City Council, Department of Buildings look to reduce number of sidewalk sheds

The DOB says it agrees there is an issue, and like the councilmembers, came to the hearing with proposals.

Greg Thompson and Jodi-Juliana Powell

Jun 25, 2024, 11:45 PM

Updated 28 days ago

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According to the New York City Council, there are 386 miles of sidewalk sheds up around the five boroughs right now, many of which have been up for years.
Mayor Eric Adams has said that getting rid of unnecessary sheds is one of his top priorities, and Tuesday, members of the City Council held a hearing with the Department of Buildings to discuss how.
While sidewalk sheds are supposed to protect people from dangerous work and conditions on the sides of buildings, the City Council says, too often, owners just keep them up instead of getting the work done.
This can cause issues for businesses, with Jan Sanchez, the part-owner of Ciccio's Pizza in Gravesend explaining, "as soon as you're blocked off, nobody can really see your sign, nobody knows you're open, nobody knows hey, these guys are open late, let's stop in, nobody really realizes it."
The DOB says it agrees there is an issue, and like the councilmembers, came to the hearing with proposals.
Those included shortening the amount of time before sidewalk shed permits need to be renewed, and fining owners that don't hit checkmarks that show they're actually making the repairs.
That being said, DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said the priority for them is not the sheds, instead, "the department's primary concern is the condition of the building where the sidewalk shed is located."
While in the past, the DOB says money was the main reason the repairs would take a long time to get done, lately, they say they've found disagreements between neighbors are actually the No 1. cause.
A state bill in Albany could fix that if it passes, by creating a mediation system, and Oddo says "getting a more organized, professional protocol" is "critical."
The city is also hoping to change the way the sheds look, encouraging the use of nets instead wherever possible, and hiring a pair of companies that will be submitting six new designs options next summer, which could replace sidewalk sheds entirely.
"When we have a better design, the number (of sidewalk sheds) will be less important than it is today because we will feel a better city, and small businesses will not be impacted," Oddo said.
As for Sanchez, he was open to a new design, saying "as long as it doesn't cover up, or as long as there's a way to be reimbursed for business that you lose, I would appreciate that."
An engineering consultant firm is also conducting a full review of the city's facade inspection program. The DOB says the results of that should help reduce the number of sidewalk sheds even more.


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