New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Aaron Elstein

Crain's New York Tackling the scourge of sidewalk sheds by Aaron Elstein

Tackling the scourge of sidewalk sheds

There's no law mandating when dormant sheds must be removed, but city Councilman Ben Kallos is trying to create one. In 2016 he introduced a bill that would require private landlords to take down a shed if no work were underway for seven days, with exceptions for bad weather. If a landlord refused to undertake repairs, in some cases the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development could step in and arrange to have the work done.

"It's a law of nature that what goes up must come down," Kallos said, "but not in New York when it comes to sheds."

Kallos' bill hasn't gotten any further than a single hearing in November, mainly because neither the Real Estate Board of New York nor the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group, wants the city meddling any further with sheds and construction work. Nor is the de Blasio administration—which already has its hands full managing public housing—interested in getting involved with costly, complex repair projects that come with potentially significant legal risk thanks to the state's scaffolding law, which holds building owners and contractors 100% liable for any gravity-related accident even if they are only partially at fault.

Crain's New York Bill to curb epidemic of sidewalk sheds finally advances by Aaron Elstein

Bill to curb epidemic of sidewalk sheds finally advances

Since August 2008, the front of the Department of Buildings' headquarters in lower Manhattan has been covered by a sidewalk shed. The unsightly steel-and-wood structure outside 280 Broadway stood because for years the city had set aside no money to pay to fix the crumbling facade.

"Thankfully, work has commenced as of a few months ago," Patrick Wehle, an assistant buildings commissioner, said at a City Council hearing last week. But the point had been made: Because it's much costlier to fix a façade than to maintain a shed that devours sidewalk space, blocks sunlight and hurts businesses, and no deadline to remove it, sheds have spread across the city. There are now 8,843—about 200 miles worth—and they pop up any time a building is built or repaired, as Crain's documented in a cover story last year.

Late last year City Councilman Ben Kallos sponsored a bill to stop the scourge and last week a hearing was finally held to discuss it.

Crain's New York A cure emerges for New York's epidemic of sidewalk sheds by Aaron Elstein

A cure emerges for New York's epidemic of sidewalk sheds

Sidewalk sheds, the unattractive steel-and-wood structures that pop up anytime a building is being built, repaired or has been deemed unsafe, have spread across the city like kudzu during the past decade. As Crain's described in a cover story earlier this year, approximately 190 miles of them are devouring sidewalk space, cutting off sunlight and hurting businesses trapped underneath.

But at long last, there may be relief for exasperated New Yorkers.

On Tuesday, City Councilman Ben Kallos introduced a bill that would require sheds to be taken down if no work is done on the building above for seven days, with exceptions for weather and other issues. The legislation would close a loophole that allows landlords to keep dormant sheds up forever, so long as the city's Department of Buildings grants a permit, which it routinely does. The bill would also let the city do the work and bill the property owner.

Laurent Delly, who has lived near a shed that has stood since 2004 at the corner of West 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue, called the bill great news for the city. "We would be pleased with a tangible solution to this chronic issue, which has affected all of us as New Yorkers for years," he said.