Fed-up New Yorkers kept in dark by 35-block stretch of scaffolding lament city’s never-ending renovations: ‘It’s ugly as hell’

An Upper West Side avenue has one of the most densely scaffolded stretches in the entire city — with a more than 30-block-long area having just a single block entirely free of the reviled structures on either side.

West End Avenue between 107th and 72nd streets in Manhattan has 57 scaffolding sheds across the 35-block stretch, according to a recent count by The Post — with only the block between 73rd and 74th streets free of any scaffolding.

West End Avenue between 107th and 72nd streets is one of the worst stretches for scaffolding in all of New York City.

That leaves pedestrians on every other block along the otherwise leafy route navigating a shed on at least one side of it.

Up and down the entire 48 blocks of West End Avenue, which starts at 107th Street and ends at 59th Street, there are a staggering 85 scaffolding sheds, making it the fourth most scaffolded avenue across the city, according to city data.

The other three avenues with more sheds in the city are also in Manhattan: Broadway with 196 sheds, Fifth Avenue with 164 and Park Avenue with 111 — but each of those avenues is more than three times as long as the mere 2-mile stretch of West End Avenue.

Residents of West End Avenue, which caters to many longtime New Yorkers who can measure the passing years by the rise and fall of scaffolding blocking their view, are both outraged and vexed by the structures’ resilient presence in their neighborhood.

“What goes up must come down — except with scaffolding,” said Meredith Friedman, 59, whose home on West End near 98th Street is currently mired in scaffolding.

“I see it every day, and I hate it,” she said, explaining she is “proud” of her building’s beautiful façade but that she doesn’t know when she’ll see it again — or the blue sky at all from her obstructed apartment view.

“Everyone in New York knows how much we cherish a window where you can actually see something, and how much we cherish every moment we’re outside and the sun isn’t blocked by something,” she said.

“Can a repair not take four months and be finished? Must the scaffolding stay up for years and years?” she said, expressing the agony of many a New Yorker.

West 92nd Street at West End Avenue is buttressed by two consecutive scaffolding sheds covering half the block. LP Media

Scaffold sheds — tall and green, vaulted with cold steel, dark and damp and often stinking of sidewalk piss — have become as associated with the Big Apple as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty — and infamous as its rats, roaches and the mangled city pigeons prone to roosting in their reaches and pooping white on passers-by below.

Scaffolding sheds are primarily intended to provide protection to New Yorkers from debris that might fall during construction, and they also serve as a perch for workers to conduct building maintenance from.

Their presence dates back to a 1980 law passed after a student at Barnard College in Upper Manhattan was killed by falling debris. The legislation, known today as Local Law 11, mandated five-year exterior inspections on buildings taller than six stories. If maintenance is deemed necessary, the sheds go up.

But repair work is expensive, so some landlords opt instead to erect the scaffolding and keep paying for the permits — sometimes leaving sheds up for extended periods with barely a hammer being swung.

In other situations, as with a Harlem co-op which until December had a scaffolding up for 21 years, cash-strapped residents are the ones simply unable to foot the bill for maintenance, so the sheds stay up.

The safety requirements have resulted in 4,009 scaffolding sheds currently permitted across Manhattan, according to city records, with the borough leading a pack of 9,400 citywide.

A common scene on West End Avenue is blocks and blocks and blocks of scaffold-covered streets. LP Media
Scaffolding stretches to the horizon at 88th Street and West End Avenue in Manhattan. LP Media

No matter the civic intention of Local Law 11, any New Yorker awoken by the clang of scaffolding going up outside their window knows their sentence could well be months or years of maddening inconvenience — and even danger lurking in the secluded confines of a scaffolding cavern.

“They block the sun. People’s dogs like to pee on the scaffolding poles, so the smell builds up, and I’m sitting here all summer long with the door open,” said 53-year-old West End doorman Pedro Rodriguez, who works around 99th Street.

Neighborhood dog-walker Stephanie Pryor, 64, said, “How often do you see work actually being done? Rarely.”

A West End resident who only gave her first name, Barbara, 82, added, “It’s ugly as hell, and the city’s getting uglier.

“Once the scaffolds are up, it’s forever until they come down — if they do. I don’t understand it,” she said.

Scaffolding on 103rd Street and West End Avenue is a common scene that leaves many residents without sunlight in their apartments. LP Media

Manhattan borough President Mark Levine, an outspoken critic of the sheds, says throughout his 10 years in city politics he’s never seen a situation galvanize more New Yorkers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked on an issue that has inspired more popular passion than this. I’ve been told by people that they are single-issue voters on scaffolding. And I am not engaging in hyperbole,” he recently told The Post.

“I think people see it as a sense that the city just can’t function. Like, if we can’t solve this, then how are we going to solve the bigger problems?” the pol said.

Levine called West End Avenue “the perfect storm” for sidewalk sheds, explaining the stretch is filled with buildings over the six-story threshold, many of those buildings are over a century old and more prone to maintenance needs, and the landmark status of many buildings in the neighborhood might extend the time it takes to process work permits.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission disputed Levine’s idea that historic status slows down the scaffolding process and instead blamed building owners for the time they take making repairs.

““LPC does not regulate sidewalk sheds or scaffolding, but does routinely process permits for restoration work in a timely fashion across all of the city’s historic districts, with the vast majority of LPC permits issued within 10 business days of receipt of a complete application,” an LPC representative told The Post in an emailed statement Friday.

Levine said he wants to see Local Law 11 rules tweaked for a more pragmatic approach that could provide exemptions to the five-year cycle if major exterior work has just been completed on a building — a cycle which has been known to send sheds up almost as soon as they come down.

The sidewalk sheds are intended to keep pedestrians safe from falling debris, but critics say the law need to be more pragmatic. LP Media

Under an effort branded “Shed the Shed,” Levine also has called for a zero-interest loan fund so cash-strapped buildings can more easily pay for repairs and the enacting of proposed legislation that would allow inspectors to use drones when examining buildings, instead of having to spend more time and cost setting up scaffolding to do that work.

He said he believes the suggestions could become law sooner than later, given the current climate.

“This is the first time since I’ve been in office where I really felt this political momentum behind it,” he said, adding that New Yorkers should be vocal to their city council members if they want to see things happen.

The view down West End Avenue features some of its nearly two miles of scaffolding sheds. LP Media

During an impassioned press conference last year, Mayor Eric Adams decried scaffolding sheds as “ugly green boxes” that have become normalized and darkened our streets,” something he said was “unacceptable.”

Hizzoner proposed requiring landlords to apply for work permits every 90 days instead of every 12 months to try to push them into taking care of the problem sooner, imposing $10,000 for violations and changing building inspection protocols to catch extensive work before it becomes major work.

The city Department of Buildings said it is “using every tool at our disposal” to make owners maintain their buildings properly and thus avoid the need for lengthy repairs altogether but that the owners are “still legally responsible for making repairs at their buildings in a timely manner.”

The DOB noted that under Mayor Adams, “dozens” of criminal cases have been filed against landlords who fail to make repairs.

For residents of West End Avenue, a little transparency on what they can expect from local scaffolding projects would make them happier, at least for now.

“If there’s a reason for the scaffolding, that’s fine. But I would like to know the reason for it,” Barbara said.

“Otherwise, we have no way to judge it.”