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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




The Unloved Sidewalk Shed Gets the Beauty Treatment

Flatiron District

Beautiful Sidewalk Sheds

Attractive sidewalk sheds are coming to New York City (image courtesy Urban Umbrella)

Sept. 14, 2017

Mandatory Local Law 11 facade repairs are a fact of life for most New York City co-op and condo boards. And those cyclical repairs usually require sidewalk sheds to protect pedestrians from falling debris. About 1 million linear feet worth of sidewalk sheds are standing in the city today, enough the encircle the island of Manhattan six times. 

Sidewalk sheds may ubiquitous and unloved and they may tend to overstay their welcome, but they don’t have to be ugly. Proof is two sheds that will soon go up – one in front of a Flatiron district office building, the other at a condo near City Hall – that are visually pleasing. They’re from Urban Umbrella, which won a 2010 competition to design a better sidewalk shed, then used its $10,000 prize money to perfect the sheds in Toronto, the New York Post reports

“We needed to prove we could operate under the largest skyscrapers,” says Benjamin Krall, co-founder of Urban Umbrella, of the time spent in Canada.

Designed out of recycled steel and translucent plastic panels that come in a variety of colors, the stylish scaffolding resembles an open umbrella. In contrast to the boxy scaffolding New Yorkers love to hate, “our structural integrity happens in a different way. It eliminates the cross-bracing and makes it more open,” Krall says, adding that built-in LED lighting enables the firm to do “cool stuff with custom colors.” 

Permits are being filed this week to install Urban Umbrellas at 20 W. 22nd St. as the building’s owners plan routine Local Law 11 facade work. “We were prepared to move forward with a traditional scaffold but recognized that even if it was delayed slightly, this would be a better solution,” says Jason Fein of ABS Partners. “We will roll it out to our entire portfolio.” 

Robert Finkelstein, also of ABS, adds, “Most people don’t enjoy walking under scaffolding and we think this will be a different kind of feeling, better for the tenants, and not an eyesore.”

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