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Mayor Eric Adams’ Community OpEd: Getting Sidewalk Sheds Down

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Last week, we announced our plan to take down unsightly sidewalk sheds and reclaim our streets. Sidewalk sheds — which many New Yorkers also known as scaffolding — are the ugly green and metal boxes that cover our sidewalks. They block the sunlight, keep pedestrians away from businesses, and are a magnet for illegal activity.

New Yorkers have gotten so used to sidewalk sheds that it’s easy to forget our city’s beautiful architecture underneath. While sidewalk sheds were created to protect New Yorkers from unsafe buildings and construction sites, their appearance has gotten out of control.

Current city rules incentivize property owners to leave sidewalk sheds up and put off critical safety work. Most sheds stay up for longer than a year and some have darkened our streets for more than a decade. All too often, sheds stay up while no repair work is happening, and property owners are not required to pay a penny in fines.

As a result, we have nearly 400 miles of sheds across our city taking up public space that belongs to New Yorkers. This is New York City. We are back better than ever; we cannot continue to be a skeleton city covered in sidewalk sheds.

That’s why my administration is overhauling construction shed rules from the ground up, with our “Get Sheds Down” plan. This plan will flip the script so that property owners are incentivized to complete safety work and Get Sheds Down instead of leaving them up year after year. We are also going to tap into the talent of our city to design other options while doubling down on the alternatives we already have, such as netting.

We are also going to increase oversight and enforcement of sidewalk sheds. Because if you take public space that belongs to New Yorkers, you should have to pay for it. We are going to focus these changes on business districts, where property owners have the resources for repair work. Let me be clear: these changes will not burden small property owners who are still recovering from the pandemic. And, as always, public safety will remain our number one priority.

The city is going to lead the way with our own construction and repair projects. We will be running a pilot at the Queens County Supreme Court in Jamaica, taking down a shed that has been up for 6 years and replacing it with netting.

This administration is all about promises made, promises kept. Last year, together with Governor Hochul, we released the “New” New York report, which highlighted the importance of public space to our city’s recovery. Addressing sidewalk sheds is also key part of our Working People’s Agenda introduced in January.

New Yorkers are going to see a big difference in their neighborhoods: more light and space; less crime and mess. This is how we reimagine our city and revitalize our business districts. This is how we get people to spend money in New York City. And this is how we build a safer, more beautiful city for all.

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