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Contractors, homeowners put in confusing spot with ‘essential’ distinction in NYS

The line between essential and non-essential has been as much confusing as challenging to enforce across New York State.

David Cameron is the owner of Cameron Roofing. He recently spoke with 13WHAM-TV about the distinction between essential and non-essential construction projects.

Cuomo ordered the stop of all non-emergency construction projects due to COVID-19. That distinction felt subjective.

“I had a siding crew that I had to put on unemployment. I have an interior modeling crew of two people. One of them, I had to put on unemployment because only one person can work inside a house at a time,” he explained. “All other projects are on hold unless it’s a job that can be done by one person. We have instructed our employees to maintain social distancing among themselves. At same time, avoid any contact with homeowner other than by phone.”

That’s where Empire State Development enters the picture.

They say roofing project – as an example – are only essential if it has leaks.

“When you have a roof that’s reaching it’s life expectancy. How long should you wait before you replace it?” said Cameron. “We don’t fix roads when they are un-driveable. So why are we holding the homeowner to a higher level of when they should really do things that they deem to be essential?”

Local communities are also straining these operations.

“The majority of the municipalities in our area do not require a permit to fix a roof, but there are some that do. For example, the town and the village of Victor requires a permit to replace someones roof. They are closed. They are not issuing permits as we speak … They are demanding that we still apply for a permit, pay for a permit and they won’t actually inspect a job that they do until the virus dies down,” said Cameron. “The town of Bloomfield is requiring their homeowners to obtain a report from an engineer confirming that is essential, absolutely necessary to do it. If the engineer agrees with the homeowner that the roof definitely needs to be replaced. They are insisting the homeowner to evacuate the property until the project is complete.”