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New Law Would Rid City of Derelict Scaffolding Sheds

By Gustavo Solis | August 27, 2015 12:13pm
 Barbara Heard and Laurent Delly say this shed has been up for 13 years and they would like the city to force the building owner to remove it.
Barbara Heard and Laurent Delly say this shed has been up for 13 years and they would like the city to force the building owner to remove it.
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DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

HARLEM — For nearly 13 years, Barbara Heard has been staring at a blue scaffolding shed on the corner of 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue.

She and neighbors have called the NYPD, 311 and the Department of Buildings. They've had meetings with local politicians and she's even been interviewed by The New York Times about the issue.

But nothing has changed. The shed still attracts trash, public drinking and urination, Heard said.

Two weeks ago, the sheds were covered with debris that's fallen from neighboring buildings. The extra weight has neighbors concerned.

“It’s going to collapse,” Heard said.

“How can the owner get away with this for 13 years? I’m obligated to pay my taxes. If I don’t pay, the city will take my building away.”

While the city began removing scaffolding sheds at NYCHA properties this year, those in private buildings have been ignored.

As long as landlords renew their permits, they can have a shed up as long as they want without doing any work, according to the Department of Buildings.

State Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez and State Senator Bill Perkins are trying to change that with two bills they introduced in Albany.

“Needless scaffolding on our city sidewalks poses numerous quality of life issues,” said Rodriguez, who introduced a similar bill regarding NYCHA scaffolding earlier this year.

“It blocks sun, collects trash and becomes a haven for vermin and illicit behavior. We’ve made progress at NYCHA but more needs to be done at private construction sites.”

The bill seeks to amend New York City administrative codes stating that no scaffolding permits will be renewed unless it is part of an ongoing construction project, said a spokeswoman for the state assemblyman.  

Such projects would include “any construction project during which persons employed in construction work are utilizing such scaffolding at least ten days per month over the course of the year immediately preceding a request to renew a scaffolding permit,” according to the bill.

The state Assembly's legal council advised Rodriguez to reach out to City Hall and request approval for the bill because it would fall under their jurisdiction, Rodriguez's spokesman added.

The city council and Harlem representative Inez Dickens did not respond to questions Wednesday regarding support of the bill. 

The building at 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue has more than 50 open violations and has been fined more than $290,000 by the Department of Buildings. The current scaffolding permit expires in March 2016, records show.

The owner listed on the Department of Buildings' website did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday.

Residents at 123rd Street are tired of complaining about the same building. They want the city to take action.

“The city needs to do something about this,” said resident Laurent Delly. “We would like the city to seize the property and back charge the landlord.”