What They're Doing Up there Exterior Maintenance Explained

When you walk around busy areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn and elsewhere in the city these days, it's hard to miss the large number of structures stretching above the sidewalk, made up of huge sheets of wood resting on thin metal poles. Most people call them scaffolds, but they are actually known as sidewalk sheds (a scaffold is actually a work platform erected above a sidewalk shed).

On some blocks, it seems that half the buildings have sidewalk sheds. In some locations, the sheds have been up for more than a year—much to the consternation of ground-floor retailers, who consider them bad for business. If you're "lucky," you can even see crews assembling the sidewalk sheds prior to construction or renovation.

But what kind of exterior work is actually being done "up there?"

Up to Code

There are several types of exterior work that are typically done on apartment buildings in the city: Local Law 11 certification work, basic checkups, and work that is done because of urgent conditions requiring immediate attention.

As Department of Buildings (DOB) spokesperson Kate Lindquist explains it, residential buildings must comply especially strictly with sections of the New York City Building Code dealing with maintenance (sections 27-127), owner responsibility (sections 27-128), alterations to residential buildings (27-1021), periodic inspections of exterior wall and appurtenances (RCNY 32-03), and standardization of work permits required for Local Law 11 inspections (TPPN 1/99).


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  • I am currently in the restoration business I have been doing it for many years. I always had my license and all company credentials in place. Then there was a time for a test for the rigging license. I was also a GC and doing much of the structuale and interior work. I have had my own equipment but have not been using it. My sons and I are working many of our jobs from supported pipe scaffolding. We want to get our license for the hanging scaffolding but have have to quit our company and work for someone else for two years. Do you have any solutions to this for me?
  • I live in a 20-story apartment building in Queens and they've just started doing this work on the exterior brick facade. Management says it should take about ten days, but I find that hard to imagine. What would you estimate is a reasonable length of time to expect? Thank you.