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Shedding the Sheds: The Plan to Clear Sidewalk Construction

Almost 9,000 construction sheds decorate the streets of New York City, but this number might soon be drastically reduced.

Recent building code changes, introduced by the “Get Sheds Down” plan, incentivize property owners to expedite repairs and remove sheds. The plan, which launched this past summer, will implement stricter penalties for idle construction and phase out the green pipe-and-plywood sheds for better-looking designs.

Construction sheds are a common eyesore on NYC sidewalks. Some construction has stagnated for so long that the sheds, designed to protect pedestrians from falling debris, are practically a part of their building’s facade. Many have been up for years—some, over 10 years. Ironically, even the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) headquarters was enveloped by sheds between the years of 2009 to 2019.

Once, sidewalk sheds didn’t dominate NYC—but that was nearly 50 years ago. After falling debris led to a tragic death in 1979, measures were taken to ensure no such accident happened again. Since the passing of Local Laws 10 and 11, building facades and parapets have required scrutinous inspections and sheds to ensure the safety of pedestrians. However, the DOB argues that sheds become more of a nuisance than a form of protection whenever construction stalls, or if building owners fail to repair any safety issues.

“Sidewalk sheds are an important public safety tool to protect New Yorkers from hazardous conditions, but they are no substitute for proper building maintenance,” said DOB Commissioner Oddo in a press release. “When owners leave up a gloomy pipe and plywood shed for years, while repair work stagnates, they create a tangible negative impact affecting the whole block. This comprehensive plan will compel building owners to make needed repairs so sheds can be removed more quickly — improving public safety while also transforming how we think about pedestrian protection in our city.”

The “Get Sheds Down” plans to facilitate the process of removal by introducing new monthly penalties for sidewalk sheds that are not directly related to construction or demolition projects. The penalties will begin 90 days after the sheds are first permitted and will recur monthly. Select business districts will be subject to additional penalties of up to $10,000.

Shed permits will also be decreased from 12 months to 90 days, heightening the pressure of looming fees and increasing permit renewals to 4 times per year. Furthermore, penalty waivers for expired permit violations will no longer be permitted, and properties that have kept up sheds for over 3 years will receive extra scrutiny from the DOB. These measures mark a significant change to the current building code, which allows most building owners to renew shed permits every year without repercussions.

However, small businesses that struggle to complete repairs may be eligible for a potential low-interest loan program, which will aim to keep both NYC businesses and building safety measures running at the same pace.

Meanwhile, the plan for beautifying sheds is already beginning to take effect. This February, NYC officials released 6 shed redesigns to the public for any contractor’s use. The new designs utilize netting and mesh fiber wraps, and promise to be “better-looking” and “cost-efficient,” according to a recent press release. They will be incorporated into the building code, and implemented by early 2025.


This plan, alongside other projects such as the City Canvas initiative, indicates an effort to beautify NYC streets by working with construction rather than against it. Perhaps future code changes will continue this approach to design, as the need for eco-friendly and human-centric urban planning increases.

In preparation for the upcoming changes, it’s important to stay aware of building code updates as they come. For assistance with navigating building codes and zoning, the experts at Outsource Consultants, Inc. are equipped to help you tackle any obstacle.