How Should Co-Ops, Condos and Office Buildings Adjust To New York’s Social Distancing Guidelines?

NY Executive Order

On April 25, 2020, Governor Cuomo promulgated Executive Order 202.17, which requires any individual over the age of two (and able to medically tolerate a face-covering) to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain social distance.

For condominiums, cooperatives, and commercial office buildings, the concern is whether the lobby, laundry room, bathroom, and other common areas are considered “public places” where individuals are required to wear face-coverings.

There is no official definition of “public space” within any of the executive orders, and therefore, the applicability of Executive Order 202.17 is subject to interpretation. Under New York law, a “public place” has been defined as “a place to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access, and includes, but is not limited to, highways, transportation facilities, schools, places of amusement, parks, playgrounds, community centers, and hallways, lobbies and other portions of apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments designed for actual residence.”” N.Y. McKinney’s Penal Law § 240 (“Offenses Against Public Order”).  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the purpose of the Order, any area in the building where individuals from separate office suites or units might be together would be considered a public place. Therefore, any area outside of the units or office suites themselves should be considered a public place for these purposes. In the interest of accomplishing the intent of the Order – to restrict exposure to the COVID-19 virus – commercial office buildings, co-ops and condominium buildings should consider adopting a rule requiring face covering in openly accessible parts of the building.

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