By Carol Tannenhauser
Construction continues on residential buildings on the Upper West Side even as most other activity has stopped due to coronavirus-related rules.
Among the projects where work continues is 200 Amsterdam Avenue, a 668-foot-tall tower — the tallest building on the Upper West Side — at 69th Street, being developed by SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America.
“Everything is quiet on the Upper West Side, except at 200 Amsterdam Avenue the elevator is going up and down!” said long-time building opponent Olive Freud. “It’s the height of arrogance.”
Last month, the developers continued building after a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that their zoning lot is illegal and they must take down an unspecified number of already-constructed floors. Before the coronavirus hit, they were appealing that decision and it was reported they were working on the building’s crown.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “New York State on PAUSE” executive order went into effect on Sunday at 8 p.m, closing all “non-essential” businesses statewide, in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Two days before, the New York State Department of Economic Development issued guidance to assist businesses in determining whether they are essential, and for filing to attain that designation.
In the category of construction, the guidelines listed as essential are: “skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers, other related construction firms and professionals for essential infrastructure or for emergency repair and safety purposes.”
“Essential Infrastructure” is said to include: “power generation, fuel supply and transmission; public water and wastewater; telecommunications and data centers; airports/airlines; transportation infrastructure such as bus, rail, or for-hire vehicles, garages, hotels, and places of accommodation.”
“Building a luxury condominium is not essential at this time,” Freud insisted. Politicians have also expressed frustration that some construction has not stopped.
The messages are so infuriating. Construction is one of the most dangerous professions in the City. Now on top of this pandemic, workers are forced to show up at non-essential sites. We need to #StopConstruction except on essential work to protect these workers and their families https://t.co/6r9hSKpTTA
— Carlos Menchaca 萬齊家 (@NYCCouncil38) March 23, 2020
The mayor’s office says they won’t even shut down construction sites where someone has tested positive for the virus, according to The City news site.
“We’re not shutting locations with positive cases,” Julia Arredondo, a de Blasio spokesperson, wrote in an email. “We’ve provided guidance on how to keep people safe and sites should follow that guidance.”
SJP Properties sent the statement below, but declined to comment on the question of continued construction, referring us to the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). REBNY has not yet responded.
SJP’s statement: “We are carefully following New York State and City guidelines and will continue to prioritize health and safety precautions on site while construction work is permitted in New York City. We deeply empathize with all workers and their families as we deal with this rapidly evolving global pandemic.”
Work on other projects has also irked local residents.
Well, in case you were wondering, construction on the condos across the street from me continues apace; though hard to see how it is considered essential— not to mention will make teaching from home quite difficult. @nyc311
— Jonathan Cristol (@jonathancristol) March 23, 2020