Coronavirus in NYC: Construction workers keep building, even if sick
The Big Apple’s construction trades workers are still showing up for work — sometimes even while sick — putting new pressure on City Hall to close down job sites as it battles the spread of coronavirus, The Post has learned.
The developments come as construction union officials and sources told the paper that de Blasio is eyeing a shutdown of the industry, like what happened in Boston.
“If we knew that, they’d be escorted off the site if they were not going voluntarily,” said city Building Trades Employers Association president Lou Coletti, which represents 1,200 unionized contractors across the five boroughs.
He emphasized such action could only apply to union jobs.
“I had a bad fever the other day. I’m fine now, but I still gotta come to work,” a 45-year-old superintendent told a Post reporter while working a construction site of a high-rise near Union Square.
“We have extra wash stations, we’re taking precautions, but we can’t stop [working] unless the city stops us,” the person added. “There are contracts and unions; there’s a lot of things involved, but we all wish someone would make that decision already.”
Across the five boroughs, construction workers kept going about their business as usual.
“We have to take care of what we gotta take care of,” quipped Mario Morales, 33, who was working another job site in Manhattan. “We gotta work. We have our masks; we’re washing our hands, and taking the precautions.”
Some lawmakers — including Brooklyn Councilmen Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca — are calling for the city to halt construction projects in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked if the Mayor Bill de Blasio supports a construction moratorium, his spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said in an email, “this is one of the many things we’re discussing. We’ll let you know as soon as we have update.”
Coletti said the industry has asked city and state officials to give 28 to 48 hours notice before any shutdown so they could be better prepared.
“Right now our contractors and union officials are tremendously conflicted,” Coletti said. “Our first priority is health and welfare of our project management staff and the building trade union workers, but in addition to that, there are concerns about the economic impact if job sites were to be shut down.”
The union bigwig said he was part of a conference call Tuesday that included Deputy Mayor Vicki Been and other city officials, state officials, other union officials and top developers to discuss the industry’s immediate future.
Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress, which set up the call, said it’s “easy to say let’s shut down nonessential construction.”
“People need homes, and we are still going to need school seats in a few months,” he said. “We clearly need extensions and buildings of medical centers and hospital. We still need track work and maintenance to continue on the subway system.”