Mayor Adams Removes The City’s Oldest Sidewalk Shed And Scaffolding In Historic Harlem

December 22, 2023

NYC Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Jimmy Oddo today took down NYC’s longest-standing sidewalk shed at 409 Edgecombe Avenue, a city landmark.

Which had been up for 21 years. The safe removal of this shed comes after the city filed a criminal court case against the building’s property managers for their repeated failure to repair the building. Through the “Get Sheds Down” plan, the Adams administration has expediated the removal of sidewalk construction sheds and scaffolding while reimagining the future of pedestrian protection in New York City.

“…21 years, residents of Harlem sacrificed public space … of a historical landmark…”

“For 21 years, residents of Harlem sacrificed public space and the beauty of a historical landmark because property managers repeatedly failed to do their job,” said Mayor Adams. “Today, we deliver 409 Edgecombe Avenue back into the hands of the Sugar Hill community and remain focused on continuing to safely remove the eyesores that are ugly sidewalk sheds and scaffolding across the five boroughs. With our ‘Get Sheds Down’ plan, we’re cutting red tape to help city government move faster and give our neighborhoods back to New Yorkers.”

“The pandemic proved how much our public spaces mean to our wellbeing — not just our legacy parks, but the public spaces right outside our front doors,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “Sidewalk sheds are necessary to keep people safe during active work, but they are also an eyesore — and they certainly shouldn’t be old enough to go to a bar. We’re thrilled to be able to return this space to Sugar Hill and we look forward to continuing the work across the city.”

“After a long wait, the residents of 409 Edgecombe Avenue are finally seeing a dual benefit to their homes: a safer entryway, and a view of their building’s façade,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “Property owners must assume responsibility for making repairs that protect residents and neighbors, and the city will continue our work on safe housing across the five boroughs.”

“The removal of this sidewalk shed was a long time coming, and I am proud of the work this department has done to doggedly pursue this case until the property owners were finally compelled to do the right thing,” said DOB Commissioner Oddo. “Sidewalk sheds serve a legitimate public safety role in our city, but not all sheds are the same. A shed installed as part of new construction is a sign of economic activity. A shed erected as part of necessary maintenance is an indication of compliance and responsible ownership. A shed kept up for years while delaying needed building repairs is selfish and unacceptable, and we will continue to do all we can to address these situations. As part of the administration’s ‘Get Sheds Down’ plan, we are working closely with our partners in the New York City Council on new legislation to refine our enforcement tools, so we can see more of these long-standing sheds taken off the street.”

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“Sidewalks are critical public spaces, and, finally, the residents of 409 Edgecombe Avenue will regain full access to the public realm outside their front door,” said Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu. “No sidewalk shed should be up for 21 years, and the Adams administration and DOB are working to ensure that building owners start paying the public cost of having sidewalk sheds up for too long and remove them in a timely manner.”

“Today, we mark a significant milestone as we dismantle the longest-standing sidewalk shed, signaling the beginning of a transformative era for our city streets,” said “New” New York Executive Director B.J. Jones. “Through the Adams administration’s ‘Get Sheds Down’ plan, we are revitalizing our city’s urban landscape, making it more welcoming to all.”

Since Mayor Adams launched the “Get Sheds Down” plan in July 2023, there are over 500 fewer actively permitted sidewalk sheds in New York City – sheds that had covered nearly 11 miles of New York City sidewalks. Additionally, since the plan was announced, the city has removed 75 long-standing sheds (sheds that have been up for over five years) from the streets. For decades, the rules governing construction sheds have incentivized property owners to leave them up for long periods instead of completing the critical façade work that is often the reason that the shed is required.

The administration has already advanced multiple efforts as part of “Get Sheds Down.” Earlier this year, DOB released technical guidance to help the industry understand revised rules and processes. DOB also issued a Request for Proposal to design firms looking for less obtrusive pedestrian protection and is currently reviewing proposals received. Additionally, new rules went into effect allowing for art on sidewalk sheds and other temporary construction equipment.

The Adams administration is currently working with the New York City Council on legislation to allow for a wider variety of colors, improve oversight over shed construction and maintenance, and enhance enforcement strategies. In the coming months, the city plans to file more criminal court cases against property owners who have failed to make repairs to their buildings and kept sidewalk sheds in place for years.

In the 20th century, 409 Edgecombe Avenue was an important site for Black political organizing, serving as a home to the NAACP and its executive secretaries, Walter White and Roy Wilkins, as well as W.E.B. DuBois and Thurgood Marshall. The shed at 409 Edgecombe Avenue was first erected in 2002 because of a local law requiring regular façade inspections for buildings over six stories. An engineer hired at the time by the owners found unsafe conditions around the brick and terra-cotta stone façade. For approximately 20 years, the property owner failed to make repairs, instead allowing the sidewalk shed to remain in place without work on the building progressing. In 2019, the city filed criminal charges against the building’s management company to compel them to move forward with the long-delayed repairs. The repair work began in earnest after charges were filed and were recently completed.

“Today marks an historic victory in Mayor Adams’ ‘Get Sheds Down’ campaign, a transformative initiative to beautify our streets,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “After 21 years, the sidewalk shed at 409 Edgecombe Avenue is finally coming down, allowing us to admire the classic Neo-Georgian style of this stunning pre-war building. So far, we have removed 500 sheds totaling 11 miles in length through the proactive campaign to expedite removals under ‘Get Sheds Down.’ This translates to more sunlight and increased foot traffic to street-level businesses. It also means fewer spots for bad apples to congregate. ‘Get Sheds Down’ is reclaiming our streets from the nearly 10,000 sidewalk sheds hiding the charm of our city.”

“As we gather today to witness the dismantling of the longest-standing sidewalk shed at 409 Edgecombe Avenue, a city landmark, we celebrate the triumph of progress over stagnation,” said New York State Assemblymember Al Taylor. “Mayor Eric Adams’ commitment to our city’s aesthetic and safety shines through the ‘Get Sheds Down’ Plan. This removal symbolizes the end of a 21-year eyesore. Let this moment signify not just the liberation of 11 miles of sidewalk space, but a renewed dedication to transforming our cityscape and ensuring a safer, more vibrant New York for all.”

“Call it a Christmas miracle: after 21 years, the city’s longest-standing sidewalk shed is finally coming down,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “While this is a welcome development, it should never have taken this long in the first place. In the new year, I plan to continue the push to reform our outdated and cumbersome scaffolding rules so that the next record for longest-standing shed is dramatically shorter.”

Photo credit: Source.

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  1. I Submit that the construction shed in front of 34 E. 12th St., Manhattan, has been up much longer than 21 years. This is a PAL building, definitely a city property,

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