New York City streets are covered in miles of scaffolding, and a lot of it is dangerous to be near.
The stuff seems to be everywhere. Tall, precarious-looking structures of metal and wood are lined up all over the city’s more than 7,000 buildings with decayed and broken facades. The construction is legally required for the public’s safety — but the demand for the work supposedly exceeds the limits of what contractors can do. As a result, scaffolds go up and then sit — waiting until the contractor can get back to the job.
The city is supposed to make sure that all of the scaffolding and other construction buildings, like shelter sheds, are safe. Inspectors may try, but the public’s confidence in their ability to check every structure is waning thanks to a number of accidents.
For example, in November of 2017, a scaffold collapsed on the shed below it. The sheds are designed to protect pedestrians from any falling debris. In this case, it almost became a death trap for those inside.
The collapse was later determined to be the result of negligence. The contractor was barred from additional jobs — but not before several more dangerous scaffolds owned by that company were identified.
The staff of the city department in charge of inspecting the scaffolds has nearly doubled in the last four years — but it’s still a massive job. Once erected, scaffolds can end up staying up for 10 years or more. They have to be inspected again and again during that time.
Some lawmakers want to enact penalties for landlords and building owners who erect scaffolds as a barrier against broken facades but don’t actually have any work done. They say that owners used to claim the long delays were the result of slow permits for work by the city. The city now says that permits are being issued in a timely fashion. Building owners are simply erecting the cheap scaffolds to avoid the expensive repair work they need to do.
There’s no doubt this hot-button issue will continue to make news. In the meantime, however, pedestrians need to be wary of their step around these scaffolds. Accidents can and do happen, and negligence is often the cause. Victims should be aggressive about protecting their rights to compensation — which is another method of holding building owners accountable.
Fields marked with an * are required