Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on September 6, 2023
Co-op and condo boards need to circle yet another date on their calendars: Sept. 28. That's when a new city rule goes into effect that requires owners of all buildings, regardless of height, to inspect their public right of way-facing parapets once a year and then identify and repair any hazardous conditions. The first round of annual inspections must be completed by Jan. 1, 2024. The only exceptions are detached one- and two-family homes, or buildings with a fence or other barrier preventing access to the exterior wall.
If unsafe or hazardous conditions are found, the building owner must notify the Department of Buildings and erect pedestrian protection — that is, a sidewalk shed — immediately. Repairs must be completed within 90 days.
“The observation must be performed by a person competent to inspect parapets,” the rule states. “(T)his includes, but is not limited to, a bricklayer, building superintendent, handyman, mason or a person in a similar construction-related trade, architect, engineer, an inspector working for a New York State-authorized insurance company, a New York State-authorized building inspector or any other person capable of identifying hazards on the parapet.”
The rule makes no mention of fines or penalties for building owners who fail to comply. But one thing is certain: despite the city’s new Get Sheds Down program, announced by Mayor Eric Adams in July, the new rule will bring a proliferation of sidewalk sheds. Those unsightly protections now cover some 400 miles of sidewalks across the five boroughs.
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Get Sheds Down is an attempt to crack down on building owners who keep sheds up for long periods of time rather than perform costly repairs. The initiative will result in penalties 90 days after a shed is first permitted and will be issued to the property until the shed is removed. Penalties are limited to $6,000 a month, leading some critics to call them toothless. The plan also includes the creation of a low-interest loan program to provide support to small property owners who lack resources to complete the work.
The new rule on parapet inspections is sure to be good for business at companies that rent sidewalk sheds, including Urban Umbrella, which provides aesthetically pleasing sidewalk sheds replete with bright lights, neon and artwork.
“(The new rule) directly hinders the mayor’s Get Sheds Down initiative, as it will almost certainly result in the installation of more sidewalk scaffolding, not less, across a much larger aggregate of buildings,” Urban Umbrella’s founder Benjamin Krall tells The New York Post, adding that parapet inspections will also improve public safety. “New Yorkers should expect an overall increase in the amount of work done to their buildings.”
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