Shed Crimes: City Says These UWS Scaffold Scofflaws Are Criminal

UPPER WEST SIDE, NY — A pair of buildings in and near the Upper West Side have had scaffolding and sidewalk sheds covering their property for so long that the city contends it’s criminal.

One shed has been up since 2015, when the Bruno Mars hit “Uptown Funk” first wormed its way into the ears of every American pop fan.

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Now, the city says they’re getting tough on these preteen-aged sheds.

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“We understand that façade repairs don’t happen overnight, but in no world should it take nearly a decade to repair a building’s exterior walls,” said Buildings Department spokesperson, Ryan Degan.

The two buildings — one on Central Park South near Columbus Circle, and another on West 96th Street near Broadway — received summonses in recent months as part of a Department of Buildings effort to strengthen their enforcement against long-standing sidewalk sheds.

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Officials opened a new front in the city’s battle against the ubiquitous mess of scaffolds by filing criminal suits against negligent landlords whose buildings have had sheds for, in some cases, nearly a decade.

It was a strategy used to great effect in 2019, the department said, but has not been used much since the pandemic. Now with the new Get Sheds Down effort aimed at eliminating the longstanding eyesores, the department currently has 38 open criminal cases against building owners with long-standing sheds, including the two Uptown buildings.

“That’s why as a part of our Get Sheds Down plan, the Department of Buildings has recently been upping its enforcement actions against negligent building owners and have been issuing more and more criminal court summonses to hold bad actors accountable,” Degan said.

222 Central Park South

Since 2015, the landmarked Gainsborough Studios at 222 Central Park South, just steps from Columbus Circle, has been covered by sidewalk sheds for long-standing façade repairs.

The building was completed in 1908 and served as a rental building for artists, including the Surrealist painter, Enrico Donati, according to multiple listings.

A two-bedroom unit with 18-foot ceilings and a wood-burning fireplace sold for nearly $2 million in 2022, with a monthly maintenance listed at just under $6,000, according to StreetEasy.

In 2012, the Buildings Department first gave notice to the 16-story building that its façade conditions needed immediate repairs due to unsafe conditions.

Subsequent inspections in 2018 and the latest inspection earlier this month shows that while some unsafe elements of the building have been remedied, like an unstable tiled panel on the north side of the building, several repairs have yet to be completed. Some of that work, the inspection stated, will require the installation of supportive scaffold on the interior of “very high end apartments.”

DOB officials said the building currently has seven open violations relating to the façade’s hazardous condition, and that the criminal summons are an effort to push the building to finally finish the nearly decade-long job.

A manager of the nearly 120-year-old building said he didn’t know anything about the summons, which was filed on Dec. 8, 2023, according to criminal court records. He said the landmarked building’s uniquely ornamented façade is at least part of the reason why the sheds have remained up for nearly a decade.

“The tiles up there, they cannot find anyone to match it,” he told Patch. “The scaffolding is to protect the people walking on the street.”

The manager added that the work would be finished “soon,” but declined to offer any further details.

209 West 96th St.

Further uptown, at 209 West 96th St., near Broadway, sits the next subject of the Buildings Department’s criminal caseload.

The stout, three-story building was the longtime flagship home to trendy flower shop Plantshed, which moved to nearby Amsterdam Avenue in 2021, and has been offered for sale multiple times over the years. Most recently, it was listed as a prime development opportunity for a cool $14.5 million in 2019.

Records show that the building never sold.

And since 2016, the building has also been home to a sidewalk shed, according to permit records.

The Building Department in that time has issued eight administrative court violations, totaling over $32,000 in fines, relating to the shed. In 2022, officials issued an emergency work order requiring the owner to comply with façade repairs — work that was never done, the department said.

Permits show that the building may have more reason in the near future to keep the shed up.

In 2023, two permits were issued for construction related to a vertical enlargement of the building for a non-specific “diagnostic and treatment facility,” or some sort of ambulatory medical care facility. Interior demolition permits were filed in 2022.

Permits show the owners, who could not be reached for comment, are also looking to install a new elevator and upgrade the building’s electrical service.

None of this new work has been accompanied by a new permit requesting the use of a sidewalk shed, records show.

“The sidewalk belongs to the public,” Degan said, “and by taking bad actors to court we are taking the sidewalk back for New Yorkers.”

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