NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Scaffolding is as much a part of the city’s skyline as our skyscrapers — it’s everywhere.

Is it really keeping pedestrians safe, or just an excuse for building owners to avoid doing much needed repairs?

Barbara Heard grew up on 123rd Street in Harlem.

“On the corner used to be Johnson’s cleaners, and at the end used to be Mr. Barne’s luncheonette,” she said.

While she’s seen a lot of changes, one thing has remained the same — the scaffolding wrapped around the corner building for more than 12 years.

“Nobody wants to pass by there,” she told CBS2’s Alice Gainer.

Besides detracting from the beauty of the neighborhood, residents said homeless people would hang out underneath it.

“Lingering, urinating,” Heard said.

They also feel it’s unsafe.

“It’s collapsed a few times,” she added.

Despite all the construction debris CBS2 found piled on top of it, local resident and realtor Laurent Delly said the building hasn’t actually been worked on in years.

“I don’t see any reason to have a scaffold without any construction taking place,” Delly said.

Under the current law, buildings are required to have scaffolding and sidewalk sheds if they’re under renovation, or if there’s a public safety hazard like a falling facade.

Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez said building owners are keeping scaffolding up indefinitely.

“Sometimes it’s cheaper to keep it up than make the repairs that are necessary,” Rodriguez said.

Building manager Ashraf Elshazay said the scaffolding can’t come down until he gets the permits to finish the work. He said he can’t get the permits to finish the work until the Landmarks Preservation Commission signs off on the plans, which aren’t done.

“And we go around and around and around,” Rodriguez said.

The Buildings Department confirmed to CBS2 that, “the shed is necessary to protect the public,” and that the agency has issued numerous violations to the building owner.

That’s not good enough Rodriguez said. He’s introduced legislation requiring construction to be ongoing for ten months prior to the renewal of a scaffolding permit.

“And if it’s not it shouldn’t be renewed, or there could be meaningful fines,” he said.

Right now, Rodriguez said the penalties are nominal, and don’t encourage owners to actually get the work done.


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