In new guidance issued by the New York City Department of Buildings brings their stated policies in line with latest guidance from Empire State Development.

Three basic categories of construction are permitted to continue: (1) Essential Construction; (2) Emergency Construction; and (3) local government work, which is subject to individual determination by the appropriate City agency.

The most significant change in the guidelines is the significant expansion of the scope of projects under the Essential Construction umbrella. Any project with a permit issued on or before April 15, 2020 may continue if it is an alteration of an existing building for an essential business identified by the ESD – here is the one provision where the DOB differs slightly from the ESD, which does not specify that it must only be on an existing building. Essential Construction now also includes public and private schools and lowers the affordable housing threshold from 30% to 20%. Energy projects have also been clarified to cover all those listed in the March 31, 2020 FAQ item #14.

The Emergency Construction provisions, on the other hand, are essentially unchanged, permitting work that is necessary for health and safety of occupants, whether ordered by the DOB, to restore essential services, or to address a significant condition that poses a significant risk to others or property, and that work required to get a project to the point where it is safe to suspend the project.

The Essential Active Construction Sites map on the DOB website has been updated to include projects identified as “essential facilities,” but the site does not identify the specific nature of the project, so we cannot be sure that the DOB has covered all projects now permitted to proceed. If you believe your project now qualifies under these guidelines, but it does not appear on the DOB’s map, you can, and should, apply to the DOB for inclusion.

Even on projects which can proceed, the DOB guidelines permit only the minimum number of employees needed to support the essential activity.


As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice.  For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.