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Sidewalk sheds come under citywide scrutiny by watchdogs, officials

Ever feel like city streets are covered in nothing but sidewalk sheds as far as the eye can see? You're right.

Nearly 7,300 buildings have a total of 7,708 permits for sidewalk sheds as of Aug. 31, and in many cases those wood-and-steel structures are clustered around the same block, according to data from the city's Department of Buildings.

Although the sheds are mandatory for construction of new high rises, and during repairs on facades or other fixes on older buildings, some of the sheds have turned into ugly fixtures in their neighborhoods. More than 1,333 projects are more than 18 months old.

"Five years ago, I certainly didn't see that many around here," said James G. Clynes, chairman of Community Board 8, which covers the shed-heavy Upper East Side. "It's bittersweet because it means that construction is booming, but at the same time it takes away from the mom-and-pops and other buildings that are here."

Community groups, the city and some elected officials, such as Assemb. Robert Rodriguez (D-East Harlem), have worked to make the sheds less obvious.

Rodriguez proposed state legislation that would mandate construction companies show at least 10 days' work a month for 12 straight months to get their permit renewed.

"We know this is an area where garbage gets thrown, folks loiter, and there are no cameras that can see through," he said. "We need to filter out the sheds that are useless."

Manhattan topped the boroughs with 3,743 shed permits, which came as no surprise from elected officials and community leaders downtown and in neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side and Greenwich Village.

"It is a safety issue, that's No. 1," City Councilwoman Margaret Chin said.

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