Mayor Adams Announces New Penalties for Leaving Sidewalk Sheds Up Too Long
Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Buildings Commissioner James Oddo revealed a new slate of policies focused on getting sidewalk sheds removed from buildings faster.
New York City will start penalizing building owners who leave sidewalk sheds up too long or miss deadlines for facade repair work, and has added new fees to renew permits for the sheds, the mayor announced Monday. The city will also hold a competition to design new, less obtrusive sidewalk sheds.
“We have nearly 400 miles of scaffolding in New York City, taking up public space that belongs to New Yorkers and the millions who visit our city every year,” Adams said in a statement. “Imagine visiting Rome, Tokyo or Rio and seeing scaffolding everywhere. New Yorkers wouldn’t be happy with these unsightly constructions in other cities, and we shouldn’t be OK with them here at home.”
Manhattan alone has more than 4,000 scaffoldings on the streets with many staying up far longer than they need to be, including some in place for more than 11 years, according to a recent report from Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.
Most of the city’s unsightly sidewalk sheds are the result of Local Law 11, which requires owners of buildings taller than six stories to have their facades inspected every five years and file a report with the DOB certifying that the exterior walls are structurally sound. Landlords erect sidewalk sheds while doing Local Law 11 work or because the DOB deemed a building’s facade unsafe.
Levine recently pitched reforming Local Law 11 by increasing the amount of years between facade updates and offering to help owners with permitting, but the city has not yet committed to doing so. However, the mayor’s office said that DOB would “conduct a study to review the frequency of inspections under Local Law 11, and the Façade Inspection and Safety Program, and determine whether New York City can employ less frequent and/or less onerous inspections without jeopardizing pedestrian safety.”
Instead, the Adams administration said it will partner with Levine to introduce legislation that would penalize building owners for sidewalk sheds that are covering city sidewalks and aren’t related to new construction or demolition projects. Penalties would start 90 days after a shed is first permitted and be issued monthly until the shed is removed.
The city also plans to impose a new $10,000 penalty for failing to meet Local Law 11 deadlines or for not completing facade repair work within 24 months. There will also be new fees for each renewal of a sidewalk shed permit and a new penalty for keeping a shed up after a permit has expired.
Finally, the Adams administration plans to explore alternatives to the traditional sidewalk sheds, which have long been reviled for darkening city sidewalks or obscuring views of retail storefronts.
DOB will issue rules allowing facade safety netting instead of a shed in some circumstances. The agency also plans to hold a design competition for new sidewalk sheds and netting options “that are less obtrusive, more visually appealing, and still affordable … while simultaneously offering critical overhead protection from any potential hazards,” according to the mayor’s office.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg also hosted a sidewalk shed redesign competition back in 2011, which resulted in the Urban Umbrella sidewalk shed.
Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at email@example.com.