A New Bill Might Put A Time Limit On Scaffolding In NYC

With almost 9,000 scaffolds and sheds, small business owners in NYC are seeing their revenue plummet.

By Jeff Vasishta December 7, 2016

“Yes, We’re Open!”
“Entrance This Way.” We’ve all seen those jaunty signs from stores, imploring pedestrians to ignore the thick metal poles, painted bottle green plywood, deafening pneumatic drills instead navigate their way into their businesses. You can just feel the rage as the signs go up. It’s the curse for any retailer—being surrounded by scaffolding. Now a new city bill aims to add a time limit on when poles comes down and sanity is restored.

For a small business, surviving on a sliver of profit, scaffolding, which, according to The Epoch Times, can cut trade by 60 percent, is like the Grim Reaper moving in next door. Dealing with nearly 8,000 sheds—the makeshift, rerouted walk-ways that often accompany a scaffold—is like hoping a spouse will lose weight to resemble their former selves, only to see empty Haagen Dazs tubs in the trash. It can be an infuriating process with no end in sight. The construction boom has made Manhattan a city of poles, plywood and tarps.

“New York is insatiable right now when it comes to sheds,” George Mihalko, a shed-equipment supplier who said his biggest challenge is finding inventory to fill the five 25-foot-long truck-fulls of steel pipes and beams that he sends out daily from his New Jersey warehouse, told Crains. “I’ve never seen anything like it in 30 years.”

City Council members have had enough. Now they are attempting to push through a bill that limits scaffolds for 6 months—or sooner if no work is being done.

Related: Rezoned 29th Street In Chelsea Is Now Enjoying Construction Frenzy

“Unless you’re building the Taj Mahal and using hand tools, it shouldn’t take that long for facade work,” Robert Feiner, an advertising sales consultant, who sits on the board of his East 74th Street co-op, told the New York Times. He added that during that time, a nearby high-rise tower was built from the ground up.

“No one likes sidewalk sheds—but they are there for a reason,” said a spokesperson from the Department of Buildings, which oversees and regulates the structures told Epoch Times. “Sidewalk sheds need to be in place … for as long as potentially unsafe conditions exist.”

Infuriatingly for affected businesses, while the DOB mandates that sheds are erected, they have had no time frame for when they must be removed. It can stretch on for years, whole childhoods passed in apartment buildings shrouded in construction.

Related: Construction Of A Condo Giant At 242 West 53rd Street Is Underway

“Our sales have gone down by 30 percent,” said Luz Maria Portes, the owner of Tres Hermanas Deli on the corner of 116th Street and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard, whose business has being hidden by a shed.

Frank Ricci, the director of governmental affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 building owners and managers, shed light on the real reason scaffolding can stay up for an interminable amount of time.

“The bottom line is sometimes it’s cheaper and safer to leave up the sidewalk sheds than to do the repairs because the repairs can go into millions of dollars,” he told the New York Times.

Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, is introducing the new bill which will attempt to hold building owner’s feet to the fire, mandating for “A specific timeline for landlords to get the work done…holding someone accountable for scaffolding that goes up and never comes down,” he said.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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