Why Does NYC Scaffolding Stay Up for So Long?

  Last modified on September 24th, 2020

If you live in an Upper West Side apartment, you undoubtedly have groused about the placement of NYC scaffolding. Either on your building or on a building on your block. Indeed, you may find yourself wondering why scaffolding is up for extended periods of time throughout the city. In fact, there are a variety of reasons as to why scaffold is so ubiquitous in the city, and present and in place for extended periods of time.

NYC Scaffolding

photo credit: Billie Grace Ward

Façade Inspection Ordinance

A primary reason why scaffolds are staying up for longer periods of time, with increasing regularity, across New York — including the Upper West Side — is because of the city’s façade ordinance that went into effect in 2009. The façade law requires owners of buildings anywhere in New York that are over six feet tall to have façade inspections every five years.

There are 12,000 buildings in New York City that must undergo this inspection process every five years. Qualified engineers are retained to inspect for loose bricks, cracks, and other deficiencies in the façade of these subject buildings.

Because of the limited number of engineers available to undertake these inspections, coupled with the large number of buildings that must be inspected, NYC scaffolding is placed and sometimes lingers in place for an extended period of time. Moreover, because some of these are very tall buildings, the actual inspection themselves can take extended period of times.

NYC Scaffolding

photo credit: John St John

Initial NYC Scaffolding Installation and Safety

Another reason scaffolding stays up so long is because of the fact that safety is such a big concern. Every year, a significant number of workers are injured in accidents associated with scaffolding. In addition, passersby end up injured in scaffolding accidents as well. These include accidents involving unstable scaffolding, causing injuries. Sadly, individuals are killed in New York City in scaffolding accidents each year. This includes both workers and passersby.

Because of the safety considerations associated with scaffolding, time must be taken to ensure that it is properly assembled and installed. This process extends the amount of time scaffolding is in place. Despite the expansion of time that it remains in place, this is vital to ensuring the safety and welfare of New Yorkers, including people on the Upper West Side.

Project Scheduling Issues

Different types of projects that require the use of scaffolds are notorious for running over schedule. For example, construction projects that require the use of scaffolding can run behind schedule because of weather events. New York is a city in which weather can force delays in construction projects during any time of the year. From rain in the warmer months to snow in the cooler months, weather issues can dog construction projects in New York, extending the amount of time scaffolding must be in place.

NYC Scaffolding

photo credit: mararie

Financial Delays of Projects

When an issue arises with a building facade in NYC, the owner is required to take immediate action. For example, if a building has loose bricks, a property owner must take action without delay.

A recurring problem is that building owners might not have the funds to fully address these issues. Thus, many a building owner in New York City will receive notifications to address a situation with a building façade. In response to this need for immediate action, a building owner will put scaffolding up. Due to financial constraints, the building owner does little else. At least initially. This type of issue accounts for the extended times that a good number of scaffolds remain in place throughout the city.

The NYC Scaffolding Record

A building in Times Square currently holds the record for being covered with scaffolding for the longest period of time. Scaffolding has been up at the Milford Plaza Hotel on Eighth Avenue for the past 23 years! It’s been there to address issues like reinforcing structural steel, repairs and improvements, installing illuminated signs, removing asbestos, and adding new plumbing.

The configuration of the scaffolding at the Milford Plaza has changed during the past 23 years. However, the current scaffolding scheme has been in placed for six years in an unchanged state. Moreover, there is no indication that the scaffolding will be coming down any time soon.

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