Gov. Phil Murphy speaks last month during a daily briefing on the state’s response to COVID-19 — Photo by Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office
By Joshua Burd
Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday tightened restrictions on the types of construction allowed under the state’s social distancing policies, as New Jersey continues its battle against the spread of COVID-19.
Murphy announced during his daily press briefing that all non-essential construction must cease indefinitely, effective 8 p.m. Friday, under a new executive order. The move adds new limitations for residential and commercial builders whose projects were underway last month when the state ramped up its response to the coronavirus pandemic, but were given relief under Murphy’s sweeping stay-at-home order on March 21.
At the time, the state deemed construction an essential service that would be allowed to continue. But Wednesday’s order seemingly narrowed the scope of how developers could approach projects that were already in progress. For example, the few exceptions allowed for residential projects include those that are exclusively designated as affordable housing.
Other exemptions include:
- Projects already underway involving individual single-family homes, or an individual apartment unit where an individual already resides, with a construction crew of five or fewer individuals. This includes additions to single-family homes such as solar panels.
- Projects already underway involving a residential unit for which a tenant or buyer has already entered into a legally binding agreement to occupy the unit by a certain date, and construction is necessary to ensure the unit’s availability by that date.
- Projects involving facilities at which any one or more of the following takes place: the manufacture, distribution, storage or servicing of goods or products that are sold by online retail businesses or essential retail businesses, as defined by Executive Order No. 107 and subsequent administrative orders adopted pursuant to that order.
- Any work on a non-essential construction project that is required to physically secure the site of the project, ensure the structural integrity of any buildings on the site, abate any hazards that would exist on the site if the construction were to remain in its current condition, remediate a site or otherwise ensure that the site and any buildings therein are appropriately protected and safe during the suspension of the project.
Otherwise, Wednesday’s executive order focused mainly on defining what would be considered essential construction going forward. That includes projects related to hospitals and health care, transportation and utilities, schools, data centers and critical facilities, social services such as homeless shelters and law enforcement and first responders.
The same executive order covered a host of other key areas outside of construction. For instance, the directive indefinitely limited the number of customers inside an essential retail store to 50 percent of its approved capacity, as the state seeks to further mitigate instances of overcrowding at places such as supermarkets.