"If the state had said it was freezing payments to all vendorsacross all industries, we would have accepted that," DeniseRichardson, managing director of the General ContractorsAssociation of New York, tells GlobeSt.com. "What bothers us isthat we were the industry that was singled out for this."

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Paterson's order does not say that contractors must stop work onthe state-funded projects, only that they cannot expect to be paiduntil after the budget is finalized. The order, issued inaccordance with emergency legislation to keep the state governmentgoing temporarily, does not affect progress on projects fundedthrough the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Nor does ithalt payment for capital project expenses "incurred to addressemergency health and safety needs," according to a statement fromStanley Gee, acting state commissioner of transportation.

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For the 506 projects statewide that are affected, the earliestthe funding spigot could be turned back on could be April 8, whenthe state legislature returns from its Easter/Passover recess.Failing that, action could come after April 14, when an emergencyspending appropriation expires. "Contractors are assessing thelikelihood of this problem continuing past the emergency fundingperiod," Richardson says.

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If funding for the projects through the state's Department ofTransportation doesn't return soon after Paterson and legislatorstake up the budget again, contractors will start making contingencyplans to shut down job sites. That would include plans for storingequipment and materials and making sure the stopped work sitesdon't present a safety hazard, Richardson says. Should the budgetprocess be protracted, as it has been in previous years, there willbe project shut downs and layoffs.

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To the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater NewYork and the Building Trades Employers' Association, that's anunthinkable scenario. The two groups note that unlike this one,previous stopgap spending measures have covered constructionfunding, and jointly they're calling on Paterson to send the Senateand Assembly emergency legislation so that the projects cancontinue.

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"The suspension of current and new construction projects isunacceptable," says BCTC president Gary LaBarbera in a statement."We have lost more than 58,000 construction jobs statewide in thelast two years, including 22,000 in New York City, due to therecession. We cannot afford to lose more jobs due to governmentinaction." Adds BTEA president Louis Coletti, "The constructionindustry is the biggest economic engine of any sector of theeconomy; shutting these job sites down means lost businessopportunities for everyone."

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Largest of the suspended projects statewide is the $470-millionrehabilitation of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in the Bronx. InNew York City, there are at least a dozen affected projects, aswell as several on Long Island and in the city's northern suburbs,according to a partial list of projects released by the state DOT.Among the largest are a $146-million rehabilitation of the GowanusExpressway in Brooklyn, a $137-million project to replace the agingRoslyn Viaduct over Hempstead Harbor on Long Island and the$164-million reconstruction of the Cross Westchester Expresswaythrough White Plains and Harrison in Westchester County.

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In an interview Wednesday with Fox TV affiliate WNYW, Patersondefended the emergency order. "We are not saying the projectsshould be delayed, but we are saying that the payments should bedelayed," Paterson said. "Right now our financial situation is sovulnerable that we have to consider everything in order to keep thestate from becoming bankrupt."

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.