Some NJ construction workers fear virus exposure as they continue to work

While most of New Jersey is under a "stay at home" order, construction workers across New Jersey are on the job.

News 12 Staff

Apr 1, 2020, 10:32 PM

Updated 1,479 days ago

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While most of New Jersey is under a "stay at home" order, construction workers across New Jersey are on the job. And some tell Kane In Your Corner the situation has them concerned for their safety,
"There's no social distancing at all," a construction worker says. "I don't know why this is still going on."
He's one of the hundreds who report to a job site in Jersey City each morning. Like all construction projects in the state, it's been deemed "essential" by Gov. Phil Murphy. But the project in question is "Jersey Squared,” a large, luxury high-rise complex in Journal Square that's been under construction, in stages, for years. The worker says he doesn't think it's essential at all.
"I get it if you’re in a hospital and you’re fixing an elevator," he says. "Or you’re in a hospital and you’re fixing the electric or the plumbing. I get that as being essential. But we’re building a 70-story luxury high-rise in Jersey City, where the apartments are going to be 4, 5, 6 grand, or 7 grand a month. I don’t see how that’s essential or why we’re being exposed to this (virus) every day. Call me crazy."
Kane In Your Corner heard similar concerns from construction workers from across the state, on projects large and small. The workers asked not to be identified because they feared possible retaliation by their employers or unions. But they say it's nearly impossible to do construction and observe social distancing guidelines at the same time.
At Newark Liberty International Airport, several workers involved in building a new terminal say they believe even a project of that magnitude could be put on hold for a month or two.
"This is a worldwide catastrophe and this terminal is important?" one asks rhetorically. "Not possible. Why would it be worth risking 700 people transferring it back to their families every day?"
Workers at both the Jersey City and Newark sites are quick to point out that their general contractors have tried to provide amenities like job sinks. They say the issue is the nature of construction itself.
"Everything’s passed back and forth," a worker says. "If you’re pulling wire... two guys are next to each other pulling it. There are so many different ways that you’re touching the same exact stuff that everybody else in the room has touched.
Other states, including New York, have taken a different approach to construction, shutting down all but essential projects. Tuesday on "Ask Gov. Murphy", News 12 New Jersey's Eric Landskroner asked the governor why New Jersey hasn't done the same.
"We have to have a state that's ready for us when we come out of this crisis, when we come out of this war," Murphy replied, adding that "we are constantly reassessing all the parameters, including something like, what do we consider as essential or non-essential construction?”


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