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Upper West Side councilwoman targets sidewalk scaffolds

By Jason Fink

More than 20 percent of sidewalk sheds – the plywood enclosures put up during construction work on building facades – on the Upper West Side do not display proper permits, a new survey says.

According to the study by City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, the lack of permits makes it difficult, if not impossible yesterday, to determine whether the sheds or the scaffolds are part of legitimate construction projects or have simply been left up after the work is done.

“Obviously there’s a concern for safety,” Brewer (D-Manhattan) said yesterday. “People complain to us that they stay up even when it seems like no work is being done.”

A Department of Buildings task forced in charge of inspecting sheds and scaffolds to determine if they are in compliance has only about 15 people on it, Brewer said. Calls to the department today were not returned.Building owners are required to have their facades inspected every five years and scaffolding is erected for that work to be done. In addition, building owners often build sheds beneath the scaffolding, complete with lighting and plywood over the sidewalks.

In response to complaints from neighborhood residents, Brewer’s office surveyed every block in her district – 54th Street to 96th Street from Central Park West to the Hudson River – and compared what they observed with what is listed on the Department of Buildings Web site.

They found that of 147 sheds in that area, 31 did not display permits or had information different from what the city has on file. In addition, 18 do not display expiration dates for the permits.

One shed, on Columbus Avenue and 84th Street in front of a Gristedes supermarket, had its scaffolding license expire in 2006 and a shed license expire in April, Brewer’s office said. A manager from the store did not return a call for comment yesterday.

“We’re just not aware of how legal a lot of the scaffoldings are,” said Elizabeth Malko, who lives in the neighborhood. “I have no idea if it’s going to fall down tomorrow.”

A manager at the Gristedes referred calls to the corporate office and a man who answered the phone there said no one was available for comment.

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