There’s more than enough to worry about living in a major American city without having to worry about being conked on the head by falling debris. That’s the kind of urban hazard Local Law 11 was created to address, requiring all buildings more than six stories in height—including co-ops, condos, hospitals, and commercial buildings—to conduct regular inspections of their exterior facades.
In short, Local Law 11 requires that “Every five years, a building has to account for the condition of its facade, indicate what needs to be fixed and how it will be done,” says C. Jaye Berger, a Manhattan real estate attorney specializing in co-op and construction law.
Originally known as Local Law 10, the measure was signed into law by Mayor Ed Koch in 1980. Nineteen years following the tragic death of a college student struck by a falling brick, Local Law 11 was drafted in 1998 to strengthen Local Law 10 and fill some of the gaps in the original legislation. One of the changes involved amending the original requirement stating that building sections more than 25 feet from the sidewalk did not need to be inspected. After several incidents proved that damage could still be done from that distance, Local Law 11 required that all portions of a building, no matter how far from pedestrian sidewalk traffic, must be inspected.
How Does It Work?
Local Law 11 functions on a five-year cycle and requires all buildings over six stories tall to have their inspections simultaneously—which is why the city of New York seems to sprout sidewalk sheds like a plywood contagion every five years. “The inspection must be done by a licensed engineer or architect retained by the owner of the property,” says Alan S. Epstein, a professional engineer and president of Manhattan-based Epstein Engineering, PC.
Inspection of a building consists of a visual examination of the façade with binoculars or cameras with a telephoto lens. Before the inspection begins, a sidewalk shed must be erected to protect pedestrians passing underneath. An engineer or architect may also get into a building across the way to see the building being inspected from a better angle, says Paul Millman of Superstructures Engineers + Architects, based in Manhattan.