites between 6 and 10 a.m. and potentially changing the work week from Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday with 10-hour days, according to a memo reviewed by The Real Deal. Workers who take on second or third shifts would be paid a 5 percent premium on wages and benefits. The changes would remain in effect for at least 60 days after the state’s state-at-home order is lifted for construction.

REBNY declined to comment, and the BCTC didn’t respond to requests seeking more information. BTEA President Lou Coletti said the agreement has not yet been finalized.

The potential agreement offers a glimpse into how general contractors and owners are thinking about restarting construction sites that have been shut down for nearly two months. While construction and manufacturing businesses are expected to reopen in four regions of the state, the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and North Country, starting Friday, sites in New York City will likely have to wait until at least the end of May or next month.

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To reopen, regions must meet certain criteria — laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — including a 14-day decline in hospitalizations, or fewer than 15 hospitalizations per day; and a 14-day drop in coronavirus-related hospital deaths, or fewer than five deaths per day.

The state on Wednesday released mandatory rules for construction sites reopening, which include maintaining at least six feet among workers at all times “unless safety of the core activity requires a shorter distance,” providing employees with protective equipment and having no more than one worker per 250 square feet while doing interior construction. The state also requires that occupancy in confined spaces, like elevators and hoists, never exceed 50 percent capacity. All workers are required to wear face coverings when within less than six feet of each other.

Under New York State’s stay-at-home order, construction work is allowed to continue on affordable housing, infrastructure, and health care facilities. Work is also permitted if it is necessary to ensure the safety of the public or is in service of other essential businesses. Developers and contractors can also apply to the city Department of Buildings to separately qualify.

As of Wednesday, work was permitted to continue at more than 7,600 construction sites throughout the city, due to essential or emergency status, according to the DOB. Based on the agency’s data, work on 460 additional projects was approved since Monday, when 6,932 sites were deemed active by the DOB.

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at