Just days after the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued stricter rules and stiffer fines for facade inspections, the New York Times reports that there are about 1,400 sidewalk sheds outside city buildings where facades present a serious safety threat. Over the past decade, according to an analysis by the Times, building owners have ignored more than $31 million in fines over unsafe facades. During that period, more than 6,000 buildings higher than six floors did not inspect their facades or failed to file their findings, as required by law.
City council members Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, both Manhattan Democrats, have introduced a bill to require the periodic reviews as a way of preventing the system from becoming warped over time, as has happened since the last major changes were made four decades ago.If the bill becomes law, it would create a commission appointed by the mayor and speaker to analyze the system in terms of “equity, efficiency, transparency, ease of administration, and compliance.” It would be required to hold two public hearings and issue a report with an analysis and recommendations by November 2030. The process would repeat every 15 years.
On May 16, 1979, shortly after completing her freshman year at Barnard College, Grace Gold was walking near the corner of Broadway and 115th Street when a chunk of masonry worked loose from the eighth-floor facade of a building owned by Columbia University. The masonry plunged to the sidewalk, killing Gold. She was 17.
“New Yorkers are exhausted by overdevelopment,” city councilman Ben Kallos, a leading opponent of the tall tower, tells the New York Times. “This is about standing up and showing the city that there’s another way to do things.”
Jon Kalikow, the president of Gamma Real Estate, says it would be a “disastrous outcome” if the city were to adopt the rezoning proposal.
“This building could dramatically change the character of our neighborhood,” says Alan Kersh, founding president of the East River Fifties Alliance, which opposes Gamma’s proposed tower and has more than 2,000 supporters, including 45 nearby co-ops and condominiums. Kersh lives across the street from the construction site in a 47-story building called the Sovereign.
But sidewalk sheds have been known to overstay their welcome, like a drunken uncle, sometimes sticking around for a dozen years or more, providing magnets for drug dealers, homeless people, trash, and worse. To remedy the situation, city councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, proposed a new law on Tuesday that would give building owners three months, with the possibility of a three-month extension, to make repairs and remove scaffolding and sidewalk sheds, the New York Times reports. If the work is not completed in that time, the city will step in to do it, and charge the owner for the work.