Upper West Side residents call for change over seemingly endless scaffolding

For blocks and blocks on the Upper West Side, all you can see in front of buildings and over sidewalks is scaffolding.

The problem is the worst on West End Avenue. with a huge number of buildings between 107th and 72nd Street featuring at least one sidewalk shed, if not more.

"Today when it was raining, I took the scaffolding route and took West End all the way home because I didn’t have my umbrella," said one Upper West Side resident.

The scaffolding and netting have become an eyesore for residents, in an area where there are so many historic buildings with beautiful facades. 

"It makes the streets uglier, and these things are just like permanent fixtures," said one man who lives in the area.

Under New York City's "Local Law 11," if a building fails inspection and is deemed unsafe, the shed goes up immediately. 

"If we see a cracked stone, it's immediately considered hazardous. The shed has to go up in 24 to 48 hours," says Eric Cowley, president of Cowley Engineering.

Cowley says scaffolding can be up for weeks before work even gets started. 

"They're only hiring me for an inspection. So now I have to write a proposal to do the fix and quantify the areas. Bidders, contractor has to price it out. Meanwhile, the shed is standing there, and it takes us, you know, six weeks to put together plans and specs and then go through a bid process another couple of weeks, get a contract together, another couple of weeks. So you're looking at probably about a three-month window where a shed is up and nothing's happening except us doing drawings at that stage," Cowley said.

Another issue is money, as making repairs to these buildings can be very expensive. Some landlords refuse to do the repair work and instead pay for violations.

In a statement to FOX 5 NY the Department of Buildings said: "This administration is committed to protecting public safety, and we are using every tool at our disposal to compel owners to properly maintain their buildings in a safe condition, which has helped reduce the number of long-standing sheds on our sidewalks and beautify our public spaces.  While a sidewalk shed is an important tool for pedestrian safety, property owners are still legally responsible for making repairs at their buildings in a timely manner. As part of our "Get Sheds Down" plan, we have continued filing dozens of criminal cases against landlords who refuse to make needed repairs, and we are working with our partners to drive new legislation that would create additional enforcement tools to use against negligent owners."

The DOB  is now cracking down on landlords with the "Get Sheds Down" plan, targeting sidewalk sheds over 5 years old, and filing criminal cases against landlords who refuse to make the needed repairs. Currently, it has 43 open criminal court cases.

The Department of Buildings is calling for new legislation in the City Council, that would create new penalties for building owners to incentivize them to quickly make building repairs and reduce the amount of time a sidewalk shed might be needed to protect the public.

Among these proposals, is a plan for a new monthly penalty for any landlord who puts a sidewalk shed on a public sidewalk. These proposed penalties would be issued automatically, starting 90 days after the shed is first permitted, and even placing liens on properties with significant unresolved violations.