New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Ann Cooper

West Side Rag The Omnipresence of Scaffolding and Its Impact on Lives; Why and What Is Being Done? by Ann Cooper

The Omnipresence of Scaffolding and Its Impact on Lives; Why and What Is Being Done?

What’s happened to attempts to get scaffolding taken down more quickly?
The main legislative attempt was a bill first introduced by then-District 5 City Council member Benjamin Kallos in 2016. The Kallos proposal would have given owners six months to finish repairs required by Local Law 11. After that, if a building façade still hadn’t been repaired, city employees would do the work and send the owner a bill. And the scaffolding would come down.

Soon after Kallos introduced his bill, the city unveiled its online map showing just how much scaffolding is out there and how long it’s stayed up. The New York Times editorial board hailed the map for revealing that sidewalk sheds can be “as durable and mysterious as the monoliths of Stonehenge.” It seemed like the map might give a boost to the Kallos proposal.

The bill did get a hearing in a city council committee, where restaurant and retail owners enthusiastically endorsed it, while the Real Estate Board of New York was opposed. The Department of Buildings testified that the city did not have the resources to step in and do repairs if owners didn’t make the deadline.

The bill never came up for a vote, though Kallos continued to speak out, labeling sidewalk sheds “the house guest that never leaves” and noting that some scaffolding “is almost old enough to vote.” His sound bites gained media attention but failed to build enough support among council colleagues. Kallos blames the real estate industry’s opposition for the death of his bill; Crain’s New York Business reported that it didn’t help when Kallos lost some clout in internal council politics, endangering the scaffolding bill that he had made a top priority.

Kallos was term limited out of his council seat and lost a bid for Manhattan Borough President last year. In a recent interview he told West Side Rag that he was not aware of any current council members planning to reintroduce his bill. As long as the city continues to allow unlimited time extensions, “no one’s forcing [building owners] to make the repairs,” he said.