Polish-owned Construction Businesses Suffer in Harsh Winter

Construction business owners say this year's winter is the worst they have seen in their career. (Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA via Nowy Dziennik)

Construction business owners say this year’s winter is the worst they have seen in their career. (Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA via Nowy Dziennik)

Closed construction sites, halted renovations, delayed contracts – these are the results of an exceptionally cold winter this year. The situation is further made worse by heavy snowfalls.

“It takes just a couple of days with temperatures below 32 degrees for your business to lose tens of thousands of dollars,” said Pawel, who has for the past 12 years worked in construction specializing in laying roofs. “This is by far the worst winter in my career. Some of the previous winters were not easy either, but low temperatures would not last longer than two or three days. Now it snows every couple of days and heavy snow gathers on roofs making it impossible to work there,” said Pawel adding that most contractors he talked to face the same problems.

“It is a success if you break even now. The biggest problem are the delays. The client does not pay us for staying home,” said another contractor, Michal, from Brooklyn.

“We halt all work when the weather does not cooperate. This time I have a client who presses to have things done as soon as possible, but we are still not able to do everything on time because of the snow,” said Wieslaw Kozlowski, owner of Vesko Construction Inc.

Owners of construction businesses say that the hardest hit are small companies which haven’t gathered enough capital before winter. “Clients pay after a couple of weeks or months. Delays are not accounted into contracts, just as costs of purchasing additional materials. The largest companies can manage, the smaller ones may go bankrupt,” said Pawel.

Harsh winters are a problem not only for the construction businesses doing work outside. Marek Styczen runs a furniture carpentry shop, Fine Woodwork, near Greenpoint. “We have no problem with production. The delivery part is where it gets tricky. The streets are badly plowed, with no place to park. The city is jammed with traffic, which makes it harder to move around with the delivery. On top of it, in bad weather you can’t rely on mass transit, so workers are late for work. To make a long story short, this year’s winter is taking its toll on us,” said Styczen.

The winter is not sparing the workers either. Przemek works on roofs. He has no papers and works off the books, which means no pay for snow days.

“It is tough with no paycheck when you have to pay the bills. Thank God I have some savings. Still, I get a chill going down my spine, when I look at weather forecasts for the next couple of days. But all you can do is grin and bear it,” said Przemek.

Marcin manages one of the construction sites in Borough Park in Brooklyn. “Unfortunately, most of the subcontractors don’t show up at work. The bricklayers can’t work in the snow or low temperatures, neither can the roofers, so the plumbers don’t come, because their work site is not ready. We now have some eight weeks of delays. It is a lot. On top of that, people get sick in this weather. I put layers on me but that didn’t shield me from catching a cold,” said Marcin.

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