Since construction is always happening somewhere in New York City, scaffolds, or sidewalk sheds, have become part and parcel of its scenery. Yes, they are an eyesore that block sunlight and make already crowded sidewalks more congested, however they are a necessary evil, used to protect passersby from falling debris. However, some have been in place for far too long and the city is finally taking steps (be they small ones) to address this issue.
In a deep dive into the various scaffolds of New York, the New York Times, discovered that there are more than 7,700 sidewalk sheds around the city that translates to 280 miles of scaffolding. Many of these structures have been up for years and for some, the city doesn’t know when they are scheduled to come down. For example, the city’s oldest scaffold, found in front of a Park Slope brownstone at 277 First Street, has been up for the past 11 years.
To help keep track of these nuisances, the Department of Buildings has developed a new map that marks every scaffolded building with color coding that give information on when the scaffold went up and the reason behind its need.
While its a step in the right direction, annoyed New Yorkers are saying its not enough and call for legislation that will penalize property owners who keep the sidewalk sheds up for extended lengths of time to avoid making necessary repairs. “We already know how big a problem it is, and unless the city is willing to take steps to get the scaffolding down, it doesn’t matter,” City Councilman Ben Kallos told the Times. He has proposed a bill that would require building owners to make facade repairs within three to six months so that scaffolds aren’t up for longer than that.
As a result of the new map, the DOB was able to order 150 scaffolds to be dismantled since work had been finished. Though the database consolidates data, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will help scaffolds come down any quicker. “We’re erring on the side of safety to keep them in place so no one gets hurt,” said DOB Commissioner Rick Candler.