An audit of the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) oversight of city sidewalk sheds by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office from Jan. 1, 2017, through Oct. 1, 2020, found multiple issues, including sheds with hazardous conditions, sheds without valid permits and a general lack of enforcement.
DOB needs to be more proactive in ensuring that owners and other responsible parties comply with relevant codes, laws, and rules pertaining to the timely permitting, installation, maintenance, and removal of sheds.
Hazardous conditions that are not corrected can have severe consequences, as in the case of a pedestrian killed on December 17, 2019 after being struck by debris that fell from a Manhattan building.
During the period December 20, 2019 through March 10, 2020, we visited a sample of 74 sites located throughout the five boroughs of NYC where installation of sheds had been approved. Sheds were in place at 60 of the 74 sites at the time of our visits. At some of the sites, we observed sheds with hazardous conditions and sheds without posted permits, as follows:
- 49 of the 60 sheds (82 percent) did not have publicly displayed permits, as required.
- 27 of the 60 sheds (45 percent) had a total of 47 safety issues. In addition, daily inspection reports were not maintained for 51 of the 60 sheds (85 percent).
Further, in some instances, DOB could have taken additional enforcement or other actions to promote public safety:
- Between January 1, 2017 and March 31, 2020, of the total 3,798 Class 1 NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings summonses issued, 1,966 were open for more than 30 days. Despite the requirement that these conditions be immediately addressed, DOB did not issue additional violations for failure to timely certify corrections.
Additionally, DOB did not always refer immediate emergency conditions to HPD. Of 1,065 shed-related DOB Violations issued between January 1, 2017 and September 30, 2020, DOB classified immediate emergency conditions at 767 sites, but did not refer these conditions at 214 of these sites to HPD, which would have allowed HPD to take measures to protect the public. Furthermore, the owners of 98 of these sites were notified multiple times of the safety issues, which required immediate attention.
- Improve policies and procedures to monitor that sheds are safely maintained.
- Implement procedures for building owners and contractors to complete and submit uniform daily shed inspection reports to DOB and monitor to ensure inspections address safety conditions per the NYC Building Code.
- Inspect unsafe sites within the required time frames to ensure protective sheds are properly installed or the unsafe condition is corrected.
- Develop and implement control activities, including policies and procedures to ensure property owners publicly post shed permits as required.
- Immediately identify overdue compliance with summonses and implement policies and procedures to monitor these sites and ensure hazardous conditions have been corrected.
- Coordinate with HPD to assist with taking immediate measures to protect the public from unsafe conditions.