New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

The Real Deal Ben Kallos wants to crack down on unsafe sidewalk sheds by Decca Muldowney

Ben Kallos wants to crack down on unsafe sidewalk sheds

The city is cracking down on that scourge of New York City: unsafe sidewalk sheds.

While sidewalk sheds are meant to protect pedestrians from falling debris at construction sites, a spate of accidents in which sidewalk sheds have done more harm than good, Council member Ben Kallos has introduced a bill to tighten safety regulations. Kallos’ told Gothamist that his office has found seven sidewalk shed incidents in which pedestrians were injured since 2017.

These include a woman who suffered spinal fractures when a shed collapsed on her in Soho in 2017.

Currently, contractors are responsible for conducting their own inspections of sidewalk sheds but Kallos wants to change the rules to bring inspections under city control. His new bill requires the city to regularly inspect sheds that have been up for longer than year. The inspections would happen once every six months.

Owners would be responsible for paying for inspections, starting with a fee of $250 but increasing up to $1,000 the longer a shed is in place.

The bill aims to encourage owners to finish construction and remove sheds quickly. Currently sheds can linger because it is cheaper for an owner to erect one that to complete necessary repairs to a building’s facade. Right now the average time for a shed to stick around is 376 days, according to the DOB.

But some stay for much longer. In October, 2018, Crain’s reported that a shed at the corner of West 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem had finally been removed… after 14 years.

There are currently more than 8,000 sidewalk sheds in the city, according a Department of Buildings website. (That includes a sidewalk shed at the DOB’s own headquarters at 280 Broadway, which has been in place since 2008, according to Crain’s.)

The city started regulating sidewalk sheds in 1980, after a Columbia University student called Grace Gold was killed by a piece of masonry that fell from a building on West 115th Street. They passed a bill requiring the owner of any building six stories or higher to inspect their properties’ façades every five years, and erect a sidewalk shed if any work was required.

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