By: Sarah Barber, May 27, 2020
Sidewalk sheds. The perpetual eyesore of New York City.
That being said, the importance of having overhead protection in a city of high-rise buildings, skyscrapers, and never-ending construction cannot be understated. They are a necessary evil, if you will. New York City requires that sidewalk sheds be erected to protect any pedestrian walkways, sidewalks, or pathways within or abutting a property line during construction-related operations. Sidewalk sheds are designed to allow pedestrian traffic and vehicle parking spaces to safely remain open during construction.
Viewed as costly and obtrusive by most, building owners and property managers are often dismayed at the thought of having the dreaded green sheds and bridges installed along their property in perpetuity. Having sheds installed can also create tension between neighboring properties who are impeded by the structures. According to the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), a sidewalk shed is required:
- Where any construction work occurs at a height in excess of 40 feet above grade or in excess of 25 feet in height for partial demolition work.
- Whenever there is a dangerous condition irrespective of the height where construction is occurring.
- Whenever materials will be hoisted over the sidewalk, regardless of building height or horizontal distance between building and sidewalk.
- When the structure reaches the planned height of the shed.
- Before beginning any renovation of a building façade, construction of a new building, or demolition.
An exception to the above is that a sidewalk shed may not be required if the area immediately below the work zone is temporarily closed to the public, or if pedestrian protection is established utilizing fences or other barriers, such as barricades, cones, or caution tape accompanied by flag persons to redirect pedestrian traffic.
Per the NYC DOB, a sidewalk shed may not be removed until all associated construction work is completed, including façade cleaning, if applicable, and all exterior chutes, scaffolds, and hoisting equipment have been dismantled and removed from the site. Once the required construction work has been completed, the sidewalk shed must be removed.
However, it is not always the case that work is completed across an entire building simultaneously. Oftentimes it is prudent for a building owner to focus efforts at one area of a building in order to address particular conditions or to accommodate neighboring properties or other ongoing projects. If the construction work is phased such that one or more elevations are completed before the others, a building owner may petition for a Partial Shed Removal (PSR) request at the completed areas. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a standalone sidewalk shed and a supported (pipe) scaffold. Even though work might be complete along a particular elevation, the installed supported (pipe) scaffold may be required to access other areas of the building or to move men and materials. In this case, you would not want to remove the shed.
A Partial Shed Removal (PSR) request is submitted in “DOB NOW: Safety” and is identified by the building’s control number, sub-cycle (e.g. 9A), and filing sequence (how many requests have been submitted). The PSR is signed and submitted by the QEWI, who must provide a written justification regarding the requested shed removal. Extensive photo documentation is also required, including before and after pictures of the work areas and façade elevations. An updated plot plan/site plan drawing is also required to indicate the areas of requested removal and any locations of remaining work, active drops, and/or protection, if applicable. If a property falls under the Site Safety oversight requirements, a copy of the Amended Site Safety Plan should also be submitted. Lastly, copies of the current shed permits and their respective expirations must be included in the submission.
Although the PSR name designation alludes to the feasibility of a “partial” sidewalk shed removal, this is slightly misleading. Per advisement from the DOB Façades Unit, a PSR request applies to one full section of shed installed along an elevation and may only be filed once all work has been completed along that entire elevation. The DOB will not approve requests for the removal of an existing shed unless all scaffold and construction equipment has been removed from the building elevation and the Contractor has fully demobilized from that area.
PSR requests often take several weeks to process and are usually granted at the discretion of the DOB Examiner on a case-by-case basis. Special consideration is given to buildings or projects with notable hardship, such as those with upcoming DOT or utility-related work. Admittedly, the DOB is not equipped with a sizeable enough staff to visit and inspect every building in New York City that wants its shed dismantled. Since the PSR request requires an on-site inspection by a DOB Examiner to approve the request, the turnaround time is dependent upon the DOB’s schedule. Keep in mind that, if the PSR request is approved, the Building Owner or the Contractor will still have to coordinate with the shed/scaffold company to schedule the removals. At least there is light at the end of the (sidewalk shed) tunnel.