NYC Buildings Department No-Penalty Retaining Wall Inspection Program In Progress Until May 31

Retaining walls are designed to hold back soil that would move to a more natural slope or incline if the wall was not in place. Every homeowner is required by law to maintain their walls and their properties in a safe condition at all times. Under the No-Penalty Retaining Wall Inspection Program, homeowners may call 311 to request an inspection of their retaining wall without the penalty of violations.

Every once in a while you hear a story in the news about a retaining wall that collapsed on a worker engaged in a construction project on an adjoining property where the worker is injured or dies. This year’s program may be more important than in other years because this year’s unprecedented rainfall could compromise the stability of retaining walls. As temperatures rise and the seasons change, retaining walls can become particularly susceptible to deterioration, which can put nearby buildings at risk.

During an inspection, Department inspectors conduct visual examinations of retaining walls and record structural conditions, such as bulging, displaced material, or leaning of the wall. If repairs are needed or violating conditions that are not immediately unsafe are found on these walls, the Department will defer issuing violations until May 31, 2010, to allow property owners time to take corrective action. If dangerous conditions are found upon inspection, the Department will take immediate action to force correction of the unsafe condition.

The inspection program was launched in 2005 to raise awareness about retaining wall maintenance following the collapse of a retaining wall above the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan. As part of this program, the Department inspected 88 retaining walls across the five boroughs in 2009.

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