Lawmakers Aim to Curb New York City’s Scaffolding Problem

A new package of bills has been introduced by several New York City Council Members, including the New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers, to address the plight that is unique to New York City – the eyesore of the city’s more than 280 miles of scaffolding, known as “sidewalk sheds”.

If you aren’t familiar with what sidewalk sheds are or what their purpose is, sidewalk sheds are built to protect people or property from falling debris.  Property owners must install a sidewalk shed when constructing a building more than 40 feet high, demolishing a building more than 25 feet high — and when danger necessitates this type of protection. Although sidewalk sheds must be removed immediately once construction, demolition or remediation work is complete, this is not often the case, among other reasons, because property owners either fail to pay the scaffolding company to remove the shed, its cheaper to leave the shed in place than remove it and reinstall it in a few months, or the project lost funding and no one is paying attention to the shed or project.

After much chagrin of New York City residents (except when the sidewalk sheds are keeping New Yorkers dry during rainstorms), several New York City Council Members have introduced a few bills aimed to ease the longstanding problem which include:

Introduction 955: Seeks to makes scaffolding brighter and safer  by updating lighting requirements to LED lights that have at least 90 lumens per watt as opposed to the current 45.

Introduction 956: Seeks to establish penalties for property owners who fail to apply for a work permit within 6 months of installing scaffolding.

Introduction 970: Seeks to establish new design requirements for scaffolding, such as allowing the structures to be painted in several different colors and raising their minimum height to 12 feet.

Introduction 972: Seeks to create timelines for the removal of scaffolding if no active construction is taking place over an extended period of time. Instead, the City would be allowed to step in and correct unsafe conditions on building facades, and then bill the property owner.

Introduction 973: Seeks to allow newly constructed buildings to have their first façade examination take place in 8 years instead of 5 since they use safer materials. It would also require the Department of Buildings to coordinate inspections on the same block so facade repairs happen simultaneously.

Introduction 971: seeks to protect tree cover. It will require any trees that are damaged or removed when setting up equipment to be repaired or replaced within 6 months.

Introduction 452: seeks to permit the City to establish a pilot program to use drones, in conjunction with physical examinations, for the inspection of building faces to enhance safety and the speed of the inspections.

Introduction 966: seeks to require the Department of Buildings to inspect scaffolding every six months and issue an administrative fee per inspection.


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