City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, has been trying for three years to fix the problem. But his two proposed bills have been languishing in the Committee on Housing and Buildings since Jan. 24.
He attributes the delay to “overwhelming opposition by the real-estate industry,” including the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents more than 13,000 building owners.
The worst offenders are rental buildings where landlords leave scaffolding in place indefinitely because the $1,200 a month it costs to rent the structure is cheaper than doing a $200,000 repair on the building.
Kallos says he can walk between his home on 92nd Street and Third Avenue and his office at 93rd and Second almost entirely under sidewalk sheds, one of which has been there since before he was elected in 2013.
“As a New Yorker, one of my pet peeves is sidewalk sheds everywhere when I don’t know what just dropped on my head and what they attract, whether people using them as a makeshift shelter or just having negative consequences on our quality of life,” he says.
It is politicians who have created this mess, piling regulation on top of regulation in a knee-jerk response to isolated incidents.
The problem began in 1980, as a well-meaning response to a tragedy on the Upper West Side. Grace Gold, 17, a Barnard College student, was killed by a falling piece of masonry that came loose from a building at Broadway and West 115th Street.