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Audit Followup Says Sidewalk Sheds Are as Ubiquitous as Ever

New York City

Sidewalk sheds, Local Law 11, co-op and condo boards, state comptroller's audit, DOB.
July 11, 2023

It's not your imagination. Despite efforts to rein them in, sidewalks sheds are as ubiquitous as ever in New York City. And, for good measure, they're still an eyesore.

In 2021, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit after inspectors visited 60 sidewalk sheds and found that 49 of them had uncorrected violations. Now he's back with a fresh dose of bad news.

"Two years ago my office reported on the Department of Buildings' weak oversight of sidewalk scaffolding and the dangers its lax approach posed for New Yorkers," DiNapoli said in a statement as reported by Crain's. "Unfortunately, a follow-up found it has done little to improve the situation."

The original audit made 15 recommendations to help ensure that necessary sidewalk sheds, put up while work is being done to the outside of a building, were safe and that unnecessary ones were taken down promptly after work was completed. But the DOB implemented just four of them, according to a follow-up letter the state comptroller's office recently sent to DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. The agency partially implemented two and did not implement nine.

Recommendations the agency has not implemented include requiring firms to immediately notify DOB when a shed goes up, immediately inspecting unsafe sites, ensuring property owners with expired shed permits renew their permits or take down their sheds, and developing policies to monitor facade conditions at buildings that stand no more than six stories tall. Recommendations the DOB did implement include updating the necessary documents owners must submit with their certificates of correction and improving policies around monitoring sheds for safety.

Ultimately building owners, including co-op and condo boards, and their contractors are responsible for maintaining safe sidewalk sheds. The sheds, though unloved, provide necessary protection while building owners perform mandatory facade inspections and repairs on a five-year cycle — a law passed and strengthened after unprotected pedestrians were killed by debris falling from buildings.

When releasing his audit two years ago, DiNapoli said, "The fact is the Department of Buildings can do a lot more to make sure the construction sheds we need are installed and safe and the ones that we don't need are taken out."

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