News

NYS to Receive $100B From COVID Relief Plan

By JOHN JORDAN – March 24, 2021

NEW YORK — All corners of New York State hailed the passage of the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan, which is now in place to help state and local governments, transit agencies, businesses and other enterprises cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to its passage on March 11, government leaders warned of widespread cutbacks in programs, projects and services. Now, with the infusion of billions of dollars being pumped back into New York State and municipal budgets—along with billions more to be spread across the public and private sectors—public works and private business activity will move forward.

No doubt the construction industry will be required to adjust to the forces in a post-COVID environment, but the latest COVID relief measure will fill budget shortfalls and prevent cutbacks that would have put tens of thousands out of work.

Speaking at his office in New York City, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer announced on March 7 that the American Rescue Plan would have an impact on New York State that approaches $100 billion. As part of the deal, more than $23.8 billion flows directly to New York State government(s) on top of increased education funding, transit funding and highways, vaccine distribution, COVID health funding, emergency rental and housing assistance.

With warmer weather arriving, construction work on the bridge replacement project at Ravensdale Road over the Saw Mill River Parkway in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester is picking up. The $18-million project, a steel-beam bridge with cantilevered pile-supported abutments, replaces a dualspan with a single 203’ span. Completion of the project, performed by ECCO III Enterprises, Inc., of Yonkers, is scheduled for June 2021.

“Back in November, the American people and New Yorkers sent a crystal-clear message to the previous administration: ‘Deliver the robust COVID relief this country needs or get out of the way,’” Sen Schumer said. “The deal we reached with the help of a new president, and a new democratic Senate marks real relief to the tune of $100 billion for workers, families, healthcare and small businesses, including our hard-hit industries like restaurants —the things we need to support in order to weather this crisis and then work to recover.”

He added, “This marks the second biggest stimulus bill in the nation’s history—second to the CARES Act—and it comes just in time, because Americans and New Yorkers still need real help to get through this.” The details and the tentative estimated impact on New York include:

State and Local Fiscal Relief

$23.8 billion for New York—Total amount of funding provided to New York State through the state and local fiscal relief fund, to keep first responders, frontline health workers, and other providers of vital services safely on the job as states and local governments roll out vaccines and fight to rebuild Main Street economies. Funding can be used for assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits, aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality, investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, and to provide premium pay to frontline workers. Local governments of every size, including all counties, cities, towns, and villages, receive dedicated federal aid awards. A new $10-billion capital projects program will also support state broadband deployment efforts. Funds are allocated in New York as follows:

  1.  $12.569 billion for New York State government;
  2.  $6.141 billion for New York City;
  3.  $3.907 billion for New York’s counties;
  4.  $825 million for New York’s small cities, towns, and villages;
  5.  $358 million for a New York State Broadband Investment Program.

Additional Aid to New York

  • $2.7 billion: Medicaid FMAP increase ($2.1 billion already delivered from Sen. Schumer, pushing President Biden to extend through the end of the calendar year, in addition to approximately $600 million from a targeted enhanced FMAP for home and community-based services from this legislation).
  •  $7+ billion: New York Area Transit ($6.5 billion to MTA) The New York State Department of Transportation will receive $12 million directly to support rural transit systems. The remainder will support county bus services, and upstate transit agencies.
  •  $418 million: for New York’s hard-hit airports to continue operating safely during the pandemic. Port Authority Airports will receive: $218 million for JFK Airport, $107 million for LaGuardia Airport, $4 million for New York Stewart International Airport, and $164 million for Newark Liberty Airport. This includes $60 million in relief at the four airports for large and small concessionaire businesses that have been hard hit by the pandemic and unable to pay minimum guarantees to airports.
  •  $1.7 billion: Relief for Amtrak to help maintain operations and other expenditures during the pandemic, especially in New York.
  •  $15 billion: The CARES Act Airline Payroll Support Program which will save thousands of New York airline and airline contractor jobs by keeping workers on payroll without furloughs or reducing pay rates and benefits until March 31, 2021, New York will receive a sizable share of these funds.

Other Business-Related Funding

  •  $786 million: Earned Income Tax Credit payment to New York families;
  •  More than $1 billion in additional Emergency Rental Assistance and assistance for preventing homelessness;
  •  $575 million in mortgage and utility assistance for homeowners;
  •  An estimated $21.7 billion for NY in Enhanced Unemployment Insurance Benefits;
  •  More Than $22 billion in Direct Payments for NY: The American Rescue Plan includes an additional round of Economic Impact Payments of $1,400 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $2,800 for couples making up to $150,000 per year. Eligible families will also receive an additional $1,400 payment per child and adult dependent, amounting to $5,600 for an average family of four. Nearly 9 million New York households will receive another round of direct payments, helping them to cover essential expenses like food, rent or mortgages, and medical bills during this crisis;
  •  Roughly $4 billion to support more vaccines, testing and healthcare in New York;
  •  $28.6 billion for restaurants: A new restaurant relief fund, modeled on the widely supported, bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act, which will provide flexible grants through the Small Business Administration (SBA) as a lifeline for New York’s restaurant industry, one of the hardest hit by the economic effects of the COVID pandemic. Food service or drinking establishments, including caterers, brewpubs, taprooms, and tasting rooms, that are not part of an affiliated group with more than 20 locations will be eligible. To provide comprehensive support to local restaurants, grants from the fund could be used alongside first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, and the Employee Retention Tax Credit. The new restaurants relief fund will be designed to provide flexible grants of up to $10 million per restaurant group, $5 million per individual restaurant, that can be used to cover payroll, mortgages or rent, setup for outdoor seating, PPE, paid leave, food and other supplies, or debt and other expenses. Grants can be spent on eligible expenses from 2/15/20 through 12/31/21 and the SBA Administrator may extend the period through two years from enactment if conditions warrant. $5 billion of the $25 billion total is reserved for restaurants with less than $500,000 in gross receipts in 2019 for the first 60 days of the program. During the initial 21-day period, the administrator will prioritize awarding grants to eligible entities that are owned or controlled by women or Veterans or are socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.
  • $1.25 billion and a Key Fix for Save Our Stages: The bill provides an additional $1.25 billion for hard-hit, independent-living venues, performing arts organizations, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions. The bill also includes a critical fix that allows venues to access a PPP loan and a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, deducting the PPP loan amount from the grant amount. Including access to both programs will provide a much-needed source of additional capital as these struggling businesses and nonprofits try to stay afloat during the crisis.
  • $15 billion for SBA-targeted EIDL Grants: The funding will provide hard-hit, underserved small businesses with increased flexible grant relief. These grants will be particularly helpful for very small businesses and sole proprietors, which include over 90% of minority-owned businesses that have been disproportionately devastated by this crisis.
  • Expanded PPP Eligibility for Nonprofits: This bill makes additional 501c nonprofits eligible for PPP. It also makes local offices of larger nonprofits eligible for PPP assistance as long as those locations are not larger than 500 employees for first PPP loans or 300 employees for second PPP loans, expanding access to vital relief for nonprofit organizations that are critical to local services and the economy.
  • Community Navigator Program for Underserved Businesses: $100 million is included to fund community organizations and community financial institutions with a focus on and experience working in minority, immigrant, and rural communities to serve as community navigators to help connect small business owners in these communities to critical resources, including small business loans, business licenses, and federal, state, and local business assistance programs.
  • $10 billion for Small Business Opportunity Fund: This funding available through the Treasury Department is modeled on the State Small Business Credit Initiative and will support state and local capital and technical assistance initiatives for small businesses responding to and recovering from the pandemic, which will be particularly beneficial to minority-owned and other underserved small businesses.
  • $3 billion for Economic Development Grants, Including for Tourism and Travel: $3 billion is included for the Economic Development Administration to provide flexible grants for rebuilding the local economies of communities that have experienced significant job loss from COVID-19. A $750 million set-aside is included for assistance to states and communities that have suffered from job and GDP loss in the tourism, travel, and outdoor recreation sectors.
  • Extended Employee Retention Tax Credit: The bill extends through the end of 2021 the refundable payroll tax credit designed to help employers keep more of their valued workers on payroll during this economic crisis. This tax credit is available to struggling New York companies and nonprofits of all sizes, and is equal to 70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter.

New York City and county governments in the Hudson Valley region will benefit greatly from the latest COVID-relief package. For more than a year since the pandemic first emerged, county governments have experienced declining local revenues in the form of sales tax, hotel-occupancy taxes, mortgage-recording taxes and loss of gaming revenues. Besides the loss of other local fees, counties faced higher spending necessary to respond to the health emergency, the loss of state reimbursements, and the potential of significant losses for small businesses that threaten jobs and the property tax base over the short to midterm.

The American Rescue Plan includes $3.8 billion for 57 counties ($2.2 billion) of New York State, and the five boroughs (counties) of New York City ($1.6 billion) based on population. New York City will receive another $4 billion through CDBG formula funding. This funding can be used to respond to the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus as well as address the economic devastation that came with it, including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality. The funding may also be used to help governments provide services and make investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

“This historic legislation supports the local heroes who have been fighting this pandemic on the front lines and also makes key investments in the future prosperity of our communities,” said New York State Association of Counties President Jack Marren, chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors.

NYSCEA President and Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro added, “This is a victory for all of the counties in the State of New York and the residents we serve. In a time when so much of our politics is bitterly divided, county leaders from both ends of the political spectrum advocated for this package because it will help them help their communities recover from this pandemic.”

The following is a breakdown of county funding from the plan in the CIC/BCA market:

Dutchess County…………………………………….. $57,507,739

Orange County……………………………………….. $75,240,226

Putnam County………………………………………. $19,217,590

Rockland County……………………………………. $63,678,594

Sullivan County………………………………………. $14,743,910

Westchester County……………………………… $189,108,356

New York City…………………………………… $5,629,511,091 

Note: New York City receives funding based on population as well as the CDBG formula funding.

Source: New York State Association of Counties

Contractors Applaud Westchester IDA For Adopting New ‘Local Hire’ Policy

Ruling to Boost Jobs for Local Trades, Bolster Jobsite Safety

By JOHN JORDAN – March 24, 2021

NEW YORK — A leading business trade organization in the Hudson Valley is hailing the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency for approving a new labor policy that will require incentivized project developers to hire 85% of their construction workers from the local area. The policy also calls for measures to increase jobsite safety, including drug screening and federal training.

“We applaud the Westchester IDA for the new policy that was the result of extensive negotiations among a number of stakeholders, including county government, the IDA and local labor leaders,” said John Cooney, Jr., executive director of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. “If development projects receive county subsidies in the form of incentive financing through the IDA, it should be the local taxpayers who also benefit from the jobs these building projects create.”

The Westchester County Industrial Development Agency’s Board of Directors is expected to discuss at its April meeting an opt-out clause for developers if they negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the building trades.

Mr. Cooney said companies employing local building tradespeople have been shut out of the bidding process from significant portions of new development projects. “Developers that benefitted from IDA financial incentives could skirt more stringent labor policies and safety practices that contractors must meet when bidding on county public works projects.”

According to the IDA policy, companies benefitting from its incentive programs “should employ local laborers, mechanics, craft persons, journey workers, equipment operators, truck drivers and apprentices, including those who have returned from military service, during the construction phase of projects.”

“Construction jobs are vital to the overall employment opportunities available to county residents,” Mr. Cooney added.

Westchester County Director of Operations Joan McDonald, who also serves as the chairperson of the Westchester County IDA, said the new rules reflect the county’s stated intention that the local workforce hired for IDA-supported projects be organized and properly trained, and that the new policies adopted include pre-apprenticeship programs and stronger safety protocols to protect both workers and the general public.

As part of the enhanced safety procedures, all workers on jobsites would be required to complete Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training. Subcontractors on project work must also be enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program, and all tradespeople must pass a drug screening prior to working on an IDA-supported building project.

“The county is seeking to strike a balance that can work for labor and the development community,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.  “We believe these new policies are measured and practical, and will help our working men and women and still ensure that our IDA benefits assist the projects that add growth to our county’s economy.”

The Westchester County IDA’s Board of Directors approved the local labor policy requirements Feb. 25 and the measures go into effect 60 days after passage, on April 26. The new policy was the result of extensive negotiations between county government, the IDA, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam, County, Inc.

Key components of the proposed new policy include:

  • Applicants receiving IDA benefits shall utilize at least 85% local labor (Bronx, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester) for their approved projects; 35% of which must be Westchester County residents.
  • All applicants for financing from the IDA must provide the names, contact information, certificate of authorization to do business in New York State and copies of certificates of New York Workers. Compensation Insurance, State of New York Disability Insurance and General Liability Insurance of all contractors working on the project.
  • All applicants are required to provide to the IDA proof of current OSHA 10 training certification (completed within the last five years and renewed every five years) for all construction workers on the project, as well as proof of a four-hour scaffold course for all construction workers utilizing a scaffold on an IDA project site and proof that all construction workers on the IDA project site passed a drug screening test prior to their hiring.
  • For all approved projects, the designated construction manager for the project shall provide the IDA project monitor with a certified monthly payroll of all construction workers working on the IDA project, which will include names, days/hours worked and rate of pay and worker classification and annually certify that the IDA project is “in material compliance with state laws related to environmental quality, worker safety and protection, and wages and hours.”
  • In order to ensure a skilled workforce, the IDA will require all IDA project subcontractors (expressly excepting the prime or general contractor) must be enrolled in a New York State-certified apprenticeship program. (“Certified Contractor.”) The county in its draft documents concerning the labor policy indicated that the IDA may dedicate $50,000 to fund pre-apprenticeship programs operating in the county that provide disadvantaged individuals training and exposure to various trades. The IDA will set aside 10% of each agency fee it receives for such pre-apprenticeship programs.

Richard McSpedon, a member of the IDA Board and vice president of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Policy, proposed that developers be given an “opt-out” to the new labor policy if they negotiate and finalize a Project Labor Agreement with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam, County, Inc. Chairperson McDonald said the opt-out proposal would be discussed at the IDA’s meeting in April.

“I think this is a great policy. I tip my hat to the Board,” Mr. McSpedon said. In proposing the opt-out provision requiring the Project Labor Agreement with the building trades, Mr. McSpedon noted that it could provide some developers relief from the new regulations and also “foster an honest dialogue between the developers and the building trades where they (developers) would see the sincerity of the trades being competitive in this market, especially when it relates to residential projects.”

Edward Doyle, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam, County, Inc., characterized the new labor policy as “a very good start.”

Potential exemptions in the new labor policy include:

  •  Warranty issues related to installation of specialized equipment whereby the manufacturer requires installation by only approved installers;
  •  Specialized construction is required and no local contractors or construction workers have the required skills, certifications or training to perform the work;
  •  No labor is available for the project.
  •  The contractor requires the use of key or core persons such as supervisors, foremen, or construction workers having special skills that are not available in the “local labor” market.
  •  Cost Differentials: For projects whose project cost exceeds $15 million, significant cost differential in bid prices whereby the use of local labor and materials increase the subcontract or contract of a particular trade or work scope by at least 20%. The cost threshold for projects under $15 million, the cost differential threshold would be 10%.

In both instances, the IDA proposal states, “Every reasonable effort should be made by the applicant and or the applicant’s contractor to get below the (20% or 10%) cost differential including, but not limited to, communicating and meeting with local construction trade organizations, such as the Westchester-Putnam Building and Construction Trades Council and other local Contractor Associations.”

IDA Chairman McDonald said the new labor policy was crafted similarly to regulations imposed by other neighboring IDAs, including the Orange County IDA.

Energy Projects Surge in Hudson Valley, Topping $1 Billion in Work for Trades

By JOHN JORDAN – March 24, 2021

The Mid-Hudson Valley region could benefit from more than $1 billion in energy-related projects over the coming year. In Orange County, alone, two projects—an upgrade of an existing energy plant, and another involving the upgrade of existing transmission lines between Rock Tavern and Sugar Loaf—have an estimated value of $600 million in construction. A separate transmission line project, which will run from Rensselaer County to Dutchess County, is valued at more than $500 million and broke ground earlier this month.

In recent developments, the New York State Public Service Commission this month deemed complete the Danskammer Energy’s Article 10 application before the State’s Siting Board, which was filed in December 2019.

Business leaders and officials with Danskammer Energy now await a ruling from the PSC so that the project can proceed. The $500-million Danskammer Energy project in Newburgh would convert the aging plant into a 535-megawatt energy facility.

A $530-million project, called New York Energy Solution, broke ground in early March. The project, being undertaken by New York Transco, will upgrade energy transmission from Rensselaer County to Dutchess County with a new 345-kilovolt transmission line across 54.5 miles.

In view of the project’s Article 10 application acceptance by the PSC, Michelle Hook, vice president of public affairs with Danskammer Energy, LLC, said “We at Danskammer Energy look forward to the Siting Board’s review of our application, and engaging with the community and stakeholders through the public comment phase of our review. Our upgrade project has much to offer New York including cleaner air and lower energy prices. Installing this new technology also opens the door for green hydrogen as a future source of power for the Hudson Valley. We want very much to be a part of New York’s clean energy future and this project would allow us to do just that.”

It appears the state is slowly moving toward a ruling on the Danskammer project. The New York State Board on Electric Generating Siting and the Environment has scheduled two virtual public hearings on Danskammer’s pending Article 10 application on March 31 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Earlier this year, the Danskammer project received a major endorsement from organized labor. In a letter to PSC Chairman John B. Rhodes, New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, “The New York State AFL-CIO believes that the repowering of Danskammer is critical to the future reliability of our energy infrastructure, and in turn essential to our members’ short- and long-term ability to build, serve and fuel the state’s economy.”

Mr. Cilento noted that Danskammer signed a Project Labor Agreement for the construction of the repowered facility, and it has agreed to union neutrality for the operations of the project. He estimates that the project will generate 450 construction jobs and additional permanent jobs upon completion and operation of the facility.

Meanwhile, a $530-million project called New York Energy Solution broke ground in early March. The project, being undertaken by New York Transco, will upgrade energy transmission from Rensselaer County to Dutchess County with a new 345-kilovolt transmission line across 54.5 miles. The first phase of the project, estimated to cost approximately $5 million, will involve construction at the Churchtown Switching Station in Claverack, Columbia County and includes the installation of a temporary bypass electric line and rebuilding of the existing Churchtown Switching Station. Phase II work, which comprises all other aspects of the project, was recently filed for regulatory review and could begin construction later this spring.

New York Transco is owned by affiliates of National Grid, Con Edison, AVANGRID and CH Energy Group.

The New York Energy Solution transmission project will help alleviate electricity bottlenecks that currently exist and allow for greater use of clean energy produced upstate, while also improving grid resiliency and storm hardening. It will upgrade and replace existing 80-year-old structures with about 230 fewer structures that are more modern. The project will be in existing electric transmission corridors or on adjacent utility-owned land in the Town of Schodack in Rensselaer County; the towns of Stuyvesant, Stockport, Ghent, Claverack, Livingston, Gallatin, and Clermont in Columbia County; and the towns of Milan, Clinton, and Pleasant Valley in Dutchess County. The project is anticipated to be in-service by the end of 2023.

The New York State Public Service Commission approved a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the project at its Feb. 11, 2021 meeting.

“The development of a clean, reliable transmission system for New York is key to combatting climate change and achieving our nation-leading clean energy goals,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “This project is an integral part of a new energy superhighway that’s being built to move electricity across the state more efficiently—while also creating new jobs and opportunities for New Yorkers that will help to reinvigorate our local and statewide economies.”

New York Transco President Victor Mullin said, “We greatly appreciate all the time, effort and coordination with the local communities to get this project to this major milestone.”

Transco officials said it has a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to use skilled union workers to replace and upgrade existing transmission infrastructure in portions of Rensselaer, Columbia, and Dutchess counties. Paul Haering, vice president of capital investment for New York Transco, told CONSTRUCTION NEWS that while the project has not inked a Project Labor Agreement with the local building trades, “and the intent to the extent possible to use building trades and union labor on the project.”

When completed, the project will help relieve transmission system congestion and facilitate a more efficient and reliable flow of renewable energy from upstate resources to customers.

Mr. Haering said the firm has secured Article 7 approval for the entire project. New York Transco is awaiting the approval of the Environmental Construction and Management Plan for the second phase of the project. The firm applied for the ECMP approval on Feb. 19, 2021 with the New York State Public Service Commission and the company is hopeful it can secure the approval of that plan in April 2021, which would allow for the construction of the second phase in May of this year.

He explained that since the work will be performed inside an existing energy corridor, the project will be performed in phases.

$100-Million Upgrades in Orange County

New York Transco is also in the approval process on The Rock Tavern to Sugarloaf Upgrade project. The 12-mile electric transmission upgrade will strengthen the grid between the Rock Tavern and Sugarloaf substations by replacing an aging former Central Hudson overhead 115kV (115,000 volts) line on lattice structures with a new 115kV line on monopole structures in an existing transmission corridor.

Transco’s Haering estimates the Rock Tavern to Sugar Loaf project at approximately $100 million. The permitting and survey process is expected to be complete by 2022 with construction to commence next year and be in service by 2023, according to the project’s website.

Keep New York State Moving Forward By Investing in Local Roads and Bridges

By JOE WISINSKI – March 24, 2021

As our leaders in Albany craft this year’s budget, it’s important that the final agreement keeps New York moving forward—literally. The New York State County Highway Superintendents Association is calling on our leaders in Albany to deliver fair funding for local roads, bridges and culverts.

Since the start of the pandemic, elected officials in every community of the state have emphasized the importance of keeping New Yorkers safe. We agree with their calls which is why we’re advocating for fair funding for transportation infrastructure. Every day millions of residents—nurses, teachers, first responders, and families—drive in cars or buses to get to their destinations. In total, there are more than 12 million licensed drivers and 11 million registered vehicles in New York, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Unfortunately many New Yorkers are at risk due to the unsafe conditions of aging roads and bridges. According to a 2020 report from TRIP, a private nonprofit organization that researches transportation issues, 25% of New York’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor condition and another 22% are in mediocre 

condition. Additionally, 10% of locally and state-maintained bridges were rated structurally deficient. That’s simply unsafe and unacceptable.

Our elected leaders can help keep New York’s motorists safe by investing in our transportation infrastructure through existing state programs. With billions in new federal aid on the way, we’re calling for a $588-million investment in the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), $100 million for the Extreme Winter Recovery Program, $200 million each for PAVE-NY and BRIDGE-NY, as well as the restoration of $120.6 million which was cut from municipalities’ transportation funding last year.

Improving our aging roads and bridges isn’t just a safe investment—it’s a smart one. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 1.6 million New Yorkers are unemployed. Investing in transportation infrastructure will help get people back to work. Each $150-million increase in funding for local roads, bridges and culverts creates up to 4,200 highway construction-related jobs. The 2020 TRIP report also found that New York’s deficient roads cost drivers $7 billion in additional vehicle operating costs each year. With fair funding for local roads and bridges, drivers across the state could save up to $573 on average. Creating jobs and saving motorists money is a win-win scenario.

Unlike many of the issues that dominate debates in Albany, fair funding for transportation infrastructure is not a partisan issue. People of every political stripe rely on local roads and bridges every day. Investing in local roads bridges is essential to keeping motorists safe and getting our economy back on track. We look forward to working with our leaders in Albany to secure this investment and keep New York moving forward.

About the author: Joe Wisinski is president of the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association.

NYS 2021-2022 Budget

Transportation, MTA, Enviro Bond Act on List

By JOHN JORDAN – March 24, 2021

ALBANY—As budget negotiations continue in the state capital, it appears that state legislative leaders believe transportation and infrastructure spending will be critical in the state’s battle to revive its economy from the ill effects of COVID-19.

The New York State Assembly Majority and the New York State Senate Majority each released key components of their proposed budgets for State FY2021-2022. The funding targets for roads and bridges, mass transit and water infrastructure are noteworthy even though the state is still dealing with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The State Senate is calling again for a $3-billion voter referendum in November, now relabeled the “Clean Water, Green Jobs, Green New York Environmental Bond Act.”

On March 13, the Assembly reported its budget proposal calls for $11.3 billion in transportation operating and infrastructure spending in the next budget.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Transportation Chair William B. Magnarelli, and Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Chair Amy Paulin announced that the Assembly spending plan for the state’s transportation network includes a $504-million increase in funding for the Department of Transportation’s two-year capital plan and restores $137 million in operating aid for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“Every day, millions of New Yorkers rely on public transportation and quality roads and bridges to live their everyday lives,” said Speaker Heastie. “The transportation funding included in the Assembly budget makes critical investments in our economy and provides necessary funding for the MTA and other transportation networks throughout the state that have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as infrastructure funding to improve aging roads and bridges.”

The Assembly budget provides funding to maintain the state’s roads, bridges and highways, while making a critical investment in our economy and job creation. The Assembly plan proposes:

CHIPs, Pave-NY, Marchiselli

  •  $503.1 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs), which includes $65 million for extreme weather recovery;
  •  $45 million for passenger rail projects, an increase of $35 million above the executive proposal, including funding to update previous high-speed passenger rail studies in anticipation of potential new federal funding for Amtrak;
  •  $37.5 million for freight rail funding, a $20-million increase above the executive proposal;
  •  $200 million for Bridge NY, a $100-million increase above the executive proposal;
  •  $200 million for Pave NY, a $100-million increase above the executive proposal;
  •  $208.5 million in non-MTA transit capital funding, which reflects an $84-million increase above the executive proposal;
  •  $39.7 million for the Marchiselli Program, which provides a local match to federal funds for local highway and bridge capital projects;
  •  $100 million for State Route NY, a new grant program to reimburse cities, towns and villages for the cost of local capital projects on N.Y. or U.S. signed State Touring Routes that run through them.

In addition to the funding provided in the Assembly budget, the proposal also includes language to ensure the DOT provides the Legislature with pavement and bridge condition reports and capital plan project lists.

MTA Funding Restored

In terms of mass transit operations, the Assembly budget includes necessary funding for the MTA as well as other downstate and upstate transit systems. The Assembly restores tax revenues dedicated to transit systems which would provide:

  •  $137 million for the MTA;
  •  $16.7 million to non-MTA downstate transit systems, to provide total funding to non-MTA downstate transit of $346.5 million; and
  •  $9.7 million to upstate transit systems to provide total funding to upstate transit systems of $223.6 million.

The Assembly budget also provides funding to programs that address transportation concerns throughout the state and ensure access to transportation networks that New Yorkers rely on. One of the programs included in the Assembly plan provides $10 million to establish on-demand e-hail pilot programs in small urban and rural communities to improve access to workplaces and address transit deserts.

The spending plan also includes $19 million to support the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge Staten Island Resident Discount Program, an increase of $5.2 million to provide an additional 20-cent discount per trip.

The Assembly is also looking to spend $400 million for the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and another $500 million for Clean Water Infrastructure projects, including $200 million for the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act; $140 million for New York City; $50 million for the Lead Service Lines Replacement Program; $40 million for land acquisition; $40 million for WIIA—emerging contaminants; and $30 million for the Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure Grants Program.

On March 15, the Senate Majority passed its “one-house” budget resolution that delivers emergency aid to help New York recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate resolution increases total school aid by $5.7 billion, provides billions of dollars in residential and commercial rental and foreclosure assistance, restores critical funding to the health care system, and jumpstarts the economy with investments in transportation and small businesses.

The Senate Majority’s one-house budget resolution also protects against AIM cuts to struggling municipalities, advances the $3-billion Clean Water, Green Jobs, Green New York Environmental Bond Act, and authorizes mobile sports wagering.

“This budget process is a major opportunity to help lead New York through the ongoing dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic and lay the foundation to grow stronger in the future,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “The proposals in this resolution put forth fairness, fiscal responsibility, and smart investments to ensure economic stability and the delivering of services so many of our neighbors depend on. This resolution is also a testament to our commitment to establishing fiscal equity and investing in the long-term success of New York State. The Senate Majority will continue to work diligently in the coming weeks to pass a timely, balanced and ethical budget.”

Some of the highlights of the Senate’s “one house” plan of interest to the construction industry include:

  •  Restores $568 million in Statewide Mass Transportation Operating Assistance cuts and providing $385 million in additional Statewide Mass Transportation Operating Assistance.
  •  Provides $150 million to be added to the base amount for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), for a total of $588 million in CHIPS funding.
  •  Restores $65 million for Extreme Winter Recovery and increases this critical funding by an additional $35 million for a total of $100 million.
  •  Provides $100 million for an Urban Road Revitalization initiative to prioritize road repair in urbanized areas of the state.

The Senate also seeks to protect public transit workers by expanding the class of workers covered by enhanced penalties for assault and aggravated harassment of public employees, ensuring that these frontline essential workers are protected. The Senate is also calling for incorporating various highway safety measures, including protecting transportation workers, increasing penalties for dangerous driving behaviors like failing to yield for pedestrians, and providing additional work zone enforcement and education programs. The initiative will include authorization for a work zone camera enforcement pilot program. The Senate is also looking to update the reimbursement rate for cities that provide maintenance on state-owned roads, which has been stagnant for more than 30 years.

In terms of environmental and water infrastructure financing, the Senate is calling for the authorization of the creation of state debt in the amount of $3 billion for the Environmental Bond Act of 2021, “Clean Water, Green Jobs, Green New York,” for the purposes of environmental improvements that preserve, enhance, and restore New York’s natural resources and reduce the impact of climate change, and providing for inclusion of the proposal on the ballot to be voted upon at the general election to be held in November, 2021.

The Senate is also proposing to amend the Environmental Conservation Law and the State Finance Law, to implement the Environmental Bond Act of 2021 “Clean Water, Green Jobs, Green New York” by funding projects related to restoration and flood risk reduction, open space land preservation and recreation, climate change mitigation, and water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure.

The Senate would also continue $300 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund and restoring funding for zoos, botanical gardens, and aquaria and farmland preservation.

To help pay for those investments, the Senate Majority’s proposal asks the wealthiest New Yorkers “to pay their fair share rather than balancing the budget on the backs of working families.”

The Senate plan was well received by the building trades. New York State Building & Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera said, “The Building Trades are proud to support the New York State Senate Majority’s budget proposal on renewable energy job standards. This language encompasses a number of labor and wage protections which, if enacted, will ensure that New York’s workforce is not left behind in the state’s push towards a green economy. We thank Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and her Democratic conference for this encouraging proposal and look forward to working with them and our other allies in making renewable energy job standards a reality.”

Mario Cilento, president, New York State AFL-CIO, added, “The Senate’s budget priorities put our state on a clear path to social and economic recovery. We need a comprehensive approach to deal with the needs of workers in our fight to overcome this pandemic, and the Senate’s proposal does just that.”

Court Vacates Mechanic’s Lien Based on Failure to Provide Itemized Statement of Lien

By THOMAS H. WELBY, P.E., ESQ. and GREGORY J. SPAUN, ESQ. – March 24, 2021

Thomas H. Welby, P.E., ESQ. & Gregory J. Spaun, ESQ.

A mechanic’s lien is a powerful tool to assist a contractor in securing its right to payment. The strength of a mechanic’s lien comes from its giving the lienor an interest in the real property improved by that contractor—property which may be owned by someone who is a stranger to the construction contract. As a balance, the upstream contractor and the owner have a right, pursuant to Section 38 of New York’s Lien Law, to serve a demand for a verified itemized statement of lien from the lienor. A recipient of such a demand (who is not substantially completed with a lump sum project without significant change orders) is required to “set forth the items of labor and/or material and the value thereof which make up the amount for which he claims a lien, and which shall also set forth the terms of the contract under which such items were furnished.”

Essentially, the response must provide the same information as a time and material billing. Upon a failure to provide such a statement, “the court or a justice or judge thereof may make an order canceling the lien.” The recent case of Danya Cebus Construction, LLC v Bella Management Group, Inc. reinforces that where the required itemized statement of lien is not forthcoming, courts should not hesitate to impose the ultimate sanction.

Background

In November 2017, Danya Cebus Construction, as general contractor, entered into a subcontract with Bella Management Group for Bella to perform certain masonry and EIFS work on the property owned by 120 Union Asset, LLC, in Brooklyn. Between November of 2017 and October of 2018, Bella performed over $1 million worth of work for Danya Cebus at the subject property. In March of 2019, Bella filed a mechanic’s lien, claiming it was still owed $338,000. In July of 2019, Danya Cebus served a demand for a verified itemized statement of lien on Bella, to which there was no response. In September of 2019, Bella started a lawsuit to foreclose the lien; in November of 2019, Danya Cebus and the owner answered the lawsuit and asserted counterclaims against Bella, claiming defective and delayed construction; and in December, Danya Cebus started a proceeding to compel Bella to comply with its demand for a verified itemized statement of lien.

In opposition to the proceeding to compel the itemized statement, Bella noted that the lien foreclosure action had been commenced, and that the information sought in the demand would be available in discovery in the lawsuit. Notwithstanding such fact, the court granted the petition and directed Bella to provide the required itemized statement of lien. In doing so, the court noted that the right to this information was set forth in the Lien Law, and it is separate and apart from the discovery rights set forth in the rules governing civil lawsuits. The court also noted that in setting forth a short five-day window within which to respond, the legislature made it clear that this information was to be provided swiftly.

Ultimately, Bella provided a document which did not comply with the requirements set forth in Section 38 of the Lien Law, and Danya Cebus moved to cancel the lien. In opposition, Bella claimed that the demand for the itemized statement of lien was made in bad faith because Danya Cebus was aware that Bella’s subcontractor had not provided the information to Bella, notwithstanding repeated requests, and that what little information Bella had was destroyed in a flood.

Decision

The court granted Danya Cebus’s the motion and vacated the mechanic’s lien. In doing so, the court cited well settled case law that the burden of producing an adequate statement of lien rests with the lienor, and that while courts have discretion to direct lienors to file revised statements of lien, courts can and will cancel liens where the demanded statement is patently insufficient. As to Bella’s specific excuse that its subcontractor had not provided sufficient information to it, and that what information it had was destroyed in a flood, the court retorted, “This is what is known as ‘the dog ate the homework excuse,’ and is rarely sufficient.”

Comment

One of the first thoughts of a contractor who is not being paid on a construction project is “lien the job!” That thought is often amongst the first because the mechanic’s lien is a powerful tool. However, as the court noted here, those that employ the tool are burdened with the responsibility of timely and fully responding to various demands for information served under the Lien Law, such as the demand for a verified itemized statement of lien. Courts do have the discretion to permit a lienor who makes a good faith attempt to respond, but simply misses the mark, to serve a revised itemized statement. However, this court made clear that a lienor who makes no significant attempt at compliance, or one who simply thinks the exercise is pointless because that information will be exchanged in any eventual lawsuit, will not enjoy the benefit of the court’s discretion. Accordingly, a lienor who finds itself the target of such a demand would be well advised to—promptly, given the short timeframes involved—consult with its counsel to determine what is needed for the response and how to best assemble the information.

About the author: 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, an attorney and a partner with the firm, co-authors this series with Mr. Welby.

NYSDOT Updates Public on Environmental Study of Growing Route 17 Road Corridor

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY– More than 100 community and business leaders from the Hudson Valley Zoomed in March 18 for a presentation by the New York State Department of Transportation on the status of a Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) study of the Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan counties.

Members of the coalition 17-Forward-86 voiced support for the proposal to widen Route 17 and improve mobility for enhanced safety and economic stability in the region.

State transportation officials outlined the PEL process during the 90-minute virtual public workshop and provided updates about the Route 17 study, which is being initiated by the DOT in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration. The DOT last year began a scoping and preliminary review process as part of the $5-million PEL study, whose funding was secured with the help of the 17-Forward-86 coalition through the 2018-2019 state budget.

The purpose of the PEL study is to evaluate the engineering feasibility and potential environmental impacts of reasonable alternatives to address the corridor’s transportation needs in the context of both current and 

anticipated growth in the region. The DOT has begun public outreach as part of the PEL process, which is designed to streamline and accelerate project delivery.

“17-Forward-86 is committed to improving mobility in the region by providing an additional travel lane and other necessary upgrades along Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties,” said the coalition’s co-chair, Maureen Halahan, who serves as president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership. “We are encouraged that efforts to widen the corridor have been moving forward, and the PEL study is a critical step in making these long-discussed and urgently needed upgrades a reality. This is our time—for us to bring great economic prosperity to the region and band together for safety and sustainability.”

Following the presentation, attendees weighed in on the proposal to widen Route 17. Supporters cited as priorities: safety, enhanced mobility, protecting the environment, job creation, economic development and fiscal responsibility.

“Mobility is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity in our fast-paced economy,” said Ross J. Pepe, coalition member, and president of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. “Enhancing mobility on the Route 17 corridor will improve safety and ease access into and through the region. It will also create more than 1,350 temporary construction industry jobs and many more once the project is completed.”

For more than four decades, CIC has been a leading voice in advancing virtually every major initiative in the Hudson Valley, ranging from capital improvements and replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge to major urban developments, clean water, regulatory reform and labor issues.

The PEL is scheduled to be completed in October 2021 and the 17-Forward-86 coalition believes the environmental and engineering work should continue to progress to ensure the project is positioned for federal stimulus or other infrastructure investment programs.

“There are thousands of stakeholders committed to seeing this project through and now is the perfect time to move forward as infrastructure investment plans are being developed at the federal and state levels,” said Marc Baez, president and CEO, Sullivan County Partnership and co-chair, 17-Forward-86. “Studies from nearly a decade ago indicate the corridor is already over-capacity and we must prepare for added traffic as more companies invest in our region.”

The next public workshop is scheduled for June 3, 2021.

17-Forward-86 was established in August 2018 by a dedicated group of advocates who support the widening of Route 17. The coalition comprises more than 200 members of economic development groups, construction trades, tourism groups and energy companies who share a common vision for expanding the capacity of Route 17 to strengthen the economic well-being of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills.

Civil Engineers Grade U.S. Infrastructure ‘C-’

WASHINGTON—The American Society of Civil Engineers released its 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure that gave the U.S. an overall ‘C-‘ grade and finds the country is spending just over half of what is required to support the backbone of the economy. 

The study, ASCE’s latest quadrennial assessment of the nation’s infrastructure, evaluated 17 categories of infrastructure, with grades ranging from a ‘B’ for Rail to a ‘D-‘ for Transit. For the first time in 20 years, the country’s infrastructure as a whole received a grade in the ‘C’ range, meaning on average, the nation’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition, has deficiencies and needs attention. However, 11 of the 17 categories in the Report Card received a grade in the ‘D’ range: aviation, dams, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks, roads, schools, stormwater, transit and wastewater.

Over the past four years, the U.S. made incremental gains in some categories, according to the ASCE Report Card. Due to increased investment, grades improved in aviation, drinking water, energy, inland waterways, and ports. One infrastructure category—bridges—saw a decrease in grade in part because of the number of bridges that fell to “fair” condition from “good.” Transit received a ‘D-‘ in the report, the lowest grade. Some 45% of Americans lack access to transit and existing infrastructure is aging.

Overall, the long-term infrastructure investment gap continues to grow. That gap has risen from $2.1 trillion over 10 years in the last report to $2.59 trillion in the latest study, meaning a funding gap of $259 billion per year.

ASCE Executive Director Thomas Smith said, “This not a report card anyone would be proud to take home. We have not made significant enough investments to maintain infrastructure that in some cases was built more than 50 years ago. As this study shows, we risk significant economic losses, higher costs to consumers, businesses and manufacturers—and our quality of life—if we don’t act urgently. When we fail to invest in infrastructure, we pay the price.”

There were 22 weather and climate disasters in the U.S. that cost at least $1 billion in 2020, the most in history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If the U.S. does not pay its overdue infrastructure bill, ASCE said by 2039 the U.S. economy will lose $10 trillion in growth and exports will decline by $2.4 trillion. More than 3 million jobs will be lost in 2039. In addition, each American household will bear $3,300 in hidden costs per year.

ASCE highlighted the role infrastructure investment could play in speeding the nation’s economic recovery. “America’s infrastructure bill is overdue, and we have been ignoring it for years. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbates the funding challenge because state and local governments have had to prioritize public health over everything else for the past year,” said ASCE President Jean-Louis Briaud, Ph.D., P.E. “If we take action now, we can generate job growth and build infrastructure that is more reliable, more secure and more resilient while increasing the quality of life for everyone.”

ASCE called on Congress and the administration to quickly take “big and bold action” on infrastructure.

“Infrastructure is an issue that everyone agrees needs action and doing so will help the U.S. now and in the future. Delaying only increases the costs,” said Emily Feenstra, ASCE’s Managing Director of Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives.

In terms of New York State’s infrastructure needs, the ASCE stated that while the nation’s infrastructure earned a ‘C-‘ in the 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, New York faces infrastructure challenges of its own. For example, driving on roads in need of repair in New York costs each driver $625 per year, and 9.9% of bridges are rated structurally deficient.

Drinking water needs in New York are an estimated $22.8 billion. A total of 424 dams are considered to be high-hazard potential. The state’s schools have an estimated capital expenditure gap of $2.91 billion, the ASCE added.

“This deteriorating infrastructure impedes New York’s ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace. Success in a 21st-century economy requires serious, sustained leadership on infrastructure investment at all levels of government,” the ASCE stated. “Delaying these investments only escalates the cost and risks of an aging infrastructure system, an option that the country, New York, and families can no longer afford.”

While ASCE grades the categories individually, the nation’s infrastructure is a series of connected systems. The report found three overarching trends impacting infrastructure:

  •  Maintenance backlogs continue to be an issue, but asset management helps prioritize limited funding.
  •  State and local governments have made progress, such as leveraging the gas tax to fund transportation investments, and some limited federal investment has also paid dividends.
  •  There are still infrastructure sectors where data is scarce or unreliable.

The 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure was released publicly during a virtual news conference that was followed by ASCE’s Solutions Summit. This separate event included spotlights on various infrastructure topics—energy, dams and levees, transportation, water, and inland waterways and ports. Featured speakers included Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

Minimizing Risks From the #3 Killer Of Construction Workers

By GEOFFREY S. POPE, ESQ. March 24, 2021

If you had to sit for a quiz, and one of the questions was to identify the hazard responsible for the largest number of fatalities at construction sites, I’d wager nearly all of you would correctly identify falls as the #1 killer. Most of my readers, I suspect, could identify “struck by” injuries as the #2 cause of fatalities.

Many, however, might be unable to identify the #3 cause of construction deaths, responsible for approximately 140 deaths each year: electrocutions. This corresponds to about 9% of all construction-related fatalities.

In the readings that I do to prepare these articles, I am often impressed by the frequency with which fatalities, and non-fatal injuries related to electricity, are produced by occurrences where the hazard should have been obvious,

A glaring example of this is that the second-greatest cause of all electrical fatalities on jobsites is construction workers coming into contact with overhead live wires. Some such incidents, to be sure, are the result of 

miscommunication concerning the de-energizing of power lines before work close to them gets underway. Nevertheless, most experienced construction workers have been onsite when such incidents have occurred, or have experienced “near misses” when a lift bucket has strayed too near to an energized power line, and the presence of the line is almost always plainly visible, or known due to the inspection of the site and planning for the job.

Proximity to live wires is the #1 cause of electricity-related deaths among non-electrical construction workers, whereas direct or indirect contact with live electrical equipment and wiring (light fixtures, circuit breakers, control panels, junction boxes and transformers) is the leading cause of death among electricians, their apprentices and helpers, power installers and repair persons and their supervisors.

OSHA prescribes the following minimum distances, when working in the vicinity of energized power lines:

  •  < 300 volts: 2 feet;
  •  300 to 50K volts: 10 feet;
  •  > 50K volts: 10 feet, plus 4” for every 10K volts over 50,000.

What many people don’t know is that such insulation that envelops overhead electrical lines is weather protection for the wiring, and insufficient as safety protection for persons who may come into contact with the line, while the same is energized. Arc flash safety precautions should be taught and all personnel, and not just electrical workers, must be instructed concerning precautions and procedures to be implemented, to avoid injury or death from downed power lines.

Many electrocutions occur when workers touch metal objects—most commonly, ladders, pipes, wires that have been cut or stripped, energized trucks or other vehicles. Working in cramped areas, or while standing in water, or trouble lights or extension cords coming into contact with water, are contributing causes in about one-third of electrocutions.

We all know that dangers associated with electricity are compounded by wet conditions, and bad weather and the necessity to work at night to restore power provide conditions of poor visibility, stress that can cause inattention and, of course plenty of wetness. In planning for work under such conditions, you need redundancy, as in multiple individuals, each of whom is responsible to inspect, check and double-check the necessary precautions.

You should also avoid storing materials or equipment beneath power lines and erect safety barriers and signs to warn workers not directly involved in the electrical work and others who might be in the area.

Damaged insulation is another leading cause of electrical injuries, as is improperly-grounded equipment (the latter being the most commonly cited OSHA violation of the electrical standards). Overloaded wiring, and the misuse of extension cords, are additional dangers. To avoid overheating and electrical fires, always make sure that the wire you are using is appropriately sized for the current it will be transmitting. Don’t overload circuits, and use circuit breakers where practicable. Don’t try to cover damaged insulation with electrical tape, don’t daisy-chain extension cords, or use cords intended for indoor use outdoors (especially in wet conditions) and never pull out the ground pin that serves to return unwanted voltage to ground.

Exposed electrical parts (e.g., temporary lighting, open power distribution units, and detached insulation parts on electrical cords) are also potential hazards.

Additional causes of electrical injuries are hand-held power tools and other equipment with exposed wiring or other damage. Always check for cracks, cuts and abrasions in the wiring, and repairs should be attempted only by persons qualified to do so. Damaged and worn-out equipment should be replaced or repaired by competent personnel. “Lock Out Tag Pout” procedures should be implemented, whenever electrical maintenance or repairs are being performed.

Frequent surveys and risk assessments should be performed by a competent person, to identify and correct wiring and equipment that poses a risk of fire or electrical shock.

Personnel should be provided with (and required to use) insulated tools and PPE such as appropriately-rated gloves, mats and ladders. They should also be instructed in the importance of good housekeeping and proper cable management, and trained in emergency and first aid procedures appropriate in the case of electrical accidents.

Finally, while obviously high-voltage lines and outdoor precipitation are primary electrical hazards, even everyday domestic 120-volt current can be fatal (especially in wet conditions) if the current travels through the person’s heart. Consequently, even your office staff (and other indoor personnel) should be included in your training concerning electrical hazards.

The following are key measures to implement to minimize the risk of electrical injuries:

  •  Observe all OSHA regulations on electrical safety;
  •  Train and re-train your employees;
  •  Check and double-check to ensure that your utility company has de-energized (or insulated) overhead power lines;
  •  Work “live” only if you have verified that de-energizing the live electrical circuits or parts is impracticable, or would increase the hazard;
  •  Allow “live” work only pursuant to a permit system that includes specific procedures.

Electricians and other electrical workers should also:

  •  Work live only if qualified to do so;
  •  De-energize and lock out or tag out electrical circuits they will be working on or near; and
  •  Wear appropriate PPE.

All persons on your jobsite should take the following precautions:

  •  Whether you are an electrical worker or not, be sure you have electrical safety training sufficient for the work you are to perform;
  •  Make sure power tools and machinery are double insulated or properly grounded;
  •  Keep metal objects away from live electrical circuits;
  •  Check all extension and power cords before use, after disconnecting the plug; and
  •  Keep at least 10 feet distant from live power lines.

About the author: Geoffrey S. Pope, Esq. is of counsel to the construction law firm of Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP, with its main office in White Plains. The articles in this series do not constitute legal advice or create any attorney-client relationship, and are intended for general guidance only.

Construction News back issues

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

December 2020

November 2020

October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

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January 2020

December 2019

October/November 2019

Labor Issue 2019

July/August 2019

COVID Panel Grapples With Jobsite Challenges

By JOHN JORDAN – February 25, 2021

TARRYTOWN—Since the onset of the coronavirus in the U.S. in March 2020, construction crews continued work on jobsites working on infrastructure and real estate development projects. Deemed as “essential business,” the industry quickly adapted with new protocols that kept jobsite infection rates considerably below the infection rate of the general population. More recent, the industry responded to the dramatic surge in COVID cases that began this past October through January 2021 with actions designed to thwart increases in workplace infection rates.

However, with states now warned of a number of variants that are more contagious and are spreading in the U.S.—and the challenge to reach herd immunity thwarted by slow vaccine rollouts coupled with a percentage of the population resistant to getting a vaccine shot—contractors are renewing their commitment to maintain a safe workplace as the new 2021 construction season arrives.

Scattered throughout the Hudson Valley region, more than 40 contracting executives on Feb. 11 participated in an industry-oriented webinar geared for the building and construction trades entitled “COVID-19 The Jobsite: Past, Present and Future.” It was presented via Zoom by two leading employer associations, the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., and the Building Contractors Association of Westchester & The Mid-Hudson Region, Inc.

The program featured attorney Thomas Tripodianos, Esq., and Jeffrey Altholz, M.D., who provided fresh information on New York State COVID-19 job site safety protocols. Also discussed were employee COVID-19 paid-leave laws, best-practice jobsite daily screening procedures, and updates on COVID-19 testing procedures. Mr. Tripodianos and Dr. Altholz also offered perspectives on what the future holds for the trades.

CIC Executive Director John Cooney, Jr., said any recent increases in jobsite cases were likely due to some risk-tolerance jobsite issues. He called on the participating employers to remain vigilant and not fall into

Construction firms are working with crews to keep them safe from illness and prevent coronavirus spread. CDC guidelines require workers more than six feet apart to wear masks, with crews working fewer than six feet apart for more than 10 minutes to wear surgical masks or KN95 masks or face coverings for splash protection.

“bad habits” by not screening workers at the start of each crew shift. He also pointed to the risk of “letting down our guard,” which he labeled “desensitization to COVID symptoms, and the cold weather.”

Mr. Tripodianos, who is a partner in the law firm Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP of White Plains, NY, noted the law regarding COVID changes almost daily. “The law is actually pretty far behind the science that involves COVID,” he said. “The law is definitely playing catch-up. Since last March, the gap between the law and the science is getting bigger and bigger.” He urged the industry to remain attentive because in some cases the law does not make sense and that changes to the law are in reaction to advances in the science. He raised concerns that the law and science appear to be at odds with one another in the struggle to find a cure for COVID-19.

The legal presentation addressed New York Disability Leave and Federal Sick Leave, which the latter technically expired on Dec. 31, 2020. However, contractors are allowed to voluntarily continue the program, which is funded by tax incentives, through March 31, 2021, he noted.

He stressed that subcontractors on jobsites cannot hand off worker-screening requirements to general contractors. He also advised owners and managers to provide incentives for workers to get vaccinated as a means to facilitate a safer workplace environment.

Because jobsite COVID protocols are changing so quickly, he noted, “The best practical advice I can give you, if not legal advice, is to be thoughtful, be informed and if you act within those parameters you are showing (to regulators), ‘I was doing the best I could under the circumstances.’ That is going to go a long way whether you have the Department of Health, the Department of Labor or OSHA breathing down your back or issuing a violation…”

Dr. Altholz, who is CEO and Medical Director of Clarity Testing Services, Inc., of Tarrytown, NY, buttressed the Zoom presentation with sobering data and facts. Among them, he noted an alarming data points revealing revealed that at least 40% of the pandemic is being spread by asymptomatic individuals. “Essentially nearly half of the pandemic is being driven by people who look and feel perfectly well.”

At press time (Feb. 10), he noted that approximately 10% of New York State residents have had at least one shot of an approved vaccine and 3% were fully vaccinated. In terms of nationwide and statewide vaccination efforts, he related, “If is clear that we have a lot of work yet to do. This is just the beginning of the journey.”

Along with Mr. Cooney of CIC, BCA Executive Director Matt Pepe served as co-host of the hour-long webinar, which covered many industry- and medical-related issues.

Mr. Tripodianos, a partner at Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP is involved in all aspects of construction, labor and real estate law, including suretyship and guarantee, breach of contract, payment claims, mechanic’s liens, delay claims, extra work claims, construction defect claims, management and labor disputes, and residential and commercial transactions. In his practice, he represents buyers, sellers, lenders, developers, general contractors, construction managers, owners, architects, engineers, subcontractors, suppliers, sureties, developers, homeowners and other entities connected with the construction and real estate industry in transactional matters as well as the prosecution and defense of claims in litigation, arbitration, mediation and administrative law hearings.

Dr. Altholz,  a graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, is a certified medical review officer (AAMRO), certified medical examiner compliant with FMCSA regulations (CME) and a certified occupational hearing conservationist (CAOHC). He is a leading authority in onsite occupational testing in the Northeast and a consultant to business, industry, labor and government in the field of drug testing and occupational medicine. He established Clarity Testing Services in 1995 with the mission of providing high-quality onsite testing services to comply with Federal DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations. As employers and labor demanded more and more safety and testing services onsite, Clarity responded by developing mobile models for high-quality DOT physicals, respirator medical clearance and certification exams, respirator fit testing, blood lead testing and lead surveillance, firefighter physicals, corporate health screenings, vaccine administration and hearing conservation programs.

Dr. Altholz highlighted the best jobsite protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those include:

Recommend COVID-19

Mitigation Measures

  •  Masks—N95, KN95 or

“double masking”

  •  Maintaining Social Distance
  •  Temperature Checks
  •  Daily Symptom Screening
  •  Surveillance Testing of

Asymptomatic Employees

  •  Isolation/Quarantine
  •  Contact Tracing
  •  Vaccination

In view of these OSHA guidelines, Dr. Altholz recommended that contractors should consider enhancing their prevention programs. Actions could include assigning or hiring of a workplace coordinator, assessing risk assessment, consideration of high-risk workers, stress communication, education and training, ensure proper isolation and separation of sick employees, enhanced cleaning efforts and not distinguish between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

Environmental Capital Projects Create Jobs And Combat Damage and Impacts of Climate Crisis

By JULIE TIGHE – February 25, 2021

Julie Tighe is President of the New York League of Conservation Voters

NEW YORK—A clean environment and a healthy, robust economy go together like the two sections of an hourglass: you can’t have one without the other. Both chambers of the glass work together to create balance and harmony in our communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a lasting impact on our daily lives, both today and tomorrow. It has changed practices and policies covering our public health, how we interact with our environment and what we do to protect and advance our economy. Like other states, New York is facing fiscal challenges, the likes of which we have not seen in a generation.

But while other states and localities make tough budgetary decisions, families across New York have no choice but to put their health first. COVID is a respiratory disease which causes more harmful health impacts on communities that bear a disproportionate burden of pollution—illustrates why we need to keep up our work to improve air quality and decrease pollution. It also showed how vital our natural areas and open spaces are to New Yorkers. Access to nature is vital to protecting public health.

We cannot afford to treat the environment as a luxury. We need to invest in robust environmental programs that create jobs, protect clean water, address climate change, create new parks, improve our resiliency and invest in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities throughout New York.

That’s why New York League of Conservation Voters is a founding member of the New Yorkers for Clean Water and Jobs Coalition.

The coalition is fighting to protect our environmental programs. Initiatives like the Environmental Protection Fund, Department of Environmental Conservation Capital Programs, and Parks 2020 Initiative help create thousands of green jobs and support industries that add $40 billion to our economy every year. They support multi-billion industries including  agriculture,  outdoor recreation, construction, tourism, commercial fishing and renewable energy generation.

We are also fighting to protect investments that are part of the Clean Water Infrastructure Act. Since 2015, the program has provided nearly $4 billion in funding for our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as for addressing emerging contaminants. Every $1 million in state investment results in 17 local jobs.

We need to go even further. A $3-billion Environmental Bond Act, which was taken off last November’s ballot, would invest in programs that create jobs while building a sustainable future. A bond act would help build renewable energy, protect our air and waters, restore natural habitat and improve access to parks.

As the budget season in New York State heats up, calls from all sectors to help support environmental initiatives are increasing. The bond act is envisioned to help conserve open space, protect clean water, reduce the impacts of climate change and clean up pollution.

It is expected that the measure would serve as an economic engine, with every $1 of state investment in land and water protection returning $7 in economic benefits to the state.

New York’s drinking water and wastewater systems need tens of billions of dollars in upgrades to ensure our communities have safe drinking water and our lakes, rivers, and bays are not polluted. To date $5.4 billion has been committed to this program which funds “gray infrastructure” (ie. drinking water pipes, wastewater treatment systems); “green infrastructure” (ie. projects to protect the sources of our drinking water); stormwater pollution control, hazardous waste cleanup, lead service line replacements and more.

Federal investment in clean water and green jobs go hand-in-hand with state investments. We need Congress to secure funding for infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient and conserve our open spaces.

Ignoring the climate crisis would put New Yorkers at risk. Cutting programs that protect clean water, clean air, and other natural resources puts us at greater risk from biodiversity loss. Continuing environmental investments provides us an opportunity for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic, puts us on a path towards a clean energy economy, and provides green jobs for families across the state.

We will continue to advocate for these essential programs as the budget season continues.

About the author: Julie Tighe is President of the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV). NYLCV is the only non-partisan, statewide environmental organization in New York that takes a pragmatic approach to fighting for clean water, healthy air, renewable energy, and open space. Visit www.nylcv.org for more information.

NYLCV Priorities & Policy Agenda

Last year the NYLCV brought heightened awareness of the need to take action to help avert the worst effects of climate change and reduce pollution, especially in disadvantaged communities. The State laid out aggressive climate standards and local governments are key to achieving these standards. We also need more local policies that improve water infrastructure and keep our drinking water free of contaminants.

Sustainable Development: Municipalities can combat climate change by creating livable, sustainable communities. We will work to advance modernized zoning to encourage mixed land use, compact development, downtown revitalization, open space protection, historic preservation and energy efficient building codes.

Renewable energy: Renewable energy can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution across the region, but it is challenging to site large-scale renewable energy installations and can be needlessly difficult to install small-scale renewable technology. These challenges must be addressed before Indian Point shuts down in 2021, or else we risk replacing its power with fossil fuels. We will work with municipal and county governments to establish guidelines for siting utility-scale renewable energy in order to reduce red tape and create new incentives for small-scale renewable energy.

Clean Air: With the recent passage of legislation to phase out No. 4 and No. 6 home heating oil, we will work to speed up conversions and retrofits to cleaner, more efficient heating systems. We will continue working to reduce emissions from power plants and automobiles, including a push for targeted interventions to protect environmental justice communities.

Electric Vehicles: EVs reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce zero emissions, improving air quality. We will continue our successful advocacy efforts to increase the number of EVs in municipal fleets, transit systems and school bus fleets, expand the EV charging station network throughout Westchester, and ensure that environmental justice communities have access to and benefit from EVs.

Court Declines to Enforce Ambiguous ‘Final’ Waiver of Lien

By THOMAS H. WELBY, P.E., ESQ. and GREGORY J. SPAUN, ESQ. – February 25, 2021

Thomas H. Welby, P.E., ESQ. & Gregory J. Spaun, ESQ.

One of the most utilized forms in connection with a construction project is the waiver of lien, which operates to both waive a contractor’s right to assert a mechanic’s lien, and to release the contractor’s claim for money. These forms come in two “flavors,” the partial waiver of lien, and the final waiver of lien. The partial waiver is exactly what the description says it is, a document waiving a part of the contractor’s claim (in exchange for a partial payment in the same amount), usually in conjunction with a contractor’s monthly requisition.

The final waiver, like the partial waiver, is exactly what it is described as, a waiver of the remainder of the contractor’s claim, in exchange for full payment on the project, upon completion. However, in the recent case of C & A Seneca Construction, LLC v G Builders LLC, a court recently reminded us what exactly is necessary to make a final waiver of lien operative for its intended purpose.

Background

In October 2016, C & A Seneca Construction entered into a contract with G Builders for a construction project on Pier 94 in Manhattan for an agreed upon cost of $240,100. In December 2016, C & A executed a partial waiver of lien in exchange for a specifically referenced payment of $75,000, which was payment for all work performed by C & A through Dec. 23, 2016. C & A continued to work on the project, and on March 10, 2017, it executed another partial waiver of lien, this one reciting a payment of $50,000 for all work performed through that date.

A dispute arose between C & A and G Builders as to the quality of C & A’s work, and G Builders claimed that the parties agreed to resolve the dispute by C & A’s accepting a final payment of only $3,184.71 (out of the $115,000 remaining under the contract). Toward that end, a lien waiver denominated as a “final” waiver was executed, reciting payment for “100%” of the contract price. C & A claims it never received anything other than the first $75,000 payment, and it sued to collect the $165,000 balance. G Builders moved to dismiss, citing the final waiver of lien and arguing that the release contained in that document barred C & A’s claims.

Decision

The court denied the motion, and permitted C & A’s lawsuit to proceed. In doing so, the court cited well settled case law that in order for a final waiver of lien and release to be operative, it must evidence a clear and unequivocal intent to serve as a release of claims, and it must: (1) contain language clearly indicating finality; and (2) recite the amounts of the payments which were made. Because there was no language as to the specific amount of the release, or that the outstanding balance of $115,000 was being compromised by 97% to account for claimed defective work, it was found that the final waiver of lien document did not evidence an unequivocal intent to serve as a release of the remainder of the claim. Accordingly, a jury will have to sort out the intended function of that document.

Comment

Here, the court focused on the lack of unequivocal intent to evidence the release of the remaining $115,000 of C & A’s claim. However, C & A sued for $165,000. While the second release (the one which specified a second payment, in the amount of $50,000) would meet the court’s specified criteria and ostensibly defeat $50,000 of C & A’s $165,000 claim (leaving only the $115,000 mentioned by the court), the fact that C & A alleged that it was not paid that amount was sufficient to permit it to press the claim. This is because a release must be supported by valid consideration (payment), and if that payment is not made, then the release fails.

As a practical matter, sometimes such documents are titled “Lien Waiver & Release,” and operate as both. However, at other times they may simply be titled “Lien Waiver,” but still contain binding release language. Because waivers of lien and releases are such important documents in the construction process—often the gatekeeper to payment—it is crucial that the documents be as specific and “tight” as possible. If they are not, they may be found to either waive more than is intended, or not be operative at all. Further, many waivers of lien—both partial and final—require contractors to waive other aspects of their claim (for disputed change orders, for retainage, etc.) that are not specifically reserved. Contractors should not be so anxious to receive their monthly payment that they ignore the actual language and unintentionally waive outstanding claims, disputed change orders, etc. Accordingly, owners, contractors and subcontractors (basically, anyone who is a party to a waiver of lien) would be well advised to consult with their construction counsel to determine the true nature and effect of the document they are asking someone, or being asked, to sign.

About the author: Thomas H. Welby, an attorney and licensed professional engineer, is General Counsel to the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., and is the founder and senior counsel to the law firm of Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP, which has offices throughout the tri-state metropolitan region. Gregory J. Spaun, an attorney and a partner with the firm, co-authors this series with Mr. Welby.

Real Estate Markets Struggle To Adjust to COVID-19

By MICHAEL J. PATON – February 25, 2021

Michael J. Paton

According to the most recent forecast from CBRE economics, real estate conditions will start 2021 in a state of flux. Certain sectors will grow strongly, but a full recovery of occupier and investor demand will be held back by the continued influence of COVID-19.

The spring and summer months should see rebirth and renewal of real estate, as a vaccine is widely deployed and further government stimulus drives the economy forward. Industrial and logistical sectors, along with certain alternative sectors like life sciences, cold storage and data centers, have thrived in the COVID era, while others like office, retail and hotels have suffered. With expectations that the COVID crisis may end sometime in 2021, the question will be which of these sectors will be permanently changed and which will return to pre-COVID conditions.

Looking back, according to a Cushman & Wakefield analysis, the first half of 2020 was marked by highly volatile labor markets. Overall employment abruptly fell at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Westchester County losing almost 75,000 jobs in the first four months of the year. Similarly, the unemployment rate in Westchester County surged to 15.7% by April, recording its highest level on record. Improvements in workforce demand took place in the second half of 2020, with overall employment stabilizing and then increasing bringing the unemployment rate to 7.1%.

In Westchester, Cushman and Wakefield noted that new leasing activity in 2020 plummeted 38.4% from the previous year to an all-time low of 707,913 square feet—42.4% below the five-year annual average of 1.2 million square feet. Sublease transactions increased a notable 143.1% over the last 12 months in the year ending December 2020, with the average transaction size falling 4.7% to 4,185 square feet. The White Plains Central Business District accounted for 33.9% of countywide demand in 2020, which was 14 percentage points higher than the previous year’s proportional share. The overall vacancy rate increased a noteworthy 244 basis points to 25.1% as a result of sublease space additions. The East I-287 submarket posted the largest overall annual increase in available space, recording a 26.6% year-over-year rise, followed by the White Plains CBD submarket, which posted a 15.9% annual uptick in its overall available supply. With the influx of available space, overall net absorption ended the year in the red, posting about 571,600 square feet of occupancy loss.

Overall average asking rents in the county increased $0.42 per square foot since one year-ago, ending 2020 at $29.28. The West I-287 submarkets overall average rose the most drastically over the last 12 months, increasing $1.00-per-square-foot to $27.73-per-square-foot. The rise in the West I-287 submarkets overall average was mainly attributed by space additions in Valhalla and the Tarrytown markets. Conversely, the Southern submarket’s average asking price for space fell $0.23-per-square-foot to $28.42-per-square-foot.

On the residential side, Douglas Elliman noted that overheated residential conditions continued during 2020 even after the COVID lockdown ended in late spring. Listing inventory in the final quarter of 2020 fell to its lowest level in 19 years, down 9.2% to 2,551 from the prior-year quarter. The incoming supply of property was unable to keep up with sales’ torrid pace, which rose 12.8% to 2,651, the highest fourth-quarter sales on record. As a result, all price trend indicators saw double-digit gains. The median sales price countywide rose year over year by 15% to $575,000, the second highest on record.

Record low mortgage rates have continued to amplify the significant supply shortage and fuel price growth in the residential market. As a result, the pace of the market was the fastest since 1994. Months of supply—the number of months to sell all listing inventory at the current sales rate—accelerated annually. These metrics are consistent with the volatility of the residential market. The market has continued to disproportionately benefit from New York City’s outbound migration and reliance on remote work capabilities. It is unclear if this trend will continue if the pandemic wanes.

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.

MWBE Article 15-A Goals Present Challenges, Opportunities

By PHILLIP ROSS, CPA, CGMA, PARTNER and BRIAN SANVIDGE, CIG, CFE, PRINCIPAL – February 25, 2021

Phillip Ross

On July 15, 2019, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reauthorized the Executive Law Article 15-A to extend it until Dec. 31, 2024. Originally signed into law in July of 1988, this law seeks to level the playing field for minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) by establishing goals for MWBE involvement in construction projects. The newest participation goal is 30% of the budget for each year of your grant and is established based on the results of a 2016 disparity study.

According to Article 15-A, MWBEs must be at least 51% owned by minority members and/or women, and independently owned, operated and authorized to do business in New York State.

The MWBE goals set forth in Article 15-A apply to construction projects that involve an application for a grant of more than $25,000.

‘Good Faith Efforts’to Comply

The most important change made by this legislation is that contractors must now demonstrate a “good faith” effort to comply with the MWBE requirements of the law. Good faith efforts can include the identification of participation areas for MWBEs and full utilization of lists of certified MWBEs. These efforts must be documented using the MWBE Contractor Good Faith Efforts Certification Form 105.

If, despite good faith efforts, a contractor is not able to retain an MWBE for a project, the company must submit a Request for Waiver along with documentation of good faith efforts and the reason they were unable to obtain an MWBE.

Good faith efforts could include:

  •  Copies of solicitations (advertisements in MWBE-centered publications, those made to vendors in MWBE directories, those made to MWBE-oriented trade and labor organizations, etc.)

If these solicitations are answered, the contractor must also record specific reasons why the MWBE enterprise was not selected.

  •   Dates of attendance at meetings.
  •  Information describing the steps taken to ensure MWBE participation in a project.
  •  Descriptions of any other actions undertaken by the bidder to document good faith efforts to retain MWBE enterprises.

There are three ways to comply with the MWBE policy set forth in Article 15-A. Although full participation compliance is the preferred method, partial or no participation is acceptable so long as the contracting agency conforms to the requirements to fulfill and receive the waiver.

  1. Full participation is achieved when the applicant meets or exceeds the 30% participation goal set forth in the legislation.
  2. Partial participation is acceptable only if good faith efforts to comply are made and properly documented, but the goal was not met. The reasons for not meeting the goal must also be documented and submitted along with the Request for Waiver.
  3. No participation is like partial participation, and only acceptable if good faith efforts have been made but no MWBEs were able to be obtained for this project. Efforts to obtain an MWBE must also be documented and submitted along with the Request for Waiver.

Many contracting agencies opt to engage monitoring firms to ensure that good faith efforts are met and properly documented and to avoid penalties.

If you as a general contractor are found in violation of Article 15-A, you may face the imposition of fines, sanctions or penalties. Penalties may also include a determination that the contractor will be ineligible to submit a bid to any contracting agency or be awarded a contract for up to one year.

Additionally, as of the 2019 extension, contracting agencies were required to establish four-year growth plans regarding the utilization of MWBEs. These added levels of transparency are intended to necessitate additional outreach and the need for documentation of all activities.

Also, this legislation expanded the role of the Statewide Advocate, whose authority and responsibilities now range from assisting MWBEs in obtaining business assistance and investigating complaints concerning certifications delays, to auditing agencies and investigating complaints from MWBEs regarding violations of 15-A.

Article 15-A Will Also Affect MWBEs.

Meanwhile, for MWBEs, the legislation has increased the personal net worth cap for owners to $15 million from $3 million, which will have a significant impact on the program capacity. In order to remedy the current certification backlog, the legislation has extended the certification from three to five years. Lastly, MWBE bidding credits of 10% up to $1.4 million have been established for low-bid construction projects.

Ensuring complete compliance with Article-15 A can be difficult. If you have any questions about Article 15-A, contact your attorney or CPA.

About the authors: Phillip Ross, CPA, CGMA is an Accounting and Audit Partner and Chair of the Construction Industry Group at Anchin, Block & Anchin, LLP. Brian Sanvidge, CIG, CFE, is the Principal and Leader of Regulatory Compliance and Investigations of Anchin’s Litigation, Forensic and Valuation Services Group. For more construction industry thought leadership and content, log on to www.anchin.com.

Report: New York State Environmental Bond Act Would Support 65,000 Jobs, $6.7B in Spending

February 25, 2021

ALBANY—AECOM, the New York City-based infrastructure consulting firm, and Rebuild by Design, a leading advocate for resilient infrastructure, recently released a new report, “Economic Impacts of the New York State Environmental Bond Act,” which analyzed the long-term economic benefits of investing $3 billion in projects that would help protect clean water, reduce pollution, conserve family farms, and reduce local climate risks.

Introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2020, the Environmental Bond Act shows dedication to the restoration and conservation of New York’s communities and natural resources.

AECOM analyzed the benefits of the Environmental Bond Act by assessing the economic impact of the anticipated investments and researching comparable projects and programs. Review of benefit-cost analyses found that benefits often outweigh costs for similar types of investments. The analysis estimates that the New York State Environmental Bond Act has the potential to:

  •  Support 65,000 jobs in New York
  •  Result in an estimated $6.7 billion in project spending, broken into the following categories: an estimated $3.25 billion to protect and restore natural areas to reduce flooding, supporting 30,600 jobs in New York; an estimated $1.6 billion for clean water projects, supporting 18,000 jobs in New York; an estimated $1 billion for projects that would mitigate climate change, supporting 11,500 jobs in New York and an estimated $775 million for projects that protect and restore open space, supporting 4,600 jobs in New York

“AECOM analyzed the economic impacts of the New York State Environmental Bond Act and the benefits that the associated spending would provide both in the near and long-term. Our findings are clear—the Environmental Bond Act would be a useful stimulus, with the potential to support thousands of jobs in numerous sectors while also spurring long-term economic growth and protecting New York’s environment for future generations,” said Garrett Harper, managing principal, Economics + Advisory with AECOM. “By approving the Environmental Bond Act, the governor and legislature became leaders in acknowledging that investments in the environment also benefit the economy.”

“Communities in New York State are already suffering from climate change. Past disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, and our recent experience with COVID-19, have laid bare the reality that these events disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable populations,” said Amy Chester, managing director of Rebuild by Design. “We need to pass the Bond Act and give communities the resources they need to build infrastructure that will address climate change and put New York on a path to recovery.”

Ross J. Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., added, ‘We have witnessed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s historic clean water grants program pay huge dividends in communities across the state, both in terms of environmental protections and quality-of-life improvements. These public monies spent for the public good is the fuel that drives the economic engine to stimulate employment with living-wage jobs and long-lasting improvements to our public facilities and infrastructure. The Bond Act is a powerful resource to help state and local governments meet their obligations to their citizens to protect the environment, create jobs and advance our quality of life. Now is the time to double our efforts to continue this momentum. Let’s work together by reinstating the Bond Act and passing it this November.”

The jobs report followed Rebuild by Design’s report ‘We Cannot Wait Any Longer,’ which showed that over the last 10 years, every county in New York State has been impacted by severe storms and flooding, tropical storms, or hurricanes. More than half were affected by five or more disaster events. The major federal disaster declarations for these counties totaled $37.3 billion in federal aid for recovery efforts.