Scaffolds Raising the New York City Skyline are Raising Concern

New York City sidewalk sheds (the open scaffolds you walk under) are well on their way to becoming as synonymous with the Big Apple as hot-dog carts and yellow-taxi cabs. With the influx of construction, NYC sidewalk sheds and scaffolding have devoured thousands of streets and have become more than just an eyesore for residents; they’re safety hazards.

According to the Department of Building, there are currently 9,000 sheds on the city’s streets, up from 3,500 in 2003. Although many attribute the rise in sheds and scaffolding to the boom in construction, the underlying reason lies within city legislation. Thirty-six years ago, the city passed a law requiring regular inspections of older buildings to ensure concrete and bricks don’t fall on pedestrians.  Sidewalk sheds protect pedestrians by forming a temporary roof over the walkways.

Over the years, the City Council has reinforced the law while adding new ones, creating a city full of scaffolding.  The goal of keeping pedestrians safe as they peruse NYC is all and well, but as the number of sidewalk sheds grow, so does public concern.  For one, the amount of time it takes to complete inspections and repairs to buildings is lengthy, therefore the period of time some sidewalk sheds are erect is absurd.  Another issue is that sheds accumulate rubbish, becoming an eyesore in the process.  People dispose of garbage on and around them, which typically remains in place for long periods of time.

Additionally, there are safety concerns.  Sidewalk sheds are required to be well-lit and comply with building safety codes.  Without any regularly scheduled inspection and routine enforcement, it is doubtful that all of the NYC sidewalk sheds are truly stable and violation-free.

It may have been these concerns which New Yorkers raised prompting Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Buildings Department to announce last month a “shed safety sweep.”  The sweep covers 7,700 properties, including 600 New York City Housing Authority buildings. More than 300 miles of sheds will be inspected during the sweep.

Regardless, pedestrians need to keep an eye out and be aware of the risks sidewalk sheds present.  Despite residents’ distain they are here to stay.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a sidewalk shed’s failure to comply with safety codes, contact the experienced attorneys of Levine & Slavit, PLLC to receive the full rights the law provides. Contact (888) LAW-8088 for a consultation today.

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