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Local Law Compliance in The Age Of COVID-19

A young fair woman judge in protective mask works in her office. - image
filins / Adobe Stock

In response to COVID-19, a handful of new agency guidelines and protocols were put into place, making an already complicated compliance landscape in New York City that much more challenging.

While the information in this article was accurate as of the first week of May, it’s possible that policies have changed since. We’ll update our COVID-19 post on the SiteCompli Blog (sitecompli.com/blog). In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about compliance adjustments resulting from COVID-19.

Non-Essential Construction Has Halted
By order of the Governor, all “non-essential” construction in New York State has been halted. Generally, essential construction includes roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals/ health care facilities, affordable housing and homeless shelters. Workers at these sites must maintain distance and safety best practices. Per the edict, “For the purposes of this section, construction work does not include a single worker who is the sole employee/ worker on a job site.”

Additionally, emergency work ordered by the department, work to restore essential services (water, heat, gas, electricity or other utilities) or “work necessary to address any condition requiring immediate corrective action that severely affects life, health, safety, property, or [a] significant number of persons” may continue. Projects required to continue to the extent it would be unsafe to allow work to remain undone can continue only until it is safe to shut the site.

Work under these guidelines requires aproval by the Department of Buildings (DOB). You can submit an Essential Construction Request online. The DOB maintains a map of approved construction sites and updates it daily. Of course, if social distancing and safety guidelines aren’t followed at approved sites, construction sites may see Stop Work Orders and approvals may be revoked. Failure to abide by these regulations can result in fines of up to $10,000 per violation. These guidelines will remain in place as long as the state of emergency is in place.

Local Law Inspections Are Essential
According to the DOB’s FAQ about essential construction, “Local law compliance inspections and tests are considered projects necessary to protect the health and safety of occupants,” so any elevator, façade or boiler inspections can still continue. There’s no clarification on whether or not this includes the brand-new requirement for gas piping systems (due for some community districts by year-end). For any buildings that still haven’t met the 2020 deadline for elevator door lock monitoring, installation of these devices is also permissible and considered essential.

The DOB announced an adjustment to the annual Benchmarking filing a few days before the May 1 deadline. Owners who are unable to submit reports by May 1 will not receive a violation and fine, as long as they submit their 2019 Benchmarking data by August 1. Owners will receive a Notice of Non-Submission as a reminder before August 1. Failure to submit by that date will “be subject to violations for each quarter that they have been non-compliant,” possibly up to $1,000 in fines.

Violations and Required Corrections
Despite agencies like the Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) reducing non-critical inspections, some violations are still being issued to owners and managers. Many violation correction processes (time restrictions, requirements) for several agencies are in place.

Agencies like the FDNY and HPD have shut down records departments and in-person certification submissions, leaving options like submission via mail, email (FDNY) and eCertification (HPD only) open. The DOB has also halted in-person submissions for corrections and other documentation, directing owners and managers to submit corrections via its online portal DOB NOW.

As of May, the requirement to notarize Certificates of Correction for the DOB and FDNY hasn’t been waived. Given that many of your colleagues may be working remotely, it’s more important than ever to carefully coordinate submission of these documents to ensure violations are cleared in a timely manner.

For updates on NYC agency policies for COVID-19, check out our blog post at sitecompli.Com/blog. In addition to updated policies, we’ve also gathered city-issued documents on disinfecting buildings, submitting construction documents and more. We hope you, your teams and families are safe and well.

Kristen Hariton
SiteCompli
53 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
kristen.hariton@sitecompli.com
646-257-4250

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