Temporary sidewalk sheds are legally required to be installed at any construction site to protect pedestrians from falling debris. While they are seen as a safety necessity, the structures are eyesores that block sunlight and slow foot traffic. In New York City, the total number of sidewalk sheds has tripled over the past two decades, a new report released this week by the Independent Budget Office found. Looking at data from the Department of Buildings, the report found Manhattan was home to the most sidewalk sheds but noted the outer boroughs are starting to catch up.
“Breathing Wall” by Monika Bravo. Photograph courtesy of the artist via NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
On September 12, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs announced a search for applicants for a new pilot program called City Canvas, Archpaper reports. The program was designed to beautify New York City’s visual landscape by installing large-scale–and temporary–artwork on its endless construction fences and 270 miles of sidewalk sheds. The protective construction structures are an everyday eyesore for New Yorkers, but current building codes prohibit altering them. The City Canvas program circumvents that ban by allowing select artists and cultural institutions to add visual art to the visual affronts.
Like an unwanted visitor, well-intentioned but present well after becoming a daily nuisance, New York City’s familiar green sidewalk scaffolding seems to contradict the laws of gravity: It goes up but never really seems to come down. Now, the New York Times reports, a new City Council bill would require that scaffolding be taken down after six months–sooner if no work is being done.