New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) has apparently taken up some rather sly tactics to snare contractors who continue to work despite the ongoing freeze on non-essential construction projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported by the New York Post, building inspectors are “running speed trap-style operations” to nab violators, and doling out hefty fines to contractors as well as fines of up to $10,000 to the property owners hiring them for jobs that aren’t “necessary to protect the health and safety of the occupants,” per DOB guidelines. The guidelines were enacted as part of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on non-essential construction established on March 31.
An electrician hired for a job in Douglas Manor, a well-heeled subsection of Douglaston in northeast Queens, told the Post he was “followed” by an inspector in a DOB-marked car while en route to a job. However, he got skittish and took off when the inspector “pulled alongside his van and parked across the street.”
The electrician relayed to the Post that he needed the gig but the fines made it “not worth it.” He also said that in recent days the same inspector who had surveilled him had snared a floor re-finisher in the same neighborhood.
Another contractor told the Post that an inspector intervened—in a scene with the same dramatic flourish of an FBI raid—while he was in the midst of fixing the HVAC system in a Brooklyn home. The contractor was let off the hook when he explained that the homeowner had no heat.
“We are aggressively enforcing the governor’s ban on non-essential construction to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and fight this pandemic,” DOB spokesman Andrew Rudanksy told the Post. “Our fellow New Yorkers depend on us to do our jobs, especially during this crisis, and we will not let them down.” The DOB elaborated that it is not furtively “trapping” contractors en route to perform potentially non-essential work but, rather, is encouraging inspectors to investigate and take action if they see something obviously suspicious.