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.
Courtesy of IBO
According to the DOB data, Manhattan holds the largest portion of the city’s sidewalk sheds, but the number of sheds recorded in Brooklyn nearly doubled in the past two decades. Sidewalk sheds in Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx have also increased significantly in recent years.
Plus, the sidewalk sheds stay up for long periods of time, with the majority of facade-related sheds up for more than one year. Owners opt to “pay the costs of renting the sidewalk shed and the penalties DOB imposes for delayed repairs,” rather than completing the work on time, according to the IBO.
Another reason for the not-so-temporary structures could be tied to the pandemic, which has made it more difficult for projects to be completed on time. Both construction and facade sheds are staying up longer on average, according to the data.
Courtesy of IBO
In July 2021, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli published the results of an audit that monitored the integrity of NYC sidewalk sheds, including whether or not they’ve been removed when required and displayed the proper permits. The comptroller’s office visited 74 sheds across the city between December 20, 2019 and March 10, 2020.
Their visits revealed troubling findings. According to DiNapoli, “82 percent of the sheds were not displaying the required permits” while “45 percent had a total of 47 safety issues.”
Additionally, the majority of the sheds weren’t maintaining their daily inspection reports.
In 2019, a piece of debris fell from an office building at 729 Seventh Avenue and hit and killed Erica Tishman. The owner of the 17-story building had been fined $1,250 for “failure to maintain exterior building facade and appurtenances,” according to city documents. The owners received a permit to build a protective sidewalk shed, but did not until after the accident, as 6sqft previously reported.
In response, DOB expanded its inspection team and increased the number of proactive inspections.
An interactive map from the Buildings Department tracks the city’s active sidewalk shed permits. As of Thursday, there are over 9,000 active sheds recorded, which have been up for an average of over 260 days.
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