Coronavirus strains NYC’s $8B LaGuardia Airport rebuilding project

Thursday - 02/04/2020 20:07
The new Terminal B at Laguardia Airport is pictured in this photo illustration.(Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News)
The new Terminal B at Laguardia Airport is pictured in this photo illustration.(Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News)
A Port Authority spokeswoman confirmed 22 worker exposures.

LaGuardia Airport’s $8 billion rebuilding project has drastically slowed down in recent weeks as dozens of construction workers have come down with coronavirus, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

At least 26 people who work at or have passed through the construction area at the airport’s Terminal B — which accounts for $4 billion of the project — have tested positive for the illness, a source told the Daily News.

A Port Authority spokeswoman confirmed 22 worker exposures. An untold number of workers were directed to quarantine after potential exposure, the sources said.

The construction at the terminal is broken up into more than 12 separate work areas, all headed up by the private construction company Skanska. Work halted at a job site at Terminal B’s western concourse last month after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19, said Skanska spokesman John Schiumo.

The company disinfected the job site and directed all employees to self-quarantine for two weeks if they were in contact with the infected employee, Schiumo said.

The workforce at the site for Terminal B’s main ticketing area was also hit hard by the outbreak, and work halted on a part of that project as well.

Major construction work and other essential services across New York have had to make do with fewer workers in recent weeks as the coronavirus has kept millions in the city home from work.

That’s even true at the LaGuardia site, which Gov. Cuomo has deemed an essential project that must move forward despite the crisis. Some workers have avoided the LaGuardia job site out of fear of catching the disease — even if they’re not sick or quarantined, said sources.

Construction workers who elect to stay home from essential projects over coronavirus fears may be eligible for unemployment benefits under the economic stimulus package signed by President Trump last week, said state Department of Labor spokesman Jack Sterne.

Unemployment benefits for those workers will be approved on a case-by-case basis, Sterne said.

Despite the worker shortage, Cuomo said Thursday it was vital that construction at LaGuardia carry on.

“A lot of these projects, once you start you can’t just stop,” said Cuomo. “Those airports are still functioning, planes are still coming in. LaGuardia is a whole configuration of physical barriers and alternate routes pending construction, so a project like that would be very, very difficult to freeze and then unfreeze.”

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