State Funding for Clean Water Abounds
$4.2B Environmental Bond Act, Other Programs on Tap
By GEORGE DRAPEAU III and JOHN JORDAN – July 25, 2022
TARRYTOWN — As the old expression goes, after the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. But there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge before then, including Election Day on Tues., Nov. 8, when the state can move forward with the unprecedented $4.2 billion “Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act.”
While statewide environmental bonds have a perfect record of passage in New York since the start of the 20th century, this year’s proposal to voters is not a given, said New York State Assemblyman Christopher Burdick who sits on the state Assembly Environmental Committee. Discussing the voter referendum at a recent meeting of the Construction Industry Council in Westchester, Rep. Burdick expressed concerns that voters will not support the measure due to the hundreds of billions of dollars of debt recently accumulated by pandemic relief and the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill.
“We need to organize a ‘Vote Yes’ campaign for the bond act, and we need to begin it immediately,” he told CONSTRUCTION NEWS. While attending an annual summer gathering in mid July hosted by the CIC in Scarborough, NY, he cautioned, “This is not a campaign we can take for granted. Voters must become better informed about the great improvements to water quality, flood control and environmental protection this bond act will make possible. This is an historic step forward toward building a climate-resilient New York.”
As a member of the state Assembly, he also pointed to the significant funding now available through the current state budget, which includes a record $400 million Environmental Protection Fund to support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, improve agricultural resources to promote sustainable agriculture, protect New York’s water sources, advance conservation efforts, and provide recreational opportunities for residents.
The state budget also included another $500 million in clean water infrastructure funding, bringing the state’s total clean water investment to $4.5 billion since 2017.
On July 7, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the availability of $255 million in state grants for critical water infrastructure projects that will protect public health and the environment through the state’s Water Infrastructure Improvement, Intermunicipal Grant, and State Septic System Replacement programs. The announcement was made in Suffolk County where $20 million from the state’s Septic Replacement Program will help address more than 2,000 substandard or failing septic systems and cesspools that cause significant water quality impairments.
“Every New Yorker deserves access to safe, clean water,” Gov. Hochul said. “New York will continue to prioritize resources for projects that provide reliable, clean water for communities across the state while creating good-paying jobs and spurring economic development.”
To date, more than $400 million in state water grants has been awarded to projects that address emerging contaminants. The state’s goal is to provide grants to all communities that need help in their efforts to tackle emerging contaminants in their drinking water.
As part of the ongoing statewide effort to confront PFAS pollution and help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS contamination, this round of funding continues to prioritize grant awards for drinking water projects that address emerging contaminants. Critical wastewater projects are also eligible for grants.
The Environmental Facilities Corporation administers the WIIA and IMG programs working closely with the Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation. The state has awarded more than $1.76 billion in water infrastructure grants through EFC since 2015, including $638 million announced in April. To date, EFC has awarded 834 WIIA and IMG grants to 488 communities.
Local units of government are eligible to apply for funding for:
- WIIA grant awards that will fund up to 25% of an eligible wastewater project’s total cost, up to $25 million;
- WIIA grant awards that will fund 60% of net eligible project costs for projects that address emerging contaminants above the state determined Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), with no cap on the total award;
- WIIA grant awards for all other drinking water projects will be awarded up to 60% of net project costs up to a maximum of $5 million;
- IMG awards that will fund up to 40% of an eligible wastewater or drinking water project for communities that share services, up to $30 million.
An additional $30 million is now available through the state Septic System Replacement Program to support home and small business owners in the targeted replacement of aging and sub-standard septic systems and removal of cesspools in communities statewide.
The Septic Replacement Program improves water quality by encouraging and incentivizing homeowners’ replacement of cesspools and failing or inadequate septic systems around a waterbody known to be impaired by septic system discharges. DEC and DOH identified priority geographic areas where property owners are eligible to participate based on the presence of a sole-source aquifer used for drinking water, known water quality impairment linked to failing septic systems, and/or the ability for septic system upgrades to mitigate water quality impairments. EFC will be providing detailed information about how to access the funding to counties with identified priority geographic areas. DEC and DOH will re-evaluate priority geographic areas in future rounds of funding.
New York State will provide funds to counties to reimburse eligible property owners for a portion of the cost of replacing cesspools and septic systems and installing more environmentally effective systems. Eligible property owners can be reimbursed 50% of eligible costs up to $10,000.
Counties may also set graduated incentive reimbursement rates for septic system projects to maximize program participation and pollution reduction goals. A list of eligible counties and priority geographic areas within those counties is available on EFC’s website at https://efc.ny.gov/septic-replacement.
EFC President & CEO Maureen A. Coleman said the state is supporting local governments with grants as municipal utilities tackle compounding infrastructure issues. These include modernizing aging systems, addressing emerging contaminants, removing lead pipes and instituting resiliency measures that mitigate climate change impacts.
“The WIIA and IMG grant programs have saved recipients over $2 billion in potential financing costs associated with drinking water and wastewater projects since the program’s inception,” Ms. Coleman added.
In late June, the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation approved nearly $70 million to assist 11 municipalities advance critical infrastructure projects that protect or improve water quality. The short-term financings and previously announced grants approved by the EFC Board of Directors will provide capital to local governments to help get shovels in the ground for critical projects. The board also approved various long-term financing conversions that provide interest relief for completed projects and help reduce debt for municipalities.
Of the project funding announced on June 23, nearly $40 million in financial assistance will support a $352-million project for Oneida County in the Mohawk Valley to upgrade a water pollution control plant and pump stations, as well as three Hudson Valley projects.
The board’s approvals include financings through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and already announced Water Infrastructure Improvement Grants (WIIA). To learn more about water infrastructure funding opportunities, visit www.efc.ny.gov.
In addition to the Oneida County project, the Clean Water Project funding included approximately $10.2 million in long-term, interest-free financing for the Town of Catskill in Greene County to plan, design and construct a wastewater collection and conveyance system to serve the newly formed Leeds and Jefferson Heights Sewer District, and to install mechanical screening at the village-owned wastewater treatment plant. A $3.15-million WIIA grant was previously authorized for this project.
The EFC also approved $264,990 in short-term, interest-free financing and $41,260 WIIA grant for a chlorine disinfection system at the Roscoe Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Town of Rockland in Sullivan County.
The City of Middletown in Orange County also secured $2,258,863 in long-term, interest-free financing and a $359,284 CWSRF grant for pump replacement.
ECCO III Enterprises Lauded for $19.8M Project
State, Local Officials Celebrate Completion Of Ravensdale Road Bridge Project over SMRP
HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, NY — On Friday, July 8, New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez was joined by state and local officials to mark the completion of the Ravensdale Road bridge over the Saw Mill River Parkway in the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County.
The press conference, staged on the adjoining bike and pedestrian exercise path on the east side of the parkway, attracted a host of state and local officials, community leaders, and industry representatives, including officials from ECCO III Enterprises, Inc., of Yonkers, NY, who was the contractor on the $19.8-million project.
The new bridge improves travel and enhances safety and resiliency along a vital link between the village and the Westchester communities to the east of the Saw Mill River Parkway. The project also provides new and improved pedestrian and bicycle access to the popular South County Trailway, which also runs underneath the span.
The Ravensdale Road Bridge is the only crossing over the Saw Mill River Parkway within the village. The project, which began in the spring of 2020, replaced the original two-span structure that was built in 1945 with a new, single span bridge featuring six-foot shoulders and five-foot sidewalks on each side to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. The new bridge also features a concrete barrier, decorative railings and ornamental bridge lighting that was suggested by the community.
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “The completion of this project is a huge step forward for the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson and exemplifies the New York State Department of Transportation’s commitment to work together with local communities to not just build back our aging infrastructure but to build it back better and create modern transportation systems that are more resilient and benefit all modes of travel. This new bridge along Ravensdale Road will ensure that a key access road to the village remains open for many years to come while also providing improved access to a popular local trail system that will expand opportunities for pedestrians, hikers and bikers.”
As part of the project, the State Department of Transportation also rehabilitated an abandoned bridge located just to the north of the Ravensdale Road Bridge and used it to create a first-ever, direct link between the village and the South County Trailway. The rehabilitated bridge is now part of a new, 900-foot-long access path that connects to the trailway from the Ravensdale Road/Jackson Avenue and State Route 9A (Saw Mill River Road) intersection.
The South County Trailway runs through Westchester County between Yonkers and Greenburgh, connecting Van Cortlandt Park and Tarrytown Lakes Park. It’s part of a four-trail system that includes Old Putnam Trail to the south and the North County Trailway and Putnam Trailway to the north. They combine for 45 miles of mostly off-road travel along an old railroad corridor.
A new drainage system was also constructed to help safeguard the environment and prevent flooding along Ravensdale Road. A stormwater pond was also created to reduce flooding, erosion and pollution from rain events. New landscaping—including approximately 100 deciduous trees, shrubs, and plants – was added and a landscaped berm was also constructed to help protect area residents from roadway noise.
In order to reduce the project’s environmental impacts, multiple recycling techniques were employed during construction, including the reuse of granular materials for walls and various other needs in the project scope. Concrete from the old bridge was also used in the construction of a ramp for another project in Westchester County.
Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “The completion of this new bridge at the start of the summer season will allow families a safe space for pedestrian and bicycle access, while connecting communities and supporting businesses in the surrounding areas. I am proud of the work that was done to secure this critical investment for Hastings-on-Hudson and Westchester County and was glad to help secure funding for this project. It is an investment that our community will enjoy for decades to come. I will continue fighting for local infrastructure projects that continue to enrich our district.”
Assemblymember Thomas Abinati added, “I am proud to be part of the New York team led by Governor Kathy Hochul that is rebuilding our roads and bridges. The new Ravensdale Road Bridge is a model for connecting communities. It is a modern appropriately styled structure that enhances safety and eases pedestrian and bicycle access to the South County Trailway. It represents $19.45 million well spent.”
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Breaks Ground On $1.8-Billion Expansion in Westchester
JOHN JORDAN – July 25, 2022
TARRYTOWN — The specter of the largest business expansion project in the history of Westchester County became official on June 22 when scores of public and private industry leaders gathered here to celebrate the ceremonial groundbreaking of Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc.’s $1.8-billion expansion project at its Tarrytown/Greenburgh corporate headquarters campus.
The biotechnology company has committed to create at least 1,000 new full-time, high-skill jobs in the Mid-Hudson region over the next five years.
Tarrytown serves as Regeneron’s corporate and research and development headquarters, and the expansion plan now underway includes the addition of new laboratories, preclinical manufacturing and process development suites and office space. The project will encompass the design, construction and fit out of up to eight buildings, three parking garages and a central utility plant totaling approximately 900,000 square feet.
New York State’s Empire State Development is supporting the project with up to $100 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits, consistent with the company’s hiring goals. Regeneron considered several potential sites in the tri-state area before
deciding to expand in the Mid-Hudson region. The company has stated that it is also receiving incentives from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency and other sources totaling approximately $172.9 million.
Regeneron Pharmaceutical’s expansion plans in Westchester were detailed in paperwork filed with the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency earlier this year in connection with incentives it was seeking for its investment at the Tarrytown/Greenburgh complex.
The company has already begun construction on its Parcel D expansion project at its headquarters campus property in Greenburgh that is valued at $480 million. The Parcel D project involves the construction of a new two-story, 207,000-square-foot building, along with a parking structure and other infrastructure.
The firm now will also move forward with its $1.394-billion “Loop Road” project in the Town of Greenburgh involving the construction of eight new buildings, three parking garages and a central utility plant totaling approximately 724,000 square feet at 777 Old Saw Mill River Road. The development will be located on a portion of the 100 acres the company acquired for $72 million in 2015.
The Parcel D and Loop Road projects total approximately 921,000 square feet of space and a total investment of $1.87 billion.
The proposed Loop Road capital investment would serve to locate and staff multiple new R&D laboratories, administrative buildings, and amenities. Regeneron, which currently employs more than 3,300 full time employees at its corporate headquarters facilities in Tarrytown, stated that the project would retain 250 jobs at its campus property in Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant and Tarrytown and add another 700 new jobs at the property.
The construction of the project will result in approximately 2,500 construction jobs. In connection with the project, a study commissioned by the Westchester County IDA estimates that the construction project would generate $208.8 million in direct spending in Westchester County.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “Westchester County is proud to be home to New York’s largest biotech company—Regeneron. Regeneron is growing and shaping the future of the biopharmaceutical industry and in doing so is adding full-time and high-skill jobs. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership and foresight in supporting the expansion with up to $100 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits. We all look forward to seeing what Regeneron will do next.”
Town of Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner said, “The expansion of Regeneron’s campus is the most significant economic development project in the Town of Greenburgh’s history. Additionally, Regeneron is making significant breakthroughs and advancements in the field of life science and improving the lives of New Yorkers in the process.”
Town of Mount Pleasant Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said, “The Town of Mount Pleasant is proud to have Regeneron as a major manufacturer and biotech facility in our town that has constantly and successfully expanded over the years offering many job opportunities and broadened our tax base. We look forward to their future growth and look forward to partnering with them for an even brighter future ahead.”
The project is expected to take place in two phases over six years, with construction expected to be completed in 2027. The direct and indirect fiscal benefit to state and local government is estimated to be more than $283.3 million, with a nearly $2-billion estimated economic benefit to New York State.
Regeneron was founded in 1988 in New York City; the following year, New York State invested $250,000 in the company. Today, Regeneron is the largest biotech company in New York State and one of the largest and most productive in the world.
Regeneron President and Chief Executive Officer Leonard S. Schleifer, M.D., Ph.D., said, “We have been a proud New York company since our beginning over three decades ago, during which time we have invented industry-leading drug discovery technology and developed 10 FDA-approved or authorized medicines entirely in our own laboratories. New York State has played an important role in our success by consistently recognizing the value of innovation, fostering an inclusive and dynamic biomedical industry, and helping to attract top talent to the region.”
Gov. Hochul Must Reject Workers’ Comp Changes; Measure Will Disincentivize Workers, Drive Up Costs
By KEN FUIRST and JASON SCHICIANO
Workers’ Compensation Bill A1118/S768, which passed both houses in Albany last month, is a one-two punch in the face of insurance reform in New York State. It would drive up the costs of insurance and it fails to address some of the key shortcomings the New York insurance market still faces.
We urge Gov. Kathy Hochul not to sign the measure as is, and to call for changes that address the matter of temporary total disability that this legislation was intended to do in a more practical and cost-effective way.
One of the key goals of the Workers’ Compensation system is to help an injured worker return to work. For example, if a warehouse worker has injured a shoulder, and can no
longer lift heavy objects, then a different suitable job should be found for them like lifting smaller boxes or operating the forklift or an office job. If a secretary develops Carpal Tunnel and can no longer type, maybe they can answer phone calls. Or what if a salesperson gets hurt and can no longer drive to appointments, can they get an inside sales job?
Under the current Workers’ Compensation system, an injured employee who can’t return to his/her pre-injury employment must seek new work within his/her medical restrictions. That worker will be paid wage replacement benefits so that if the new role has a lower salary, the WC insurance company makes up some of the difference.
The new bill on the governor’s desk eliminates that requirement to seek work. WC Bill S768 will now place an injured worker on Total Disability if they cannot perform the exact responsibilities they were doing prior to the injury. So in the examples we just listed, those employees will now collect full WC benefits, possibly for the rest of their lives, just because they cannot do exactly what they used to do. Put another way, someone with a 5% degree of disability will now be allowed to collect 100% of the benefits.
Total Disability pays the Employee more than Partial Disability, so this law will drive up insurance premiums.
Temporary Injury: An injured worker breaks an arm and is assessed a 20% Scheduled Loss of Use of that arm. Assume it met the maximum $1,125 a week cap (66% of current earnings). Assume also that this type of injury under current Workers’ Comp benefits provides 52 weeks of disability with the first half defined as Temporary Total Disability while at home healing, and then the second half is Temporary Partial Disability when returning for light work. Based on the current rules, they would be eligible for 62.4 weeks and collect $70,228. But if this claim instead was classified as Total Disability, they would be eligible for an additional 20 weeks of compensation, or an extra $22,509—a 32% increase.
Permanent Injury: A 54-year-old claimant with a life expectancy of 28.4 years gets classified with a 50% Scheduled Loss of Use for a Permanent Partial Disability. This person would be entitled to 50% of their Temporary Total Disability rate for 300 weeks, totaling $168,819. But now that this will not be a Partial Disability, this will be a Total Disability, which could qualify for lifetime benefit that would be $1,662,079—10 times the cost.
Total Disability Payments are paid 100% by the insurance company thereby driving up rates!
In the current system, if the employee is classified Partially Disabled at 96% or higher and comes back to work and only lifts light boxes, he is kept whole for 10 years. His employer pays his salary and the insurance company makes up two-thirds of the difference for the lower wage. But if the employee presents medical evidence that he can’t lift heavy boxes he qualifies for Total Disability. The employee will no longer be working, but he still is paid through WC, even though he are at home watching TV. And now his total compensation is paid for by the insurance company.
Lawyers will now be involved to prove that the injured worker is not able to do exactly what they were doing beforehand, driving up rates!
Background: Workers’ Compensation insurance was created in the early 1900s to help injured employees get the medical care they needed and collect some portion of lost wages while they recover. Prior to the creation of WC, the employee would have to sue their employer for creating an unsafe environment. The employer would counter sue the employee for being careless and causing their own injury. The only one that would benefit would be the attorneys. WC was an efficient means to help the employee while keeping costs down, without the need for assigning blame.
In 2007, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer passed significant WC Reform Legislature. Prior to 1997, the Workers’ Comp benefit available to the injured employee was two-thirds of their average weekly wage up to a maximum of $400 per week. Obviously, that was not enough money for someone in NY to live on. So it was changed to 66% of their weekly earnings, and the maximum was tied to the NY average weekly wage. In 2022, an injured employee can collect 66% of his prior weekly wages to a max of $1,125 a week.
This was very helpful to the employee and labor was strongly in favor of this. But to keep WC costs from escalating, the bill put a cap on the most expensive aspect of WC benefits. It capped the benefits for someone that was Permanently Partially disabled to 10 years. Labor believed this was a fair compromise.
Costs will increase with this new law because of litigation in most cases. Currently there are set medical guidelines determining payouts. Now the person’s specific job duties within his particular company will be used to determine whether it is Total or Partial disabled.
The warehouse worker has an injured shoulder and can no longer reach the top shelf to place boxes. Current WC laws have set benefits based on the exact medical situation. A dislocated shoulder pays one amount while a sprained shoulder pays another. It is clearly defined, but now the injured worker will hire a lawyer to state he cannot do exactly what he used to do. The Workers’ Compensation Board will now have to evaluate every employment situation. Was he in a warehouse that stored heavy objects or pillows? How many shelves can he not reach? This will add significant costs to the system.
The 2007 Workers’ Comp reform has done a great job in balancing out giving injured workers higher compensation while controlling the employer’s insurance costs. If injured employees are no longer incentivized to accept a different role and can collect more benefits as a result, the whole cost structure of the Workers’ Comp system will be upended.
About the authors: Ken Fuirst and Jason Schiciano are CoPresidents of Levitt-Fuirst Insurance, headquartered in Tarrytown, NY. To contact, call 914-457-4200 or visit www.levittfuirst.com.
Court Permits Petition To Extend Lien on Last Day
By THOMAS H. WELBY, P.E., ESQ. and GREGORY J. SPAUN, ESQ.
It is generally known throughout the construction industry that a mechanic’s lien, once filed, is good for one year from the date of its filing. Under many circumstances, a lien extension cannot be obtained by a simple filing, and must be obtained by court order (which requires the commencement of a special proceeding). Because of the wording of the statute, most contractors (and construction lawyers) often bring the proceeding well before the one-year anniversary so as to be sure that the order is entered before the lien expires.
Because of the vagaries of court calendars, some extensions are granted well before the expiration of the lien, effectively reducing the overall time available for the lien to be active.
In the recent case of ABS Construction v Pardus, a trial court granted the extension where the special proceeding was only commenced the day before the lien expired, and the order was not entered until well after that expiration.
In July of 2020, ABS Construction, Inc. performed some bathroom and kitchen renovation work in the home of Drew and Frances Pardus in Manhattan. ABS alleged that it was not fully paid, and was still owed $18,502 for its work; on Feb. 5, 2021, ABS filed a mechanic’s lien against the Pardus’ home in that amount.
Because the lien was filed against a single-family home, it could not be extended through the filing of a simple extension. Rather, the Lien Law requires that the lienor obtain a court order continuing such lien. On Feb. 4, 2022, the day before the lien expired, ABS commenced a special proceeding to extend the lien for a period of one year. Because the court order would not be obtained the next day, ABS also requested that the court extend the lien retroactively, so as to cover any period between the natural expiration of the lien and the entry of the court’s order.
In its petition in support of the extension, ABS alleged that it had not extended or foreclosed its lien because it was attempting to resolve the matter without incurring the costs associated with either a foreclosure or a special proceeding to extend the lien.
The Parduses opposed the application to extend the lien, arguing that ABS was required to show good cause for failing to obtain the order of extension within one year of the filing of the original lien, and that it failed to do so.
The court granted ABS’s application and extended the lien. In doing so, the court held that “There is no dispute that this proceeding was commenced before the subject lien expired. It is of no moment that this application was not made returnable before that date. Therefore, the court has the power to extend petitioner’s lien nunc pro tunc. Contrary to respondents’ contention, petitioner does not need to demonstrate good cause when the proceeding was otherwise timely brought.”
As mentioned above, general conservative practice has been that where a court order extending a lien is necessary, counsel would bring the proceeding well in advance of the expiration of the lien so as to ensure that the order extending the lien was obtained within the one year. The net effect of this practice has permitted courts with less-crowded dockets to effectively reduce the overall period available to lienors. For instance, if counsel brought the proceeding eight months after the filing of the lien, and the court entered the order two months thereafter, the new expiration date of the lien is two months before its anniversary date. This reduction gets magnified in following years since following extensions of lien also need to be obtained by court order (which would likely be accomplished on a similar schedule).
The pragmatic effect of ABS Construction is that lienors and their attorneys will have more flexibility in timing their applications to extend their liens so that they get the full period of time envisioned in the Lien Law—without having to make any sacrifice to the uncertainties of a court’s docket. While it would enhance the certainty of this proposition of law if this ruling were from an appellate court and not a trial-level court, the relatively low value of the lien in ABS may deprive us of that appellate decision here. However, it will likely not be very long before we do have that appellate-level holding on the issue.
In the meantime, lienors would be cautioned to consult with experienced construction counsel about how to renew their liens to be sure that they are effectively extended, and not relying on another trial-level judge determining that a demonstration of good cause is actually necessary. Or, stated more simply, don’t press your luck with statutory deadlines.
About the authors: Thomas H. Welby, an attorney and licensed professional engineer, is General Counsel to the Construction Industry Council of Westchester and the Hudson Valley, and is the Founder of, and Senior Counsel to the law firm of Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP, with offices located throughout the Tri-State/Greater Metropolitan Region. Gregory J. Spaun, General Counsel to the Queens and Bronx Building Association, and an attorney and a partner with the firm, co-authors this series with Mr. Welby.
Pattern Study Tracks NYC Exodus to Hudson Valley
JOHN JORDAN – July 25, 2022
NEWBURGH, NY—A recently released study by regional research group Pattern for Progress found that media reports of a significant exodus of New York City residents to the Hudson Valley were indeed accurate.
The Pattern for Progress study released on July 8 found that during 2021—the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic—the Hudson Valley enjoyed a net gain of 33,394 residents from the five boroughs of New York City. Westchester County netted a net gain of New York City residents of more than 15,000 last year.
“Our analysis of migration during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic puts real data behind the fact that more people moved into the Hudson Valley in 2020,” Pattern CEO Adam Bosch said. “The county-by-county data outlined in our report are only part of the story, but they mark an important reversal in a trend that saw our region losing several thousand residents to migration every year for more than a decade.”
He continued, “Government, business, academic and nonprofit leaders across the region should try to understand the factors that will convince our new neighbors to stay in the Hudson Valley, and develop strategies that will help the region attract and retain more families in the years ahead.”
The report, “Moving In, Moving Out,” examined a new set of migration data released late this spring by the Internal Revenue Service. The data utilized information from tax returns to track domestic and international migration into the United States. Pattern officials stated that the IRS migration data are considered among the most accurate information for tracking the movement of people throughout the United States. The latest set of data tracks migration by analyzing address changes between tax returns in 2019 and 2020. It includes some returns that were processed through mid-July 2021 because of delays caused by the pandemic.
Pattern examined data from the nine-county region that includes Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.
The following are key takeaways from the analysis:
The nine-county region gained 105,716 people and lost 105,087 because of migration in 2019-2020, for a net gain of 629 people. That is not many, but the small increase is a noteworthy reversal of huge population losses across the Hudson Valley in preceding years. From 2016-2019, the region lost about 5,000 residents during each reporting period. It lost a whopping 7,255 people during the 2015-2016 period alone.
The data confirms that thousands of people moved out of New York City and into the Hudson Valley during the first months of the pandemic. A total of 48,642 people from the five boroughs of New York City moved into the Hudson Valley, and 15,248 moved out of the region and into the city, for a net gain of 33,394 people in the Hudson Valley.
The data show a north-south divide across the region. Counties in the lower Hudson Valley (Westchester, Rockland, Orange) lost population due to migration, while counties to the north showed net gains in population.
Conclusions are hard to draw because these data include migration before and during the pandemic, but the divide could indicate a movement away from densely populated areas into smaller cities, villages, and rural towns, the report stated. This trend was well documented in real estate data that showed people leaving high-population areas because they feared that density put them at a greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.
“The movement of people to and from the Hudson Valley is important to the future of our workforce, schools, housing and community vitality,” said Anthony Campagiorni, Chairperson of the Pattern Board of Directors. “Pattern has long provided analyses of demographic data so that our region can act on the basis of sound information. This report should help leaders across the region learn about those who moved into the region and inform our collective efforts to attract more residents here in the future.”
The report said that the coronavirus may prompt more New York City residents to consider the Hudson Valley. “The Hudson Valley has not seen a net-increase in migration since the few years that followed the terrorist attacks of 9/11. That inflow was driven by people who moved into the region from New York City, but generally continued their commute to jobs in the city. That trend lasted for two to four years, after which migration shifted back to New York City.”
The Pattern report noted that this time migration trends could be different. “Work-from-home software is better and more common than it was in 2001. And discussions with regional leaders suggest that this new wave of residents are more attracted to the Hudson Valley’s small cities and villages than the wave that came 20 years ago. The region should be engaged in a discussion with our new neighbors to understand what they enjoy about the Hudson Valley, the servicesthat are lacking, and what we might do to keep them here,” the report stated.
The top three counties for net migration population growth from New York City were Westchester County at 15,405, Dutchess County at 4,955, followed by Orange County at 4,064. The remainder of the Hudson Valley all posted positive net migration from New York City: Rockland County at 3,439, Ulster County at 1,953, Sullivan County at 1,204, Putnam at 978, Columbia at 957 and Greene at 439.
A full analysis of the regional, county-by-county, and New York City trends can be found by accessing the report on Pattern’s website at https://www.pattern-for-progress.org. The report was made possible by local governments, businesses, utilities, nonprofits and academic institutions that support Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress.
Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress is a policy, planning, advocacy and research organization founded in 1965. It serves a nine-county region that includes Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.
Edward Sheldon Plotkin
Noted Contractor, P.E., Commissioner
The New York City/Hudson Valley construction industry recently lost an icon—Edward Sheldon “Ed” Plotkin—who worked since the late 1950s as a contractor, professional engineer and government official, including as Commissioner of Public Works for Westchester County.
Mr. Plotkin died on April 21, 2022 in Silver Spring, MD. He was 89.
Born in the Bronx on Oct. 11, 1932 to his parents Samuel and Anna, he lived most of his adult life in Dobbs Ferry, NY. He was married to Frances Plotkin for the last 30 years, after his first wife and mother of his children, Pearlene Plotkin, died.
Mr. Plotkin worked in many facets of heavy construction and tunneling. He was vice president of the tunneling firm Maclean Grove, where he was project manager for the 63rd Street Cross-town Subway section near Central Park in New York City; two cavern stations on the Washington, D.C. Metro; a station cavern on the Boston subway; and completion of a section of the 13 miles of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection City Water Tunnel No. 3 between the Yonkers reservoir and the Queens connecting shaft passing under three New York City boroughs and two rivers.
He received many honors. Among them, the Construction Engineer of the Year in 1986; the Engineer of the Year Award in 1991 by the NSPE Westchester Section; and the Engineer of the Year Award by the Municipal Engineers of the City of New York in 1998. The Underground Construction Association of the Society of Mining Engineers awarded him the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award. CCNY awarded Mr. Plotkin the Alumni Association Service Award.
“It was my pleasure to serve under Commissioner Plotkin from 1990 to 1994,” said Hugh J. Greechan, Jr., P.E., Commissioner of Public Works and Transportation for Westchester County. “He was always a consummate gentleman, very knowledgeable, and well known throughout the construction industry. I still rely on what he shared with me to this day.”
As a designer, he was Assistant Director with engineering consultant firm DeLeuw Cather (now Parsons Transportation) for the 1970s plans for the Second Avenue Subway, and was later a consultant with the design team for the present Second Avenue Subway project. He served as Co-Chair, NYSSPE Task Force, Tappan Zee Bridge replacement study, from 2002 to 2012.
Mr. Plotkin obtained his Bachelor of Civil Engineering in 1953 from CCNY. After serving in the US Army from 1954 to 1956 he earned his Master of Civil Engineering in 1958 from CCNY, an M.B.A. in Engineering Management from the CUNY Baruch School of Business in 1966. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science in 2019 from CCNY for his engineering contributions to the City of New York.
He was devoted to public service throughout his life. He served as Westchester County’s Commissioner of Public Works for four years in the 1990s and was the chair of the Planning Board in Dobbs Ferry for 50 years, actively reviewing, planning, and approving land development and conservation projects. Even in retirement, Mr. Plotkin was active, consulting on constructability issues, peer review, mediation and dispute board reviews.
He was a registered P.E. in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts. He was a member of many professional organizations, including: the Municipal Engineers of the City of New York and the New York State Society of Professional Engineers (Westchester-Putnam Chapter), both of which he served as president; the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), of which he was a Fellow (he served as a Director of the Metropolitan Section and Chair of the Geotechnical Group); Director in the Westchester Municipal Planning Federation as well as a member and past Trustee of The Moles, a heavy construction organization.
In academia, Mr. Plotkin, was an adjunct professor of physics at Manhattan College, environmental science at Mercy College, and he lectured on public works and urban construction at Pace University, NYU Real Estate School and University of Detroit. He is a past president of the CCNY Engineering School Alumni Board.
He took great pride and pleasure teaching environmental science college courses to incarcerated men and women at the NYS Sing Sing and Bedford (NY) correctional facilities in Westchester for 12 years. He would describe his service teaching in prisons with a joy, noting that he was given free reign to teach everything except tunneling. “Teaching Tunneling was verboten at Sing Sing,” he once told this newspaper.
In addition to his wife, Frances, he is survived by his brother Herman, his children Robert (Lisa Olsson), David, step-children Terri Rosenblatt and Bernie Rosenblatt (Jean), two grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. Mr. Plotkin was also predeceased by his eldest brother, Maurice.
To donate in his memory to the Frances M. & Edward S. Plotkin, PE Scholarship Fund held at the Alumni Association of The City College of New York, visit: www.ccnyalumni.org/donate and elect from the drop-down menu: “Memorial & Tribute Gifts.” When filling out the online form be sure to note in the MEMO field: “Donation to the Frances M. and Edward S. Plotkin Scholarship Fund.”
Check can also be made and sent to The Alumni Association of CCNY, PO Box 177, New York, NY 10027. Memo: Frances M. & Edward S. Plotkin, PE Scholarship Fund.
CIC Golf Classic Returns to Sleepy Hollow
Monday, July 11 – Scarborough, NY
More than 400 leaders of the contracting community, industry suppliers, service professionals and organized labor attended the CIC Golf Classic at Sleepy Hollow Country Club.
SCARBOROUGH, NY—More than 200 golfers tested their game skills on the legendary Sleepy Hollow Country Club, the longtime home of CIC’s Annual Golf Classic on Mon., July 11 here in Westchester.
The 43rd anniversary gathering, staged in morning and afternoon shotgun formats, is always the highlight of the construction industry’s summer season in the lower Hudson Valley. This year’s event was again a celebration
of camaraderie – with more than 400 leaders from the contracting, community, material and equipment suppliers, organized labor were joined by government and public works officials for the evening’s reception and dinner festivities.
While light on speeches, the golf dinner was long on raffle prizes and awards that recognized golf talent in an individual (play-your-own-ball) format.
Low Gross winners in the Men’s morning shotgun was Tyler Crill who fired a 77. Morning Low Net winners were Andy Lipman with a score of 71 followed by Dean DiNatale at 72. Afternoon Low Gross co-winners were Brendan McLaughlin and Thomas Nillson with scores of 76. Afternoon Low Gross Net winners were Brian Tarkin with a 69 followed by Kevin McGovern at 70.
Individual prizes for the men’s afternoon Longest Drive was John Hunter, with Danielle Montesano besting the Ladies. Afternoon men’s Closest to the Pin went to Tom Quinn.
In the final competition of the day, the combined Putting Competition of the two shotgun flights was won by Jason Schiciano. Jason earned his way to the finals with a qualifying 12-foot putt in the morning, followed by two 25-foot putts in a row later in the day. His putter was smokin’! Special Thanks for supervising and managing the Putting Competition are extended to volunteers Gil Torres of CapitalPlus funding solutions and Bob Dolan of Tanna, a construction technology platform.
For information on upcoming CIC events, visit www.cicbca.org.
Pictured above moving left to right:
Fairway Testing foursome, from left, Tyler Crill, Kevin Crill, Tim Crill, and Matt Herman.
Sleepy Hollow Country Club
Heavy Construction Laborers Local 60 foursome from left, Carlos Ascencao, Artie Gaddist, Anthony Foto and Carlos Burges.
From left, CIC board members Bill Mascetta of Transit Construction Corp. and Dominick Montesano of Montesano Brothers, Inc.
CIC Chairman George Pacchiana with state Assemblymembers Sandy Galef and Tom Abinanti.
From left, Westchester County Deputy Executive Ken Jenkins and CIC’s John Cooney, Jr.
From left, Nick Rienzi with Frank Sherding, Dick Davidson and Al Alvarez of PCI Industries.
From left, Nick Rienzi of Westchester County with aviation execs April Gasparri and Peter Sherrer of AVPORTS.
Laborers Local 60 Business Manager Anthony Ascencao and NYS Assemblyman Chris Burdick.
From Left, Ed Cicalese, Nelson Tavares, and Liese Hohmann of Tilcon New York.
Photo 11 – From left, A, NYS Senator Shelley Mayer, C, D, and NYS Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick.
Photo Credits/ED CODY
Adequate Training, Experience and Equipment Necessary When Working Near Energized Lines
By COSTAS CYPRUS, ESQ.
Secretary of Labor v. The L.E. Myers Co. shows the importance of adequate training, experience and equipment when working near energized lines. This matter arises from a fateful workplace accident involving a journeyman lineman for an electrical utility sub-contractor, L.E. Myers Co. (LEM) in Florida.
On Nov. 15, 2019, LEM assigned a four-man crew to transfer electrical distribution lines from an existing utility pole to a new utility pole. Due to the live electrical current, OSHA requires employers to determine the minimum approach distance (MAD) before its
employees work near energized lines at a worksite. The MAD is the closest distance an employee may approach an energized or grounded object without taking specific safety precautions. At this site, the MAD was determined to be two feet, two inches.
The four-man crew arrived at the worksite on the incident date and began to discuss their respective assignments. The crew consisted of the Foreman, two journeyman linemen (inclusive of the Decedent), and an apprentice. The Foreman conducted a pre-job briefing and had everyone sign a Daily Pre-Job Brief document. This document listed the steps for this assignment and included a checklist of the tools required. The document stated the assignment as: “Move wires to new pole and hang arms and mac” and had a checklist for “PPE/Tools Required.” The Foreman checked all tools on the required list including rubber insulating gloves and rubber insulating sleeves. The crew had two bucket trucks and one smaller “backyard machine.” The apprentice and Decedent were in these buckets, the JL in the backyard machine and the Foreman on the ground to observe.
The incident occurred when the Foreman called to the Decedent to lower his bucket to hand him a mac (a flexible wire with clamps at either end, used to bypass an area of an energized line so work can be done in the bypassed area). When the Foreman handed the mac to the Decedent, he did not notice whether or not the Decedent was wearing rubber insulating sleeves. The interaction was a couple of seconds and Decedent immediately raised his bucket back up to the height needed to determine if the mac length was acceptable. The Foreman, as the only eyewitness testifying, stated after he gave the Decedent the mac, the Decedent elevated his bucket and screamed down something along the lines of “that’ll work.” As the Foreman started to walk away to collect other macs just in case, the Foreman heard sizzling, popping and the jerking of the bucket. He looked up to realize Decedent was slumped over in his bucket. After cutting the mac, it was safe for Decedent to be lowered and receive medical attention. However, the electrocution resulted in Decedent’s death. The Decedent was found to be only wearing his rubber gloves, but not his rubber insulating sleeves. Two of OSHA’s compliance officers investigated the scene that same day, taking photos and interviewing individuals, but they did not conduct any measurements or simulations. LEM’s Foreman was discharged in December 2019. OSHA eventually cited LEM for three serious violations arising from the incident.
The ALJ found the Foreman’s testimony regarding the rubber insulating sleeve was sufficient as the Foreman was close enough to detect, with reasonable diligence, whether the Decedent was wearing the sleeve or not. In terms of assignment, the Foreman testified that he only wanted the Decedent to get close enough to measure the mac, which did not require the Decedent to breach the MAD. The Foreman explained that the task could have been done by not elevating the bucket to the height, however it probably would have been more difficult. He did not ask for the Decedent to install the mac, as installation would require all three crewmembers in position.
Item 1 of the Citation pertained to the Decedent not being trained or competent in the MAD skills and techniques in order to maintain a safe distance. Although recordkeeping of employment records is one way to keep track of an employee’s demonstrated proficiency, the ALJ here found that in fact the Decedent did have adequate training and proficiency by the evidence submitted and vacated this portion of the citation. Although, the Decedent had only worked with LEM for about two months, he had more than 15 years of prior experience (via the apprenticeship and journeyman system) in his previous jobs, which required MAD training.
Upon hiring, LEM provided the Decedent a New Hire Orientation Outline, which included the MADs and Decedent had received a copy of the Safety Manual which also addressed MADs. Furthermore, LEM’s Safety Engineer testified how they provide orientation and safety training for newly hired employees, periodic safety training, crew visits and onsite audits. Here, the Safety Engineer had interviewed the Decedent during his orientation to determine his knowledge and understanding of safety-related work practices, including MADs. Moreover, LEM’s supervisors including the Foreman were trained to closely observe new hires to ensure their proficiency, including on safety.
The other items of the Citation were based upon Decedent breaching the MAD without appropriate precautions and failures by LEM to ensure that no employee approaches or takes a conductive object closer to the exposed energy parts than the established MAD. LEM even had a “cradle to cradle policy” that stated that both the rubber insulating gloves and sleeves were to be worn when working on energized equipment on an aerial platform. However, the Foreman’s instruction to the Decedent was to perform work at a height not within the MAD. Only when the Decedent elevated his bucket to the height of the distribution lines and connected one end of the mac to the line did he breach the MAD. Since this occurred within mere seconds, the ALJ found that this fleeting moment did not establish a failure on the part of the Foreman to exercise reasonable diligence and supervision. The Foreman had worked with the Decedent for two months prior to the incident and never noticed any conduct that would alert him to heightened monitoring of Decedent’s safety practices. Therefore, these items of the Citation were also vacated.
About the author: Costas Cyprus is an associate attorney practicing construction law and commercial litigation with Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP, in White Plains, NY. He can be reached at 914-428-2100 and at email@example.com. The articles in this series do not constitute legal advice and are intended for general guidance only.
CIC Softball Reunion Scores Big For Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief
TARRYTOWN, NY—On a much-anticipated Friday afternoon in July, A.J. Smith from Laborers Local 60 smacked a game-ending, two-run double to deliver to Manny Foto’s Pavers a 12-11 victory over Matthew Fante’s Builders.
It was the second CIC Softball game in as many years to result in a walk-off hit. But this game was different. This gathering served as a fundraiser to help care for orphans and family members of Ukrainian soldiers in Lviv. CIC raised some $20,000 and partnered with St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Yonkers, NY to deliver life-sustaining funds to charity partners in Lviv.
It was certainly a game for the ages. Ross Pepe, the president and longtime leader of CIC, pitched the first inning and allowed only one run, striking out two. In the bottom of the opening frame, Andy Mintzer of GFI Printing & Communications retired the batters, and with his ability to toss strikes, stayed on the mound to pitch both the top and bottom of the next six innings. Now there’s one for the record books: he completed the game being both the winning and losing pitcher!MVP for the second year in a row, Chris McCracken from Advance Testing, hit a grand slam in the first inning and tracked down rainbows of fly balls in left field. Sparkling play was also recorded at second base by Thalle’s Tom Wilson and leftfielder Henry Condron of Transit Construction.
“The game was emblematic of what CIC does best,” said CIC’s Baseball Commissioner, Peter Fiore, “That is, bring together all elements of the Hudson Valley construction industry for something bigger than ourselves—whether that be a bridge, a clean water project, or this small effort to help a very troubled part of the world.”
Players were already pining for next year’s date. It’s coming.
Pictured above starting top left moving clockwise:
Starting pitcher Ross Pepe of CIC facing Chris McCracken of Advance Testing
Jennavieve Lazzari on base for the Builders.
Henry Condron of Transit Construction Corp. and a mighty swing.
Builders team captain Matthew Fante of Darante Construction digs for home.
Teams line up before the game.
Manny Foto of ECCO III Enterprises, team captain of the Pavers.
Webinar to Discuss Clean Water Grant Information For DPWs, Planners, Engineers, Conservationists
RYE, NY—Following a live workshop scheduled in late July for local municipal officials and consulting engineers eager to learn more about state clean water grants opportunities, a special webinar on the same topic is scheduled for Tues., Aug. 16.
“This year $255 million in state grants will be available to fund needed local projects,” explained State Assemblyman Steve Otis (AD-91), who will host the live workshop in Rye on July 26. “These information sessions help bring more state dollars to our communities.”
Like the workshop, the webinar will be led by the Environmental Facilities Corp. (EFC), the state agency responsible for clean water infrastructure grants for local municipalities.
Over the past half decade, Rep. Otis has hosted these annual workshops with senior staff from the EFC since the enactment of the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015, which was initiated to assist communities in securing sizeable grant and low-interest loan funding from state clean water programs.
“Our EFC Water Grant Workshop has been a valuable tool in providing Westchester local government the latest information about the current round of state clean water grants,” Rep. Otis explained.
Gathering broad support for the program, this year’s workshop was co-hosted by the Federated Conservationists of Westchester, Jay Heritage Center, Save the Sound, the Westchester Municipal Officials Associations, and the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. (CIC).
“EFC welcomes the chance to assist any community that may need help applying for these grants or other financial assistance available through EFC to fund their water, sewer, or stormwater infrastructure,” said EFC President and CEO Maureen A. Coleman.
CIC Executive Director John T. Cooney, Jr., added, “Now is an ideal time for local governments to apply for clean water and drinking water project grants and loans through the EFC. More than ever, municipalities right now have funding resources to advance their infrastructure capital projects. These information sessions, including the August webinar, is for both the first-time grant applicant and for those that have already won grants. These clean water program grants and loans have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to protect the environment and have served to create thousands of living-wage jobs throughout our region.” CIC is a founding member of Clean Water Jobs Coalition, which has advocated since the early 1990s for many of the clean water funding programs now in place.
To date, New York State’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA) and its Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure (IMG) have provided $1.2 billion in grants to local governments, including the $4.5 million to Westchester municipalities for important clean water projects. “These workshops have been very helpful in encouraging successful applications from across Westchester and the Lower Hudson Valley, and for applicants to learn more about the process,” added Matthew Pepe, executive director of the Building Contractors Association of Westchester & The Mid-Hudson Region, Inc., another co-sponsor of the workshop. Application information specific to the current year funding round and background on other EFC programs can found on its website, www.efc.ny.gov.
August Webinar Details
With the state clean water grant application period for 2022 now open, a special webinar for public officials and consultants to learn about the grant applications and ask questions is scheduled for Tues., Aug. 16. www.efc.ny.gov. EFC is now using a new an online application for WIIA and IMG. The application instructions can help guide applicants through each section. The deadline for submitting online an application is 5:00 pm on Fri., Sept. 9, 2022.
Assemblyman Otis’s office is available to help applicants in this important funding opportunity and to support applications throughout the process. For more information, applicants can contact the district office at 914-939-7028.
WHAT'S NEW & WHO'S NEWS
Bridge Authority Names Melendez To Deputy Executive Director Post
HIGHLAND, NY—The New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA) announced June 29 that Lauren Melendez had been appointed by the NYSBA Board of Commissioners as the Authority’s new Deputy Executive Director. Starting July 11, she began serving in the second-highest role at the Hudson Valley-based transportation authority, working under the leadership of Executive Director Dr. Minosca Alcantara.
NYSBA Board Chair Joan McDonald said, “The NYSBA Board of Commissioners is pleased to appoint Lauren Melendez as the Bridge Authority’s Deputy Executive Director. She has exceptional qualifications that she brings to the table that will benefit the authority and the travelers that we serve.”
NYSBA Executive Director Dr. Minosca Alcantara added, “I’m excited to add Ms. Melendez to our great team of employees at NYSBA. She not only has expertise in the field of transportation, but also a knowledge and appreciation for the communities that our bridges connect.”
Ms. Melendez has most recently served as Assistant Secretary for Transportation in the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul. Prior to her tenure in the Executive Chamber, Ms. Melendez served as senior analyst for Transportation and Infrastructure for the New York State Senate Finance Committee, as well as a project assistant for Empire State Future, a project of the Tides Center.
She holds a B.A. and Master of Regional Planning from the University at Albany. She is a resident of Greene County.
The New York State Bridge Authority operates the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson, Kingston-Rhinecliff and Rip Van Winkle Bridges. It also owns and maintains the structure of the Walkway Over the Hudson pedestrian bridge. The authority is funded principally from bridge tolls and receives no state or federal tax monies for bridge maintenance and operation.
Top Industry Leaders Must Instill Diversity Equity, Inclusion Initiatives
While some view instability as a reason for concern, it also holds true that instability, transition, and change can also be a powerful motivation and catalyst for the creation of new opportunities. As labor shortages have become a major hindrance today in construction, a new paradigm that includes DE&I initiatives within the construction industry may be the greatest opportunity ever for an industry where employees and their work is a builder’s greatest asset in terms of completing projects on time and with the careful detail needed to satisfy architectural and other regulatory specifications.
In a post-pandemic world, the construction industry overall is struggling with labor shortages and supply chain issues that have had and continue to have a major impact on completing projects timely, efficiently, and within budget. Headwinds in the construction industry are also a result of unexpected macro-economic forces that impede production as rising material costs and interest rates can impact investors, builders, general contractors, and sub-contractors. New legislation such as changes to the tax-abatement status for new projects as well as New York State’s new “Wage Theft and Protection Act” all present new challenges for construction in a post-covid recovery.
Studies Show that Diverse Teams Are More Productive—Why DE&I?
Studies have proven that diverse teams are more creative, and, in many cases, diverse teams have proven to be more profitable and increase overall financial performance. Diverse teams have resulted in higher levels of productivity and retention, which is crucial in construction now as labor shortages abound. Practically speaking, diverse populations bring unique insights and perspectives that may not be present in more homogenous employee pools where everyone thinks the same based on a shared history or having all things in common. Those with a different way of thinking are able to add different levels of insight and various skill sets that supply a particular brand of effectiveness to the work at hand.
Sourcing for Functional Skills Ensures Diversity and Most Promising Employees
Diversity also goes beyond the most common perception as gender equality. In numerous industries today and throughout the construction industry, leaders are finding that recruiting for skills and experience versus elite backgrounds is a better way to create socio-economic opportunities while also being mindful about the fact that backgrounds don’t always provide the functional experience needed to do a job well.
Hiring for experience is not only a practical way to recruit for DE&I, but has also proven to be the best way to vet new employees who will be best suited to the specific needs of each construction project.
In addition to a job well done, workplaces that make efforts to include employees from diverse experiences and backgrounds also tend to retain those who contribute the most profitable ideas as well as being able to enjoy higher retention rates, where less time and income is spent on constantly recruiting and repeating the hiring process. Retaining an experienced construction manager, for example, with skill in planning, hiring, supervising, setting goals and staying on budget while managing risks is invaluable to the outcomes of your firm and organization. Having diversity at all levels on the team is also key in relating to a broader base of third-party individuals, construction professionals and vendors that include architects, materials suppliers, subcontractors, and others involved with various projects.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 88.6% of construction industry workers identified as white and more than 90% were male. While many within the construction industry aspire to see DE&I working, very few owners and managers have a practical methodology in place to set changes in motion. As such, initial steps should include new initiatives such as getting leadership buy-in for inclusion, writing an actual DE&I policy and actively incorporating diverse recruiting and hiring practices. Though it may seem like a small beginning, bringing simple awareness with concrete action items that result in structural change is always the first step in any broad cultural adjustment.
Altogether, the construction industry stands to benefit immensely by hiring initiatives that include DE&I. We are two years beyond the onset of the pandemic in 2020, yet labor shortages linger as a major factor in project completions and new construction alike. The industry as a whole can begin to combat the macro environment and mitigate risks by proactively including DE&I as a policy and embracing a more inclusive culture. The outcomes will ensure that we are increasing opportunities for those in the community while securing and retaining a new labor force that will bring the industry into the future.
About the author: Phillip Ross, CPA, CGMA is an Accounting and Audit Partner and Chair of the Construction Industry Group at Anchin, Block & Anchin, LLP. For more construction industry thought leadership and content, log on to www.anchin.com.
$17.8 Million Thruway Pavement Project Begins
ALBANY—New York State has begun a $17.8-million pavement improvement project on the New York State Thruway (I-87/I-287) in Rockland County.
The work will cover a nearly eight-mile stretch from the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in South Nyack to just beyond exit 14A (Spring Valley – Nanuet – NY Route 59) in Ramapo, NY.
The project includes renewing the pavement by performing mill and inlay operations to a two-inch depth from milepost 16.4 to milepost 24 northbound and southbound, including five interchange ramps from South Nyack (exit 10) to Spring Valley (exit 14). Additional work includes adding more reflective line striping, new signs and drainage improvements. Crisdel Group, Inc. of South Plainfield, NJ is the project contractor following a competitive bidding process.
All of the work will take place overnight to limit impacts to traffic and is expected to be completed by late fall of 2022. Motorists may encounter lane closures on the Thruway along with traffic shifts and stoppages while construction is underway. All work is weather dependent and subject to change. Motorists are urged to be alert and follow the posted work zone speed limits.
Elderlee, Bothar, H&L Win NYS DOT Project Work
ALBANY—The New York State Department of Transportation recently announced the selection of three apparent low bidders for work in the Hudson Valley/New York City regions.
Elderlee Inc. of Oaks Corners, NY was the lower of two bids at $5,703,370.20 for rustic guide rail replacement, various federal aid eligible locations in Columbia, Dutchess and Putnam counties.
Bothar Construction LLC of Binghamton, NY was the sole bidder at $2,127,797.00 for crack sealing and mastic, various federal aid eligible locations in Dutchess, Orange, Rockland and Westchester counties.
H&L Contracting LLC of Hauppauge, NY was the lowest of five bidders at $4,094,910.00 for maintenance cleaning, various highways in New York City counites of the Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens and Richmond.
Verde Electrical Lands Thruway Bid
ALBANY—The New York State Thruway Authority reported recently that Verde Electrical Maintenance Corp. of Mount Vernon, NY was the sole bidder at $3,155,123.25 for replacement of its equipment at various locations in the New York Division in the Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties in accordance with the plans and specifications.
ELQ Industries Lands Bulkhead Project
WHITE PLAINS—The Westchester County Department of Public Works reported recently that ELQ Industries, Inc. of New Rochelle, NY was the lowest of seven bidders at $4,150,900. for the Kingsland Point Park bulkhead replacement in the Village of Sleepy Hollow, NY.
In Response to Soaring Material Costs
Contract Price-Spike Escalator Bill Passes NY Legislature Unanimously
By JOHN JORDAN – June 27, 2022
ALBANY — In a major victory for the state’s construction industry, the New York State Assembly and Senate both unanimously approved legislation this month that provide “equitable relief” to contractors facing unprecedented and unforeseen spikes in materials and commodity costs on state contracts. The Assembly passed the bill on June 1 by a 149-0 vote, while the Senate the same day approved the measure by a
“This bill was a good example of industry coming to state government and explaining to us… what was going on and how the economy was impacting their businesses…making sure people have a fair opportunity to fulfill their contracts and not come out broke after doing what they agreed to do.”
—State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick
63-0 margin. The bill now goes to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk for approval. State legislators do not expect a decision by the governor to be imminent, noting that she must either approve or veto the measure by the end of this year. At press time, the legislation has not been forwarded to the governor for approval.
The State Senate (S.8844) and the Assembly (A.10109) bills were sponsored respectively by New York State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick (D,WF, 38th District) and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-96th District) and would provide some relief to firms that hold contracts with the state and public benefit corporations and have experienced cost increases in excess of 5% for materials that were purchased or invoiced after March 1, 2020, related to contracts for which they submitted bids before April 1, 2020. The legislation would include contracts with such agencies as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the Empire State Development Corp.
The eligible contracting companies could apply for an adjustment to their contract to recoup the increased material costs. It would then be up to the agency and the State Comptroller to approve any increases in contract prices. In cases where contractors have suffered or will suffer net losses, the bill also provides that the State Office of General Services Commissioner would be authorized to grant an increase in the price of the materials in the contract to prevent further loss to contractors.
A host of business, construction and labor organizations supported the measure and pressed state lawmakers to approve the bills, including: the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., the Business Council of New York State, the General Contractors Association of New York, Inc., and the Building Congress of New York.
In an interview with CONSTRUCTION NEWS, Sen. Reichlin-Melnick said the bill also provides protections for subcontractors up to six months after the general contracting bid was submitted, if the GC bid was submitted prior to April 1, 2020.
He said that supporters of the bill will now have to work to convince Gov. Hochul and her staff of the merits of the legislation despite the increased costs that may come along with it.
“This bill was a good example of industry coming to state government and explaining to us… what was going on and how the economy was impacting the business,” he said. “And then the state trying to do what we can to help support the community and making sure people have a level playing field and a fair opportunity to fulfill their contracts and not come out broke after doing what they agreed to do.”
He said he sponsored the bill based on conversations with contractors and industry trade groups that spoke of firms that secured bids prior to the pandemic who were then being forced to absorb materials and commodities increases as high as 70% or 80% over their bid estimates.
Assemblyman Zebrowski told CONSTRUCTION NEWS that supporters of the measure will now work to convince the governor of the industry’s pressing needs to address rising material costs and to sign the measure into law.
“I think it is important for government to quite frankly respond and to solve problems in our state. Sometimes that means recognizing when there are immense shifts and changes in the landscape of a given industry,” he said. “And certainly, with the rise in costs of commodities and all types of products it has created a situation that could really have a negative effect on businesses and the economy across New York State. We are hoping with this bill to mitigate some of that.”
He said the main goal of the legislation was to help construction firms deal with material and commodity costs that in some cases have risen by double-digits, which he noted are jeopardizing the solvency of some of these businesses.
Assemblyman Zebrowski said he is hopeful Gov. Hochul will sign the bill but noted that he and other state legislators are “committed to the issue” of advocating for equitable relief for contracting firms.
“We are going to continue to work with the industry—general contractors and subcontractors—and make sure that government is responding in a way that protects the industry and protects the economy,” Assemblyman Zebrowski said.
In letters of support of the bills sent to state legislators prior to the bills’ passage, the CIC and the GCA noted, “Over the last 18 months to two years, GCA members have experienced unanticipated—and unprecedented—increases in the cost of construction commodities, including but not limited to steel and rebar, concrete, adhesives, lumber, and fuel. These increases range from 50% to as much as 200%. In addition, the availability of many of those materials have also been impacted by the national supply chain dilemma, which in turn, delay projects and cause cost increases.”
There is some precedent for the state to provide some measure of assistance to contractors during hard economic times. First in 1974, the state enacted Chapters 944 and 945 that provided equitable relief to contractors for steel and petroleum price increases on state and municipal contracts due to the energy crisis at the time. The new state laws allowed for price adjustments on bids submitted prior to Dec. 31, 1973.
Due to sharp price increases caused by U.S. tariffs on steel imposed in 2004, combined with a sharp increase in demand for steel from China, the state passed Chapter 56 that allowed for price adjustments to the prices of steel products in construction contracts let by the State of New York for contracts let prior to April 15, 2004.
The CIC noted that a key facet of the legislation also provides relief to the state or contracting agency if prices of materials decline over the term of the contract.
“If there is relief granted based on a nationwide index that is recognized, if that is granted and it becomes part of the contract, if that construction material price drops there will be credit given back,” John Cooney, Jr., executive director of the CIC noted. This provision could be beneficial when the governor’s office is calculating future costs of the legislation.
“What we are arguing going forward is that these indices (such as the NYSDOT steel, fuel and asphalt indices) should remain in contracts period,” Mr. Cooney said. “Because when you get in a deflationary or softer period, government picks up money when those indexes drop, and contractors are paid less for those materials.”
He added that over time by taking away the uncertainty of the material cost risks, the contractor will include less mark-up on its bid price, thus saving the state money on its capital projects.
For more information, contact the CIC at 914-631-6070 or firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. DOT Open Applications for $12.5B Competitive Bridge Investment Program
By JOHN JORDAN – June 28, 2022
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration on June 10 opened a call for applications through a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the competitive Bridge Investment Program established by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes the single largest dedicated investment in bridges since the construction of the Interstate highway system.
The program will provide $12.5 billion over five years, with nearly $2.4 billion available in Fiscal Year 2022 to help plan, replace, rehabilitate, protect, and preserve some of the nation’s largest bridges. The competitive grant program comes on top of the more than $27 billion in formula bridge funding the U.S. Department of Transportation had announced earlier this year. This investment will help ensure that some of the nation’s most important bridges remain operational, support local economies, strengthen supply chains, improve safety and create good-paying jobs across the country.
“With resources from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re thrilled to begin accepting applications for one of the most significant investments in our bridges in decades, fixing everything from America’s most economically significant bridges to smaller bridges that mean everything to a local community,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “When these bridges are repaired, the American people will benefit from greater safety, lower shipping costs for consumers and maintenance costs for drivers, faster movement of goods across our supply chains, fuel savings, and precious time being returned to their day.”
The Bridge Investment Program is a competitive, discretionary program that focuses on the repair, rehabilitation, or replacement of existing bridges across the country to reduce the overall number of those
bridges either in poor condition, or in fair condition at risk of declining into poor condition. It also expands applicant eligibilities to create opportunity for all levels of government to be direct recipients of program funds. In addition to states and federal lands management agencies, metropolitan planning organizations and local and tribal governments can also apply directly to FHWA, making it easier to advance bridge projects at the local level.
The Bridge Investment Program provides an additional $12.5 billion in funding to the more than $27 billion provided to states by the Bridge Formula Program, which totals $40 billion in investment to be provided by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The program gives the USDOT the ability to fund numerous bridge improvement projects in communities across all 50 states.
In January, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney reported that New York State will receive $1.9 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to fix and rebuild its bridges. As a Member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Maloney helped draft the transformative infrastructure package and has been a critical advocate for investing in America’s bridges.
The USDOT reported that in FY 2022 New York State will receive $321,652,184 in main bridge funding; $56,762,150 in off-system bridges funding for a total award of $378,414,334.
“These funds will make a significant contribution to improving the condition of our nation’s aging bridges, both large, signature bridge projects that are important for our national economy as well as smaller structures that provide benefits at the regional and local levels and are critical for communities across the country,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said. “FHWA has designed this program to meet the needs of communities and bridges of all sizes, including those that are still in the planning stage.”
Bridge Investment Program funding is unique in three key areas:
- It allows multi-year grant agreements to fund large projects by making it possible to take a project through pre-construction activities and into construction.
- The program grants help to fund the planning process, including planning, feasibility analysis and revenue forecasting associated with the development of a project that would subsequently be eligible to apply for the Bridge Investment Program.
- It offers two types of construction grants, covering “large” projects more than $100 million and “bridge projects” at up to $100 million.
The FHWA plans to conduct extensive community outreach and public engagement throughout the application process that will include a Zoom Webinar. Technical assistance is also available to recipients who receive Bridge Investment Program grants. Since the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations—FHWA will have made available $8.8 billion for bridge improvements under the Bridge Formula Program, the Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program and Bridge Investment Program with the publication of the NOFO.
For more information, please visit FHWA’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law web page. The Notice of Funding Opportunity is available on FHWA’s Bridge Investment Program web page.
Recession Risk Mounts
Rising Inflation, Higher Lending Interest Rates Likely to Spur Econ. Downturn, ARTBA Warns
By JOHN JORDAN
TARRYTOWN—Recent economic data continues to point to a slowing economy as the Federal Reserve tries to tame runaway inflation rates without plunging the U.S. economy into recession. In recent weeks, a highly volatile stock market and disturbing inflation and materials costs increases caused the Federal Reserve to increase rates by 0.75 percentage points as a means to slow the economy down and at the same time lower the inflation rate. Economists in the banking, transportation and real estate industries all see an economic slowdown on the horizon, while a recent poll of corporate CEOs show a growing number expect a recession to take hold within the next 12 to 18 months.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on June 10 that the Consumer Price Index rose to 8.6% for the 12 months ending May, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981.
Soaring energy and materials costs are nothing new to the transportation, building and construction sectors and have impacted their bottom lines for well over a year. Massive new federal infrastructure funding will provide a boost to the industry, according to American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTTBA) Chief Economist Alison Black. At ARTBA’s Federal Issues Conference on May 16, Ms. Black and David Wilcox, director of U.S. economic research at Bloomberg Economics and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, were cautiously optimistic about the future prospects for the transportation construction sector, despite material price increases that have driven costs up on average between 10% to 15%.
According to ARTBA’s Washington Newsline, both economists say that a recession is a real risk if the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates too much or too quickly. Ms. Black noted that COVID relief funds have helped state budgets and transportation programs over the last year. Moreover, funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is starting to have an impact. State and local government transportation contract awards are up 36% in the first quarter compared to last year. “This money is getting into the pipeline,” she said.
The Fed’s balancing act of trying to reduce inflation and steering the U.S. economy toward a “soft landing” is like the challenge pilots face guiding a plane onto an aircraft carrier bobbing about in the sea, Mr. Wilcox said. “The ocean doesn’t offer much cooperation,” he said, adding, “I haven’t given up hope. But buckle your seat belts.”
However, the risk of recession remains and a growing number of corporate executives expect one to take place sometime between now and the end of 2023.
Between May 10 and 24, The Conference Board surveyed 750 CEOs and other C-suite executives, primarily based in North America, Latin America, Asia, and Europe. The survey focused on the War in Ukraine’s impact on business leaders around the world. The CEOs were also polled on the prospects of a recession taking place in the short term. A total of 76% expect a recession or believe it’s already here: Among CEOs globally, 15% believe a recession is already underway. Another 61% expect a recession is forthcoming in their primary region of operation before the end of 2023—if not earlier.
Dana Peterson, Chief Economist, The Conference Board, said, “Historically high energy prices, renewed supply chain disruptions, heightened geopolitics risks, and eroding consumer confidence are all putting downward pressure on global growth. That’s on top of lockdowns in China and the cascading ripple effects of the war in Ukraine. These disruptions, along with restrictive monetary and fiscal policy decisions, are fueling recession expectations—with nearly eight in 10 CEOs expecting their primary region of operations to be in recession within 12 to 18 months, if not already underway.”
The Conference Board survey also found that labor shortages continue to present a challenge, with 57% of those surveyed saying they are promoting hybrid work models to attract workers, while 43% are increasing automation.
The Conference Board reported on June 17 that its Leading Economic Index for the U.S. decreased by 0.4 % in May 2022 to 118.3 (2016 = 100), following a 0.4% decline in April 2022.
“The US LEI fell again in May, fueled by tumbling stock prices, a slowdown in housing construction and gloomier consumer expectations,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board. “The index is still near a historic high, but the US LEI suggests weaker economic activity is likely in the near term—and tighter monetary policy is poised to dampen economic growth even further.”
The increase in rates by the Federal Reserve has had its impact on the housing market. Reports have surfaced that lending rates now approaching 6% have put a dent in demand and caused some sellers to lower asking prices.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the Federal Reserve will impose further rate increase at meetings in upcoming months. “So far, the short-term fed funds rate that the Fed directly controls has risen by 175 basis points. But the 30-year fixed rate mortgage has risen even more—by nearly 300 basis points. On the same $300,000 mortgage, the monthly payment has risen from $1,265 in December to $1,800 today. That’s painful and, consequently, will shrink the buyer pool,” Mr. Yun said.
He continued, “Home sales have recently been trending down toward 2019 figures.”
The Associated General Contractors Association of America said that contractors are finally factoring in higher material and energy costs in their bid prices. In a report released on June 14, the CCA cautioned however that contractors will be hard-pressed to keep pace with expected additional price increases for many key construction materials going forward.
“After enduring more than a year of runaway increases in the cost of items needed to build projects, contractors have finally raised their bid prices by an equivalent amount,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But the runup in materials costs appears likely to continue to pressure contractors’ profit margins.”
The producer price index for inputs to new non-residential construction—the prices charged by goods producers and service providers such as distributors and transportation firms—rose 1.9% from April to May and 18.9% since May 2021, following 12 consecutive months of 20% or greater increases. An index for new nonresidential building construction—a measure of what contractors say they would charge to erect five types of nonresidential buildings—rose 0.4% for the month and 19.3% from a year earlier.
A wide variety of inputs accounted for the increase in the cost index, the AGC reported, making further increases likely in the near term. The price index for diesel fuel jumped 84.9% over 12 months. The index for liquid asphalt leaped 80.5%. The indexes for steel mill products and aluminum mill shapes climbed 32.9% and 31.2%, respectively. The index for architectural coatings such as paint soared 31.6%. There were increases of more than 20% in the indexes for plastic construction products, which rose 29.5%; truck transportation of freight, 25.8%; and gypsum building materials, 23.9%.
In addition, there were double-digit increases in several other price indexes that affect construction costs, Mr. Simonson noted. He cited as examples the index for roofing asphalt and tar products, which rose 18.9% over 12 months; insulation materials, 16.6%; paving mixtures and blocks, 16.1%; concrete products, 12.0% and construction machinery and equipment, 11.5%.
Finally, the AGC reported on June 17 that 43 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs during the past 12 months, but momentum slowed in May 2022 with only 22 states adding jobs.
New York State lost the most construction jobs in May (-5,100 jobs, -1.3%), followed by Florida (-4,000 jobs, -0.7%) and Ohio (-3,700 jobs, -1.6%). North Dakota (-3.0%, -800 jobs) and Wyoming (-3.0%, -700 jobs) had the largest percentage losses, followed by Iowa (-2.6%, -2,100 jobs).
$4.2B Clean Water Bond Act on Nov. Ballot
Gives New Yorkers Major Opportunity to Fund a Safer, Climate-Resilient Future
For the first time in a generation, New Yorkers will have the opportunity on Election Day this November to advance pollution control and environmental improvement projects. New York State elected officials successfully included a $4.2-billion Bond Act ballot measure in the final state budget agreement in April that will allow the state to take on debt to fund hundreds of specific projects.
“This is a historic step toward building a climate-resilient New York,” said New York Assemblyman Chris Burdick (93rd AD) in Northern Westchester. If passed by voters in November, the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act will leverage the federal Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) and enable historic investments in New York’s environment through an array of solutions. These cover four key areas:
- Flood-risk reduction – $1.1 billion
- Open-space land conservation – $600 million
- Climate change mitigation – $1.5 billion
- Water quality improvements – $650 million
Two additional areas – Clean energy projects and Environmental justice advancements – were part of the original package but now look to be folded into the four listed categories.
This Bond Act is designed to put New York on a path to lasting resilience, and in doing so will stimulate the economy, create jobs and benefit the state’s most vulnerable communities, Rep. Burdick noted. The investments will create 84,000 jobs across the state and generate $8.7 billion in project spending, according to a recent analysis by AECOM and Rebuild by Design.
The last time an environmental bond act went before voters was in 1996 under then-Gov. George Pataki. Voters approved the $1.75 billion spending program entitled “Clean Water/Clean Air EBA,” by a margin of 12 percentage points (57% yes – 43% no), which was the narrowest margin in any of the 10 EBAs brought before voters in the 20th century. (When adjusted for 2020 dollars, the program amounted to $2.888 billion.)
Much has changed over the past 120 years. “Since 1900, the state has experienced at least a foot of sea level rise and scientists anticipate that this will accelerate over the next century. New York City alone already has more than 780,000 people living in the floodplain today,” it was reported by the Environmental Defense Fund. Also, according to estimates from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), New York City will experience an inch of sea level rise every seven to eight years, while low-lying areas such as Kings Point and the Battery will experience more than 15 inches by 2050.”
New Yorkers have experienced the devastating effects of the climate crisis too many times, the EDF noted. “The state has seen multiple historic extreme heat waves and flooding events through Hurricanes Sandy, Ida and Henri. As these extremes become the new normal, leaders must take direct action to build flood resilience across the state.”
The Bond Act will dedicate $1.1 billion to restoration and flood-risk reduction. This money will fund long-term solutions, such as coastal rehabilitation, shoreline restoration and other natural infrastructure and nature-based projects. These projects will not only reduce flooding and coastal erosion but also provide added benefits to the communities through beautifying the landscape, creating recreational opportunities, generating jobs and stimulating the economy.
In 2017, the state legislature then passed the Clean Water Infrastructure Act and began putting more significant funding towards these needs beginning with an initial allocation of $2.5 billion, and in 2019 passed the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, establishing statewide goals for emissions reductions and clean energy.
The latest iteration of state environmental bond acts builds on the trajectory of these goals and investments, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany. The 2022 Bond Act is a remonikered and expanded version of the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act of 2020 (the 2020 Bond Act). The 2020 Bond Act made it through the state budget process after being included in former Governor Cuomo’s executive budget proposal and was supposed to go to a public vote in November of 2020.”
However, the combined economic impact of the global pandemic on New York State’s budget would postpone the bond act for two years, in a more finely-tuned and more comprehensive plan. “Clean air, clean water, and access to nature are vital ingredients to public health and wellbeing,” the institute noted. “Yet, many New Yorkers don’t have safe water to drink, clean air to breathe or green space to enjoy. Low-income communities and communities of color face a disproportionate share of environmental harm due to historic and systemic racism and inequality. Recognizing these disproportionate impacts and risks, the Bond Act dedicates at least 35%-40% of funds to designated ‘disadvantaged communities’ to ensure that they are protected from the harms of climate change.”
If the Bond Act is passed, $1.5 billion will go toward mitigating the impacts of climate change and redressing environmental injustice through projects that increase the sustainability of buildings, increase energy efficiency, support zero-emission school buses, eliminate air and water pollution in environmental justice communities, reduce urban heat and more. These measures will help protect New York communities from harmful pollution while also addressing the ongoing threats of climate change.
States and local governments face up-front funding challenges to address existing risks in light of growing climate threats. And yet, proactive, pre-disaster investments are crucial to not only save lives, but save money. FEMA notes that every $1 invested before a disaster saves $6 in disaster recovery costs.
The Bond Act on the 2022 general election statewide ballot would provide voters with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in reducing harmful carbon pollution and help protect New York communities from the impacts of climate change. New Yorkers cannot afford to miss this opportunity.
GEORGE DRAPEAU III, with industry and environmental agency reports.
DEC Permit Denial Upheld, Jeopardizing $500 Million Danskammer Energy Project
By JOHN JORDAN
GOSHEN, NY—The $500-million Danskammer Energy project suffered a significant setback earlier this month when a New York State Supreme Court Judge dismissed its complaint and ruled that the state Department of Environmental Conservation had the legal right to reject a key air permit for the project.
The Danskammer Energy project is in the Article 10 process before the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. The proposed project would convert the aging Danskammer plant into a 535-megawatt energy facility. The project cannot move forward without the Title V air permit.
In announcing the denial of the Danskammer air permit last October, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the project is not in compliance with the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. “The proposed project would be inconsistent with or would interfere with the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits established in the Climate Act.” Mr. Seggos said. “Danskammer failed to demonstrate the need or justification for the proposed project.”
New York State Supreme Court Judge Robert A. Onofry denied a host of Danskammer claims, including that the DEC did not have the authority to reject a Title V permit based on the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, (CLCPA) which sets emission goals in response to climate change. The CLCPA was signed into law in July 2019.
In his lengthy ruling, Judge Onofry said, “the Court finds that the plain language of the statute must be interpreted to grant the DEC the requisite authority to deny a permit when the grant of the permit would be inconsistent with or interfere with the attainment of the goals of the CLCPA, and the grant cannot otherwise be justified or the adverse effects mitigated.”
He also dismissed Danskammer’s contention that the DEC “promulgated a de facto ‘rule’ that all gas-fired power plants be denied.
“Here, on the record presented, it cannot be reasonably found that the DEC, in effect, enacted a de facto ‘rule’ that all permit applications involving gas fired power plants will be denied regardless of the facts and circumstances. Rather, the DEC’s denial was based on the individual circumstances of the application. Indeed, Section 7(2) mandates that the DEC consider not only the consistency of the application with the goals of the CLCPA, but also whether, if inconsistent, the grant of a permit is nonetheless justified, and its adverse affects can be mitigated.”
The Middletown Times-Herald Record reports that the DEC officials praised Judge Onofry’s decision and will “continue to review all relevant permit applications to ensure compliance with applicable law, including the requirements of the Climate Act.”
Michelle Hook, a spokesperson for Danskammer, told CONSTRUCTION NEWS: “We are planning on filing a notice of appeal to preserve our rights and we are still considering next steps.”
It should be noted that Danskammer’s administrative appeal of the DEC decision rendered on Oct. 27, 2021 is still pending.
Back in November 2021 in announcing its appeal of the DEC ruling Danskammer Energy CEO Bill Reid said in a prepared statement: “Danskammer Energy disagrees with the NYSDEC’s denial of our federal Title V Air Permit and we are appealing the decision to preserve our rights as part of the agency’s administrative review process. We believe DEC is holding Danskammer to standards that don’t even exist because the Climate Action Council has yet to issue guidance on what it means to be consistent with the state’s new climate law.
He added, “Further—as pointed out by the New York Independent System Operator in its 2021-2030 Comprehensive Reliability Plan—as more weather-dependent and unpredictable wind and solar are used to supply our electricity, New York needs power options like a repowered Danskammer that can quickly step in to keep the lights on. For these reasons, DEC’s decision to deny our Title V Air Permit was unjustified, and not in the best interests of New York residents or their future power needs.”
The Danskammer project, while criticized by environmental groups such as Scenic Hudson, was supported by a host of business and building trades organizations in Orange County, including the Orange County Partnership, the New York State AFL-CIO and the Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trades Council based in Newburgh.
Court Enforces Contractor’s Partial Waivers, Releases of Lien to Bar its Claim for Delay Damages
By THOMAS H. WELBY, P.E., ESQ. and GREGORY J. SPAUN, ESQ.
One of the most ubiquitous documents in construction is the partial waiver and release of lien, which is invariably a condition precedent to a contractor or subcontractor receiving its progress payment. While the most common question contractors have is whether signing the document before receiving payment actually waives the contractor’s right to receive that payment (it doesn’t), these documents can be a trap for the unwary because they will operate to waive claims for monies that are not specifically recited as being excepted from the partial waiver and release of lien (such as unpaid change order claims, delay claims, etc.).
An appellate court, in the recent case of Pizzarotti, LLC v X-Treme Concrete Inc., reminded us of this state of affairs when it dismissed a contractor’s counterclaim for delay damages based on its execution of such monthly waivers.
In September of 2015, Pizzarotti entered into an agreement to perform construction services for a residential construction project on West 27th Street in Manhattan. Pizzarotti subsequently entered into a subcontract with X-Treme Concrete for X-Treme to perform the concrete scope of work at the project. Of course, as part and parcel of the payment process, X-Treme signed partial waivers and releases of lien monthly, each one of which provided, in capital letters, that X-Treme “AGREES THAT THIS WAIVER OF LIEN AND RELEASE IS NEITHER A RECEIPT FOR PAYMENT NOR A CONDITION PRECEDENT TO PAYMENT, BUT A KNOWING AND WILLFUL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT SUBCONTRACTOR HAS BEEN FULLY PAID . . . THROUGH THE ABOVE-REFERENCED DATE.”
Within months, disputes arose on both sides, with Pizzarotti alleging that X-Treme failed to remit payments to its subcontractors and suppliers, and X-Treme alleging that Pizzarotti failed to pay it promptly, and had delayed the job. Ultimately, X-Treme ceased work on the project (with X-Treme alleging that Pizzarotti improperly terminated it, and with Pizzarotti alleging that X-Treme abandoned the job), and X-Treme filed a mechanic’s lien against the project (as did several other of X-Treme’s subcontractors). Pizzarotti sued X-Treme for breaching the contract, alleging that it was going to incur excess completion costs as a result. X-Treme filed several counterclaims, each one of which alleged that X-Treme incurred significant damages as a result of Pizzaroti’s delays arising from its failure to provide complete project drawings, and that Pizzarotti improperly terminated X-Treme as a pretense to cover for its own delays, and in an effort to avoid liability for such actions.
After discovery, Pizzarotti moved for summary judgment dismissing X-Treme’s counterclaims, arguing that the partial releases and waivers of lien executed by X-Treme in exchange for monthly progress payments (eight, in total) barred its delay claim, which—unlike the recitation of unpaid retainage—was not excepted from the otherwise general release language. In opposition, X-Treme argued that the releases were only meant to document payments received to date (receipts, in essence), and not to release any unresolved change orders or delay claims.
The motion court dismissed X-Treme’s counterclaims, briefly citing the partial waiver and release of lien documents—and holding that X-Treme failed in its burden to demonstrate that the releases did not apply to its claim, or otherwise establish any equitable basis to vitiate their effect. The appellate court affirmed, citing the capitalized language of the partial waiver and release of lien in which X-Treme specifically acknowledged that the document was not a mere receipt but, rather, operated to release any claims not specifically preserved, including its delay claim (which existed prior to the execution of the latest release documents). The appellate court also noted the existence of a no-damages-for-delay provision of the contract, and found that as the incomplete drawings were specifically mentioned in the parties’ contract, they were contemplated and, therefore, not subject to one of the exceptions to the enforceability of such a clause.
Clearly, contractors are in the construction business to make money. However, this case should caution contractors that they should not simply sign any document put in front of them to get some money flowing in their direction. Setting aside, for the moment, that X-Treme’s delay claim was also barred by specific contractual language, the partial waiver and release of lien documents here serve as clear evidence that simply signing required documents for the sake of getting some money flowing can result in the foreclosure of other claims which may (or, here, may not) have merit. Accordingly, contractors would be well advised to consult with experienced construction counsel as to how to best preserve their right to collect on all of their claims, and not just the ones that will result in an immediate payment. Have your attorney review the partial release and waiver of the lien document at the time of the very first requisition—not eight months into the job, when the damage has already been done.
About the authors: Thomas H. Welby, an attorney and licensed professional engineer, is General Counsel to the Construction Industry Council of Westchester and the Hudson Valley, and is the Founder of, and Senior Counsel to the law firm of Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP, with offices located throughout the Tri-State/Greater Metropolitan Region. Gregory J. Spaun, General Counsel to the Queens and Bronx Building Association, and an attorney and a partner with the firm, co-authors this series with Mr. Welby.
BCA GOLF OUTING
Knollwood Country Club, Elmsford, NY • June 7, 2022
82 Golfers, 114 Dinner Guests Participate in 65th Annual Golf Outing. And the winners are…
Justin Stagg of the Stagg Group scored the Low Gross of 76, followed by Ryan Stagg who shot 77. Closest to the Pin winner was Anthony Foto of Laborers Local 60 on Hole No. 3, John DelVecchio on Hole No. 8, Dan Sanseveino on Hole No. 16.
In other contests, Longest Drive went to Andrew Grundman on Hole No. 5. Andrew Laidlaw of Calgi Construction claimed the Straightest Drive on Hole No. 9 on the challenging Knollwood Country Club.
Pictured above starting top left moving clockwise:
BCA Putting Contestant Finalists: From left, Beth Cheverie, Andrew Danna, Tim Murphy, Richard Maloney, Gaetano Giardino, Frank Inello, Vic Serricchio, Tom Welby, Ken Fuirst, JohnRuggiero and Ernesto Hernandez.
From left, Ken Fuirst of Levitt-Fuirst Associates, Ltd., Jason Schiciano, Bud Hammer, Andrew Grundman and Michael McLaughlin of Levitt-Fuirst Associates, Ltd.
From left, Carlos Ascencao (former business manager of Local 60) with Ross Pepe, BCA and CIC president.
From left, utility contractor Jim McMurray of CAC and Victor Serricchio of Northbrook Contracting Corp.
From left, BCA/CIC’s George Drapeau, LECET’s Beth Cheverie, Landscape contractor Angelo Andrioli, Laborers 235 Dario Boccarossa, Operating Engineers L.U. 235 Sal Santamorena, Joe Schneider and Jim Sasso, and CIC’s John Cooney, Jr.
Amicone Promoted to Principal Of OLA Consulting Engineers
HAWTHORNE, NY—OLA Consulting Engineers recently announced it had promoted Matthew Amicone to principal in charge of the firm’s New York City office.
An electrical engineer, Mr. Amicone’s expertise includes the design of electrical systems for various building types. During his 20-year tenure with OLA, he managed many of the firm’s significant projects for clients such as New York-Presbyterian, ArchCare, City of Hoboken, NYC Department of Construction & Design, and Touro College.
Amicone, a resident of Yonkers, NY, first joined OLA Consulting Engineers as a summer intern and then began full-time in 2002 after graduating from Villanova University.
In 2017, after more than 40 years of engineering projects throughout New York City, OLA opened an office in Manhattan. The firm tasked Mr. Amicone with leading the New York City team and managing the day-to-day operations—including marketing and business development, client relationship management project management, and quality assurance.
OLA Consulting Engineers’ expertise ranges from HVAC, electrical, plumbing and fire protection, with a depth of knowledge in mechanical, electrical, and energy engineering that delivers cost-effective, sustainable solutions.
LeChase Picks Mooney To Expand Brand in NYC Metro
ARMONK, NY—LeChase Construction Services, LLC recently welcomed Megan Mooney, a business development executive with 16 years of experience, as the regional director of business development in its New York Metro office here in Westchester.
In this role, Ms. Mooney will help grow the LeChase brand throughout the metropolitan region by identifying and developing new business opportunities and nurturing relationships both with clients and centers of influence.
“Megan brings a breadth of experience in business development and relationship management that is ideal for identifying new clients and expanding LeChase’s reach throughout the region,” said LeChase Vice President David Campbell.
A University of Delaware alumna, Ms. Mooney began her career in the financial services industry and transitioned to the construction, energy and infrastructure sectors. She has led business development initiatives both locally and nationally, and brings vast experience increasing market position for a diverse range of clientele.
“LeChase enjoys a well-deserved, stellar reputation. I look forward to expanding the company’s brand to untapped segments of the nation’s largest metropolitan area,” Ms. Mooney said.
A Manhattan resident, she is a travel enthusiast and enjoys New York City’s food and art scene.
$18M Available In Water Grants
ALBANY—The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation announced on May 9 the application period was open for the Green Innovation Grant (GIGP) and Engineering Planning Grant (EPG) programs. The funding is made available funding through the launch of Round 12 of the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA).
As part of Round 12, EFC announces the availability of up to $15 million for GIGP and $3 million for EPG. Applications must be submitted through the CFA website no later than Friday, July 29 at 4 p.m.
“These grants will help enable water quality projects in communities of need across our state and help these areas make sewer and stormwater upgrades that will last a lifetime,” EFC President & CEO Maureen A. Coleman said. “EFC encourages low-income and environmentally burdened communities to apply for these funds. Funding through these programs has historically been awarded to disadvantaged communities and EFC is committed to ensuring that continues.”
Green Innovation grants are awarded annually to projects that improve water quality and mitigate the effects of climate change through the implementation of green practices, including green stormwater infrastructure, energy efficiency, water efficiency and environmental innovation.
Engineering Planning Grants help eligible communities afford and start the critical planning process so they can be better prepared to seek financing to help them complete their sewer infrastructure projects. Grants of up to $100,000 are available to develop an engineering report that identifies water quality problems and potential solutions. These grants have helped municipalities across the state complete 350 engineering reports since the program’s inception in 2012.
Careful Pre-Planning of All Hoist Operations is a Must
By COSTAS CYPRUS, ESQ.
Secretary of Labor v. S & R Enterprises, LLC demonstrates the importance of adequately pre-planning all hoisting operations, especially in the realm of steel erection, preferably in writing and with clear instruction to all involved employees to avoid accidents. This matter arose in Savannah, GA in June 2019 involving the hoisting of a grappler (a giant steel claw) that weighed 10,500 pounds, which was intended as a decorative element for a hotel lobby. The element became displaced, causing serious injuries to three workers on site.
S & R Enterprises, LLC (“S&R”) is a steel erection contractor who had been a subcontractor on a renovation project for roughly two years prior to the incident. The project was to re-purpose a decommissioned power plant and transform it into a luxury hotel. S&R was asked by the hotel owner to hang an industrial grappler, a giant steel claw, to the new hotel’s atrium lobby, as a decorative element. This request was not part of S&R’s original scope of work but they agreed to do so. S&R determined it would not be possible to position a crane in the area to perform a conventional lift. Instead, they decided to use an air tugger consisting of a drum and cable. To perform the lift, a padeye (a steel plate with a hole in it used as an attachment point) was welded to the east and west girders. The grappler was supported by these two girders. The plan was to run the wire rope from the padeye of the east girder to the rigging attached to the grappler, up to the padeye on the west girder and down to the air tugger, which would pull the rope to raise the grappler.
Prior to the commencement of the lift, S&R’s vice-president prepared a written, activity hazard analysis (AHA) based upon the assistant superintendent’s drawing of the proposed plan. The AHA identified the job steps, hazards and controls of the operation with numbered instructions. It specifically mentioned how no workers were to be under the suspended load at any point during the lift. During the operation, the padeye on the west girder tore away causing the weight of the grappler and rigging to fall. The weight of the grappler dragged the wire rope against the personnel basket of the aerial lift, damaging the basket and injuring two employees and another employee who was struck by a wire, while supervising the lift. The fall resulted in serious injuries and hospitalization of three workers.
After the incident, OSHA’s compliance officer came to inspect the site. Upon investigation he determined that the assistant superintendent had done no metallurgical testing to ascertain the strength of the girders. The compliance officer believed the measurement could have been taken prior to the lift to get a better calculation of the load of the girders. His opinion resulted in a two-item citation of two statutes. The first statute cited was for failing to adequately determine the lift, thickness, and strength of the steel erection hoisting operation given that “all hoisting operations in steel erection shall be pre-planned to ensure that the requirements” of the applicable standard are met. The second statute cited was for not adequately rigging the hoisted material (the grappler) to prevent displacement. The matter was brought before an ALJ for OSHA’s Review Commission. Here, the facts were not in dispute but rather the interpretation of the steel erection standard’s requirements and definitions.
Whether the cited statutes applied depended first upon whether S&R engaged in “steel erection” when it attempted to raise the grappler to the overhead crane hook. By definition of the subpart of the cited statute, steel erection is the “construction, alteration or repair of steel buildings, bridges and other structures, including the installation of metal decking and all planking used during the process of erection.” Steel erection activities include installation of miscellaneous metals, ornamental iron and similar materials. Therefore, the ALJ determined S&R’s activities fell within this standard.
Although S&R at the time was deemed to be engaged in “steel erection” activity, the Secretary failed to establish S&R was noncompliant with the cited statutes. Even though there was no written requirement to have a pre-plan of the hoisting, in writing, S&R had developed a written activity hazard analysis prior to the lift. The failing of the girder to sustain the weight of the hoisted load was not considered/planned for by S&R. Although the failure to calculate load capacity was a significant omission, it was not addressed by the cited standard which required an employer to preplan the route of the suspended load so that no employee was required to work under it. Here, there were specific instructions in S&R’s AHA to avoid being under the load, but employees acted contrary to this instruction. How the lift was preplanned and how the lift actually transpired were separate issues and the ALJ found that the Secretary failed to establish that S&R violated the applicable standard and thus vacated this citation.
As to the second citation, in terms of failing to prevent displacement of the hoisted material, the ALJ inquired about the definition of “load” in this context and found that the structure that supports the weight being hoisted cannot, by definition, be a part of the load. Therefore, the west girder, which caused the fall was not part of the materials being hoisted. Although S&R failed to accurately assess the load capacity of both east and west girder, that is not detailed in the cited statute for this violation and the “failure of the lift is not enough…to establish S&R violated the standard the Secretary chose to cite.” Evidence was not presented showing S&R rigged the load incorrectly or the equipment it used was faulty and therefore this citation was vacated as well.
About the author: Costas Cyprus is an associate attorney practicing construction law and commercial litigation with Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP, in White Plains, NY. He can be reached at 914-428-2100 and at email@example.com. The articles in this series do not constitute legal advice and are intended for general guidance only.
Key Strategies for Retaining Talent In 2022 and Beyond
As employers and employees adapt to the new normal following the pandemic, firm leaders should continue to prioritize and maintain awareness of talent retention strategies. In order to successfully implement and oversee a successful retention plan, especially for key employees, owners should focus on a number of vital goals. First, owners should remain focused on furthering their company’s strategic plan throughout the process, while keeping employees motivated.
Additionally, customization of benefits for individual employee needs and the continuation of client relationships and knowledge will also be crucial factors in any retention plan. By keeping the foundation built by previous employees and leadership, companies can continue their growth and progress into 2022.
Update Benefits and Meet New Employee Expectations. As was mentioned previously, through the update of benefits and meeting employee expectations, owners can drive employee loyalty and see leadership teams remain consistent for years. Even when the industry returns to normalcy, the needs of employees have changed, and owners must adapt.
While increased salaries, wages and benefits can go a long way in retaining key talent and employees, owners should also aim to diversify their strategies. For example, instituting mentorship, training and education programs —not only for onboarding but also throughout the employee lifecycle—can support retention. More specifically, by developing these kinds of programs, owners can develop relationships and maximize skills in their employees and will also grow and broaden their company’s values and culture.
Furthermore, a mentorship program can assist in retaining talent and also aid in developing employees who understand and implement the company’s culture and work ethic throughout their careers with a particular firm. This can also aid in reducing obstacles or struggles when onboarding new employees, as those already installed in leadership positions are well-versed in training new hires.
A final strategy in terms of benefits is new and creative solutions for bonuses and wages. Owners can, for example, offer a retention bonus following a stated number of years with a firm, thereby promoting loyalty and longevity within the company.
Promote Improved Communication and Workplace Culture. Another key strategy in retaining talent is improving and optimizing the work environment as much as possible. With the increase in recent years of new technologies, combined with the construction industry being slower than other industries to adopt new technology, owners and operators more than ever should prioritize innovations that can help to streamline communication and further develop the company culture.
By instituting clear expectations for how communication should take place, construction companies can both retain talent by creating an efficient and optimized work environment, and also save time and costs.
Moreover, through the creation of a workplace environment in which all employees are confident in their roles, their communication lines, and their responsibilities, a company culture can be made that develops loyal employees who are motivated to stay with their firm and to help drive new projects and hires for the long-term.
Conduct Hiring Process with Talent Retention in Mind. Finally, construction firm leaders should prioritize talent retention from the beginning of the hiring process. In essence, the earlier the process is started, the better. For those conducting a hiring process, the strategy of retaining talent from the beginning has several advantages, and several aspects to consider. First, identify candidates who align with company culture and values and indicate that they are interested in a long-term working relationship with a straightforward growth path. In addition, firm leaders should consider the continuation of remote or hybrid roles for employees who fit the criteria, and either begin or expand the use of training, mentorship and education programs and resources. Furthermore, expanded benefits packages can assist in hiring top talent and retaining talent once onboard.
About the author: Phillip Ross, CPA, CGMA is an Accounting and Audit Partner and Chair of the Construction Industry Group at Anchin, Block & Anchin, LLP. For more construction industry thought leadership and content, log on to www.anchin.com.
Continued Strength, Robust Activity Belie Macro Concerns to Cause Market Uncertainty
By MICHAEL PATON
The macroeconomic environment is becoming increasingly complex for analysts to navigate. On one hand, the economic data still points to growing strength. According to a report by Cushman & Wakefield on the macro economy, consumer spending remains resilient despite deepening inflation; household balance sheets are in excellent shape; excess savings support is stimulating spending for many households; there is solid job growth; wages are growing and corporate profits remain strong. In the property sector, the current snapshot indicates similar momentum: leasing and renting fundamentals are strong in most commercial and residential sectors and improving in others.
On the other hand, there is no shortage of downside risks accumulating in 2022. The war in Ukraine, persistent labor shortages, supply chain issues and COVID-19 outbreaks in China and its associated lockdowns are all dynamics that are amplifying inflationary pressures in the U.S. and abroad. These dynamics have prompted the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to tighten monetary policy aggressively. At the June FOMC meeting, the Fed voted to raise the federal funds rate by 75 basis points (bps), and they signaled that more rate hikes are coming, including additional 75-bps hikes.
The Fed also announced in May that it would move forward with quantitative tightening (i.e., it will begin to reduce its holdings of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities starting on June 1). Long-term interest rates have already moved sharply higher, with the 10-year Treasury yield currently hovering at about 2.9%.
The employment recovery has been strong throughout the nation. However, despite such a strong labor market recovery, demand for labor continues to outstrip supply. Open jobs reached a new record high in March of 11.5 million, with roughly two open jobs for each unemployed person. Such a demand-supply imbalance continues to push wages higher and a wage-price spiral is feared. The good news is that the strong labor market continues to pull workers back, including retirees.
Despite all these challenges, the U.S. economy is expected to power through and continue to expand. According to the Federal Reserve’s latest economic projections released March 16, U.S. real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to grow by 2.8% in 2022—down from their December projection of 4.0%, but still solid, nevertheless. Most private-sector forecasters also put real GDP in a similar range of 2.5% to 3% growth for 2022. Thus, despite the growing downside risks, most baseline scenarios still expect the U.S. economy to continue to expand—and in general, when the economy is growing, so too is demand for most types of commercial and residential real estate space, although this would vary by market.
On the local side, total employment in Westchester County increased by 3.3% over the last 12 months ending the first quarter of 2022 at about 461,000 adding 14,500 new jobs. Likewise, quarter-over-quarter total employment grew by 1.9%, with the addition of 8,550 jobs since year-end 2021. The unemployment rate is nearing a 15-year low, falling 270 basis points (bps) since the first quarter of 2021 to 3.5%. Compared with the national average unemployment rate of 3.6%, Westchester County’s overall unemployment rate was 10 bps lower at the end of the first three months of 2022.
In property metrics, Westchester County started the year 2022 with 13,000 square feet of positive net absorption, primarily attributed to the removal of 1111 and 1129 Westchester Ave. in White Plains from available inventory. It was announced by New York Presbyterian Hospital that in the first quarter that these buildings would be converted into outpatient care facilities. According to JLL research, prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, macroeconomic factors were responsible for office buildings being redeveloped for mixed and residential use. As the pandemic has worn on, these factors have only been amplified and medical facilities have progressed into one of the primary drivers of demand. The removal of these properties, as said earlier, in conjunction with several tenant move-ins during the first quarter resulted in total vacancy falling a full percentage point from 22.8% at the conclusion of 2021.
The continued repositioning of office buildings, along with the lack of new construction, has emboldened landlords of Class A assets to raise asking rents. A good example of this trend occurred in the first quarter at White Plains Plaza. Argent Ventures acquired the two-building portfolio in January for $105 million and increased asking rents $2.00-per-square-foot signaling confidence in the White Plains Central Business District submarket. Upward pressure on Class-A rents (the most expensive) will continue, as tenants remain fixated on a flight to quality approach when determining future occupancy requirements.
The economic outlook is uncertain, particularly with international events in Europe and China affecting monetary and fiscal policy in unpredictable ways. Locally, although healthcare-leasing velocity was subdued in the first quarter, some economists expect that the expansion of the medical sector will continue to drive activity throughout 2022. Notably, Regeneron received preliminary approval of financial incentives from the Westchester IDA toward its $1.4-billion expansion of its Tarrytown headquarters.
About the author: Michael J. Paton is a portfolio manager at Tocqueville Asset Management L.P. He joined Tocqueville in 2004. He manages balanced portfolios and is a member of the fixed-income team. He can be reached at (212) 698-0800 or by email at MPaton@tocqueville.com.
Power Line Constructors, A. Servidone B. Anthony, Grace and Mohegan Associates Win NYS DOT Jobs
ALBANY—The New York State Department of Transportation reported recently the selection of four apparent low bidders for work in the Hudson Valley/New York City regions.
A. Servidone B. Anthony JV of Castleton, NY was the lowest of three bidders at $30,868,999.08 for cloverleaf interchange reconstruction and ADA improvements, NYS Route 17, Exit 105 and NYS Route 42, BIN 1013750, in the Town of Thompson and Village of Monticello in Sullivan County
Power Line Constructors Inc. of Clinton, NY was the lower of two bids at $574,113.00 for signal optimization, wireless vehicle detection system, NY Routes 9, 35 and 120 in the towns of Fishkill, Harrison, Poughkeepsie and Yorktown in Dutchess and Westchester counties.
Grace Industries, LLC of Melville, NY was the lowest of four bidders at $4,457,433.00 for mill and fill with other improvements to NY Routes 100, 120, 127 and 133 in the Village and Town of Harrison, Town of New Castle and City of White Plains in Westchester.
Mohegan Associates Inc. of Carmel, NY was the sole bidder at $1,980,637.00 for sign requirements contract downstate: Regions 8, 10 and 11 in the Bronx, Columbia, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens and Richmond counties.
Yonkers Contracting Lands Thruway Project
ALBANY—The New York State Thruway Authority reported that Yonkers Contracting Company Inc. of Yonkers, NY was the lower of two bids at $44,611,789.00 for Contract TANY 22-21 / D214875 – I-287/Route 17S Exit 15, MP 29.40 to north of Suffern N MP 38.70: 1R, two-course mill and inlay, drainage and safety improvements, and miscellaneous work in Rockland and Orange counties in accordance with the plans and specifications.
Clean Harbors to Manage Westchester DPW Hazardous Materials Facility
WHITE PLAINS—The Westchester County Department of Public Works announced recently that Clean Harbors Environmental Services of Norwell, MA was the lowest of three bidders at $2,617,400.00 for operation and maintenance of Household Hazardous Materials Recovery Facility (H-MRF), Valhalla, NY.
Statement from Construction Industry Council Executive Director John Cooney, Jr., in Response to Gov. Kathy Hochul State of the State
TARRYTOWN, NY – “New York Gov. Kathy Hochul demonstrated a keen understanding of the needs in our state today, which she outlined in her 2022 State-of-the-State presentation today,” said John Cooney, Jr., Executive Director of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. “We applaud her fervent commitment to accelerate infrastructure improvements and to expand transportation mobility to make the state more business friendly and to make the Empire State the nexus of commerce as a place where opportunities are made available to more New Yorkers.”
Among the projects identified in the plan she noted on Jan. 5 include the accelerate conversion of Route 17 into I-86 in Orange
and Sullivan counties. She also pointed to other strategic investments New York State has made in the Mid-Hudson Valley which have resulted in the expansion of Woodbury Common and the construction of Legoland and the Resorts World Catskills Casino.
“Over the past several years, projects have been completed by NYSDOT to upgrade sections of Route 17, including reconstruction of the interchange at Exit 131, where Route 17 meets Interstate 87 and Route 32 (Woodbury Common), and reconstruction of Exits 122 and 125 (Legoland) to meet interstate standards. To facilitate future economic competitiveness and alleviate congestion within the region, the State will begin an environmental review to assess the conversion of the full Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan counties to Interstate 86,” the report said.
“For generations, New York has stood as a beacon of hope and prosperity for the nation and people throughout the world. Her plan promises to reinforce and amplify that role,” Mr. Cooney added. “We applaud Gov. Hochul for her panoramic vision and confidence to lead our state past today’s pandemic challenges and to ensure the continued economic growth and infrastructure resiliency.”
Mr. Cooney concluded, “The CIC looks forward to learning more about her plans over the coming months and stand ready to support her in her commitment to infrastructure as a powerful public resource to connect people to jobs and to connect all New Yorkers for a more prosperous and promising future.”
Louis G. Nappi Construction Labor-Management Scholarship Fund Awards $85,000 to 17 College Students in Hudson Valley Region
By GEORGE DRAPEAU III
TARRYTOWN – Seventeen Hudson Valley college students began the 2021-22 academic year with a $5,000 grant from the Louis G. Nappi Construction Labor-Management Scholarship Fund for undergraduate studies in mathematics, the sciences, engineering and technology.
The scholarship, a major construction industry financial-aid program, was established in 2009 by Louis G. Nappi (1920-2014), a former Chairman (now Emeritus) of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. It was his vision that the hard sciences of mathematics and engineering were keys to re-establishing the U.S. as a world leader in transportation and infrastructure construction.
Comprising representatives from both labor and management, the Louis G. Nappi Scholarship Committee carefully selects candidates who exemplify the high scholastic and personal standards needed to advance in the construction and building industries.
“This scholarship is a living testimony to Louis Nappi,” said Ross J. Pepe, President of the Construction Industry Council, of which Nappi was chairman from 1986 to 1991. “Lou’s commitment to engineering and science lives on today in these scholarships and through these students.”
Mr. Pepe added, “Lou believed that giving students the financial means to pursue higher education and advanced degrees would help our nation’s construction and building industries regain global competitiveness and preeminence.”
Scholarship Committee Chairman William Mascetta, President of Transit Construction Corp. of Yonkers, N.Y., congratulated the winners and reminded them of the value of learning practical skills and avoiding “digital distraction.”
“In this high-tech age, with unlimited access to information, it’s tempting to rely on technology very heavily,” Mr. Mascetta said. “However, remember that we build things and our world of infrastructure is three-dimensional. When you get caught up in digital distraction, it’s like going through life with blinders on. You, as future scientists and executives, must take off the blinders and open yourselves to the full periphery and reality of what we do.”
Mr. Mascetta thanked the members of the Scholarship Committee representing labor and management, and applauded the students’ parents for their support. He acknowledged Lou Nappi’s family for its ongoing commitment, and cited appreciation to Moujalli Hourani, D.Sc., a professor of Engineering at Manhattan College in Riverdale, N.Y., for his guidance of the students and the scholarship program.
Marking its 12th anniversary, the Louis G. Nappi Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $785,000 in 187 grants to some 78 students attending nearly 50 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. Candidates mostly reside in the seven-county region of the lower Hudson Valley—Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster, Orange and Rockland—and are related to employees of CIC-member companies or affiliated unions. The participating labor unions are Laborers International Union of N.A. Local 60, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 137, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 456.
Julia Maria Apostolou, 19, of Yorktown Heights, NY, is a sophomore studying civil engineering at the University of South Carolina. She is the daughter of James Apostolou who is a member of Teamsters & Chauffeurs L.U. 456 of Elmsford, NY. Julia Maria is also a recipient of a 2020 Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant.
Samantha Argenio, 21, of Carolina Beach, NC, is a senior studying business administration with a concentration in finance at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She is the granddaughter of a principal at Argenio Bros., a member company of the Contractors Association of Rockland County. Samantha is also a recipient of a 2020 Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant.
Sebastian Arreola, 20, of Danbury, CT, is a junior studying computer engineering at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, CT. He is the grandson of Mario Anaya of Heavy Construction Laborers L.U. 60. Sebastian is also the recipient of three Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grants from 2018 to 2020.
Taylor Bruck, 19, of New Paltz, NY, is a sophomore studying computer science at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. She is the daughter of Thomas Bruck, a member of Operating Engineers L.U. 137. Taylor is also a recipient of a 2020 Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant.
Robert Caulfield, 19, of Blauvelt, NY, is a sophomore studying civil engineering at Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY. He is the son of Timothy Caulfield of Yonkers Contracting Co., Inc., a CIC-member company. Robert is also a recipient of a 2020 Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant.
Ryan Danyluk, 21, of New Windsor, N.Y., is a senior studying civil engineering at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA. He is the son of Peter Danyluk of Walsh Construction/Grace Industries, a CIC-member company. Ryan has now been a recipient of four Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant awards (2018-2021). Nice going, Ryan!
Massimo Fante, 19, of Sleepy Hollow, NY, is a sophomore studying biological sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He is the son of Mark Fante of Darante Construction Ltd., a CIC-member company. Massimo is also a recipient of a 2020 Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant.
Jamie Lynn Fortunato, 20, of Fairfield, CT, is a junior studying biology and pre-health at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is the granddaughter of Anthony Guido, a member of Operating Engineers L.U. 137. Jamie Lynn is also a recipient of a 2020 Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant.
Daisy Godoy, 22, of Lagrangeville, NY, is a senior majoring in architectural technology at New York Institute of Technology. She is the daughter of Jesus Godoy, a member of Heavy Construction Laborers L.U. 60. Daisy is also a recipient of a 2020 Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant.
Mark Griffin, 19, of Yonkers, NY, is a sophomore majoring in aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Buffalo. He is the son of Lisa Griffin and nephew of Vincent Romagnoli of Yonkers Contracting Company, Inc., a CIC-member company.
Alyssa Mangone, 21, of Hartsdale, NY, is a senior studying business management at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. She is the granddaughter of George Meinel and niece of James Meinel who are members of Operating Engineers L.U. 137 of Briarcliff, NY. Alyssa now has been the recipient of four Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grants (2018-2021).
Sophia Mangone, 18, of Hartsdale, NY, is a freshman at SUNY Oneonta. She is the granddaughter of George Meinel and niece to James Meinel who are members of Operating Engineers L.U. 137 of Briarcliff, NY.
Cooper Mistishin, 19, of Lake Areal, PA, is a sophomore studying software engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology. He is the son of Michael Mistishin, an employee of Peckham Industries, a CIC-member company.
Daniella Mulvey, 21, of Valhalla, NY, is a senior studying architecture at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y. She is the daughter of Dennis Mulvey, an employee of Stratis Contracting Corp., a CIC-member company. Daniella is also the recipient of a Louis G. Nappi Scholarship grant in 2020.
Nicholas Mulvey, 18, of Valhalla, NY, is a freshman studying civil engineering at Bucknell University in Bucknell, PA. He is the son of Dennis Mulvey, an employee of Stratis Contracting Corp., a CIC-member company.
William Roberts, 18, of Montrose, NY, is a freshman studying computer engineering at George Washington University. He is the son of a member of Teamsters & Chauffeurs L.U. 456 of Elmsford, NY.
Ava Zorilo, 19, of Wappingers Falls, NY, is a sophomore studying Health Science at Pace University in Westchester. Ava is the daughter of a member of Operating Engineers L.U. 137 of Briarcliff, NY.
For information on the program, contact Karen Zedda at (914) 631-6070 or Karen@cicnys.org.