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City Will Issue Fines Up to $10,000 for Delinquent Sidewalk Sheds

New York City

Sidewalk sheds, co-op and condo boards, Facade Inspection and Safety Program.
July 25, 2023

Two weeks ago Habitat reported that New York City has done little to rein in the 400 miles of unsightly sidewalk sheds that protect pedestrians from falling building debris — despite an audit in 2021 by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

"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 recent statement. "Unfortunately, a follow-up found it has done little to improve the situation."

In response to that stinging report, Mayor Eric Adams is overhauling the city's rules around its sidewalk sheds, including stepping up fines in central business districts, in an effort to get the infamous scaffolding down faster, Crain's reports. The plan aims to incentivize property owners to finish their repair work and dismantle the sheds rather than continually renewing the sheds' permits. A major part of this will be expanding financial penalties and oversight for sheds in Midtown Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City and Grand Concourse in the Bronx. 

Owners in those central business districts could be fined $10,000 if they have a shed up and have failed to file a repair application within three months, get work permits within six months or finish their repairs within two years. The administration will also push for legislation that would impose new monthly fines on building owners with sheds in the public right of way that are unrelated to new construction or demolition work. These penalties would start 90 days after the shed gets its permit and be capped at $6,000 per month.

Many of the city's sheds go up under the Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP) formerly known as Local Law 11, which requires owners of properties taller than six stories to have their exterior walls inspected every five years and file a corresponding report with the Department of Buildings. If the building is designated as unsafe, the owner has to immediately install pedestrian protections. Buildings subject to the law can repeatedly file for shed permit extensions to avoid penalties, while smaller buildings not subject to the law can renew their shed permits every year. All building owners must keep their facades in a safe condition.

Under the reforms, the DOB will aim to reduce the standard length of shed permits from a year to 90 days and stop granting penalty waivers for sheds whose permits have expired. The agency will also add properties with scaffolding that has been up for longer than three years to its long-standing shed program, which subjects them to additional scrutiny, and look into whether reducing the frequency of FISP inspections could be possible without putting the safety of pedestrians at risk.

The city currently has about 9,000 active and permitted construction sheds that have been up for almost 500 days on average and occupy about 3% of sidewalk space in the city.

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