Q: I live in a large Manhattan co-op where, before the pandemic, apartment renovations happened almost constantly, with crews of workers showing up early in the morning and spreading out to different floors in the building. Now that workers are returning again, I’m concerned about my health and safety. How can we be certain that someone won’t bring Covid-19 into the building? Does our co-op really have to allow all this work to happen again?
A: Since the city entered Phase 1 of its reopening plan in early June, your co-op has been allowed to resume residential construction. It is still bound by state and city guidelines — meaning workers must practice social distancing, wear masks and be screened upon entry to the building — but can also enact stricter rules than those the state and city mandate, and many buildings are. Some co-ops and condos aren’t moving forward with any new projects, only allowing ones that were halted during the shutdown to resume. Others are limiting the size and scope of projects.
If you are concerned about what protections are in place, ask the managing agent to share the co-op’s renovation guidelines with you. Ask how it plans to keep common areas clean, and what its screening policy involves. Some buildings are charging owners daily or weekly cleaning fees, according to Ingrid C. Manevitz, a real estate lawyer and a partner in the Manhattan office of Seyfarth Shaw.
Ask what enforcement policies the building has in place should a shareholder or contractor violate the rules. Some buildings have enacted policies giving the board the authority to fine shareholders or even halt construction for rule-breaking, according to Ms. Manevitz.
If you do see ongoing problems, and the board is unresponsive, you can contact the city by calling 311 and request that a building inspector visit the work site. “We take this matter very seriously, which is why we have dedicated additional inspectors to respond to these specific complaints,” said Lisa Wood, deputy press secretary for the Department of Buildings, adding that inspectors are visiting every construction site in the city.
New York isn’t returning to normal anytime soon, but as time passes more work will likely resume. Your co-op board should keep you informed about how it plans to keep you and your neighbors safe during this slow, complicated reopening process.