Facades on 1,400 Buildings in New York Are a Threat to Pedestrians

Landlords flout laws on building exteriors and ignore enforcement, including $31 million in fines, The Times found.

Comments: 175

  1. What this article brings out is the problems we have both above and below ground with the age of our infrastructure. These issues need to be addressed as our country is not getting any younger.

  2. Thank you for including the list of buildings that are currently unsafe for pedestrians. But that list would be more user-friendly if it was alphabetized by street name.

  3. A map showing these locations would be helpful as well.

  4. There should be large and embarrassing signs posted conspicuously with landlord names (real names not management corporations) revealed on the scaffolding. Public shaming is very effective.

  5. @Mike - Also effective would be charging owners with murder if their building kills someone.

  6. New York Real Estate is, by far, EARTH'S LARGEST CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE. Actions taken by the State Legislature last year was a good beginning, however much more needs to be done, including increasing punitive enforcement. It is clear that property owners ignore the meager fines that have been levied, and that nothing short of having property owners spend significant time in prison, and the dissolution of LLC's will encourage property owners to follow the law.

  7. Wonder why I thought of Donald Trump as I read this article.

  8. Zero sympathy for the owners! There are lots of buyers out there who should be more than happy to keep these properties in repair.

  9. Decent article, researched, etc., another piece about worry in the city. But when you've been to Havana it seems laughable.

  10. This is the detritus trump has left behind in the real estate world. His example of not caring for either tenets or pedestrians lives on. Landlords follow trump’s example of negligence.

  11. @DavidJ What is your point? There is no mention of any Trump owned properties being in such disrepair. I don't like the guy either but the city controlled by democrats would appear to be the problem - nobody else. Look at NYCHA. Look at the lackadaisical enforcement of the city's regulations meant to protect people. This might be a textbook case of mismanagement.

  12. @Richard B ,going back to trumps father and early trump holdings there have been hundreds of citations. You think they started off with luxury buildings. They owned prewar and postwar buildings. They were cited for racial discrimination and shoddy workmanship. What they left behind was a poor example which other landlords and slumlords to follow.

  13. I didn't know this and now it's just another example of the apathy of American and also it's government for allowing it. Shame.

  14. On top of the lack of concern for public safety, the audacity to ignore fines and disregard reporting requirements? Put these landlords in jail and maybe they’ll change their tune.

  15. Not to worry. The invisible hand of the feee market will sort it out.

  16. A quick scan of the addresses with Google maps’ visuals shows the majority of the sheds in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are at NYCHA properties. I understand NYCHA has a decade-long maintenance backlog so can’t imagine anything will be done about these in the near term, which is dangerous for the families who live there.

  17. @Amy Ellen Benfield RIGHT ON - and has the city nothing to say?

  18. I've always wondered whether it was safer to walk along clear streets and avoid sidewalk sheds or brave the questionable safety of the sheds. Who's to know?

  19. Politicians, driven by money or fear, are often willing to hand over municipal power to influential groups that have little regard for the public interest. In the city, it’s the real estate industry that runs things. In the suburbs, it’s the police unions that rule, allowing some average cops on the beat — who often have little work to do — to earn more than CEOs, driving property taxes to stratospheric levels. Nationally, it could be a number of groups, such as the health-industrial complex that steals from us every day and makes our health outcomes worse. Our elected representatives continue to fail us by handing over power to special interest groups and yet no one wants to do anything about it.

  20. The city needs to do the work and slap tax liens on the properties for the full amount plus interest and penalties. What other ideas do folks have?

  21. And people scoff at taxes and regulations. If agencies were properly funded and public employees decently paid and respected and the courts had the staff to enforce rules and the fines were fear inducing to those flouting the law and the GOP suddenly became patriotic ending the 24/7 Putin puppet freak show then maybe sleep will return to our nights, bread will furnish our tables, and the streets of New York will not be plagued with the rat-like temporary tunnels that cheapen the beauty of urban living.

  22. NYC has 330,000 city employees. Maybe misallocation is an issue but understaffing certainly is not.

  23. My mother’s family did a lot of the decorative terra-cotta work in the city. It is so sad that these beautiful antique architectural features are in disrepair and are likely to be removed and destroyed rather than properly preserved. It is devastating that works of art created to make the city more beautiful are now, almost a century later so neglected that they have caused deaths.

  24. @Alexandra Hamilton Yes. I immediately thought of how elegant Penn Station once was and the ugly mess it is now. Sad to think that safety and beauty are withering away in NYC.

  25. Interesting! At the very least, building owners who end op removing cornice work should required to digitally scan and photo-document what they are removing. Your family probably no longer has an archive of shop drawings for this work. As an architect who has worked on adaptive reuse and historic preservation projects for 35 years I can attest to the fact that at times, building owners often simply don’t have the resources to fix a “catastrophic” building envelope problem in the original architectural language that may, in fact, be caused by something simply beyond their control such as poor detailing or material selection decisions that were made a century earlier. That does not mean that a future owner may have the resources and desire to “restore” the original design with proper detailing and more robust anchorages. In that case, uncovering the original exterior ornamental profiles can require time consuming and expensive detective work. Available documentation of original designs would be a huge timesaver.

  26. The name of every human owner of every LLC, shell corp or investment trust etc should be publicly available and easy to look up by anyone on the internet. That one thing would put a big dent in so many problems.

  27. The list of dangerous buildings seems perfect for an interactive map or visualization of some sort to clearly communicate exactly how prevalent this problem is.

  28. Ah, 40 Irving Place - NYCDOE controls this building - the balkanized former Washington Irving High School. This is hazardous for the students and teachers that use this building on a daily basis. These sheds constrict the sidewalks around the building, limiting safe walking spaces. The DOE should spend more time shoring up their schools.

  29. I'm sure many of these addresses are legitimate scofflaws where work has not been done to correct the underlying conditions but I do think it's worth noting that some of these buildings may have done the corrective construction work and just failed to file the corrective paperwork with DOB. This certainly doesn't excuse the extent of this list but if there are concerns about a specific building it would be wise to check the list of open or even recently closed permits to see whether the work was done.

  30. "The city’s building inspectors charged with enforcing the rules can impose fines of $1,000 a year for missing facade inspections and $1,000 for each month that an unsafe building goes unrepaired." "Can" seems to be the operative word here. Are building owners not being charged the $1,000? Why not? The fine should be higher, but even $1,000 should be enough to motivate some owners.

  31. The root of the problem with enforcement in NYC is that the fines are not collected. Who cares how much the penalty is if it doesn't have to be paid. My understanding is that the city writes off most penalties after 7 years. The property owners just wait it out.

  32. How does one press criminal charges against owners of buildings when those owners are corporations?

  33. @Jim S. same way that individual criminal summons are issued (think public intoxication, etc.) except they're typically sent to the state department of corporations and you have to be represented by counsel when you attend a hearing. http://www.mysummons.nyc/faqs.shtml

  34. This problem does not just apply to building exteriors. There was an incident last year in a "luxury" apartment building in my neighborhood (Kips Bay) where a man was killed by an elevator with faulty doors. The management company had known for a long time that the elevators had problems and had been issued a fine by the Department of Buildings but at the time that the tragedy happened, the fine had gone unpaid for months. And it was reported to be a paltry fine at that -- about $1-2000 in a building where 1BRs typically go for more than $3200/month. It is beyond me why these city agencies don't step up enforcement of policies and fines. If I were so much as a day late paying my cable bill, rest assured the cable company would slap me with a penalty--and people's lives aren't at stake.

  35. @BN Many years ago I was a building inspector. Unless things have changed significantly, the politician who oversees the building department will demand that the inspectors treat his wealthy "friends" with favoritism. An inspector who resists, can see his/her employment reviews change accordingly. Then, in an effort to escape to a new inspection job in a different jurisdiction, the new boss to be contacts the old boss and the inspector is blackballed.

  36. FDNY needs to alert the fire houses that these buildings pose additional threats to firefighters' safety when responding to fires or even elevator calls, even if the emergency is not at that address, but at one nearby. Like parking at a hydrant, it puts lives at risk.

  37. Good time to be in the scaffold business.

  38. Some years ago, when I lived in Hawaii, I noticed that huge concrete panels on the County Building seemed to have bulged out. Since every county official walked under these panels at least twice a day, I assumed they knew about it and considered it safe enough. One day i was walking into the building with the director of public works and i pointed up and asked if that was normal. That was at noon. The panels were repaired the next morning. Moral of story: If you have a dangerous facade in your life, make a politician walk under it.

  39. Mayor de Blasio, How many more people have to be injured or die before the city does something? So glad to be out of NYC, CA John, Grass Valley, CA

  40. Doesn’t Chuck Schumer live at 27 Prospect Park West?

  41. Having lived in NYC for thirty years plus... I say do your job Mr Mayor, District Attorney, Judges and Police find the landlords and lock them up.

  42. Is scaffolding owned by buildings or rented? Is someone making money off of sheds that never go away?

  43. They are rented. And yes, someone is making a lot of money off of them.

  44. I’ve pointed and repaired several buildings as a coop board member, and I know that sidewalk sheds are usually rented. The shed companies try hard to get them up fast and leave them indefinitely, but a motivated board or landlord can minimize the length of time they cover the sidewalk... or they can flaunt the law and refuse to put them up. If you see work going on without a shed call DOB to report it.

  45. Why can't the city repossess the building, fix it , and sell it?

  46. What's not mentioned here are the extraordinary costs of licensed contracting, particularly in Manhattan. Even brownstone buildings below the 6 floor threshold are typically looking at 6-figure expenses when even minor facade repair contemplated. Add a Landmarks designation, and the then current whims of the Landmarks staff, including requirements to use materials known to fail, and you're done for. Maybe one reason ugly scaffolding typically remains in place for years in NYC is the extortionary costs of getting anything done. Meanwhile the illegal aliens who invariably do the work get paid virtually nothing.

  47. If landlords can’t afford the upkeep then they shouldn’t own the property. It’s that simple. Historic landmark buildings get state and federal funding for upkeep, FYI.

  48. Brick pointing and associated scaffolding is costly, but that does not excuse wealthy landlords or penny-pinching coop boards when they delay or refuse to perform necessary work. Before a building is deemed “unsafe” it probably received a lesser warning, “safe w repair and maintenance”. An unsafe building has had years to correct potential hazards. Failure to remediate these problems should carry financial and criminal penalties.

  49. @Terry Cotter this is just not so.

  50. The reality is that the NYC DOB is significantly understaffed and extremely slow in processing permits. Also the scope of repairs outlined by the DOB is far beyond what is actually required to remediate and problems. The statement that these 1400 building are a public hazard is careless at best. Many of these building are Co-Ops or Condos. The article suggest the Boards of these building aren’t concerned about the condition of the homes. Ms.Tischman’s death is a tragedy but consider that in 30 years there have been five such incidents.

  51. That’s five too many. No one should DIE because a landlord was too lazy or too cheap to upkeep his property. Seriously, what’s wrong with you?

  52. How 'bout if one of those five unnecessary deaths was you?

  53. Listen up city hall! Lots of good ideas in these. comments - condemnation and possible jail time for offenders. Maintenance is an important landlord responsibility and landlords need to prove they are financially able and willing to maintain a building as a condition of a purchase.

  54. "City officials acknowledged the shortcomings but said they were moving rapidly to beef up the fines, punish negligent landlords, including charging them criminally in court and adding more facade inspectors." Change the rule so that you can seize assets of the owner to pay for the repairs and the fines. Hit them in the wallet and the credit score. And for safety's sake, put funds aside first to cover repairs while pursuing owner's money.

  55. Is the city going to fine it's own departments or NYCHA developments? I'm going to guess not....

  56. Very cool article, What’s not mentioned is all the RETAIL under the scaffolding that they will struggle, in an period where the retail business is already very hard.

  57. How reassuring. Landlords are raking it in and don't perform basic maintenance. As a lawyer who represents tenants, I am not surprised. Most landlords are far more concerned with profit than safety. Even more reassuring to see that the building that my office has been in since 1991 is on the list.

  58. The City, after allowing landlords a reasonable amount of time to commence and complete repairs (say 90 days to commence and 18 months to complete), should contract to complete the repairs itself. The cost of the repairs would be billed to the landlord and if not repaid in a reasonable amount of time (say over a 5-year term), the City should file a lien against the property and foreclose as it would on a tax lien. The repairs would be completed in a timely fashion and landlords would have a strong incentive to pay.

  59. Good comment BUT how about adding in timing for securing City Building Dep’t permits, then getting inspection and finally obtaining dismissal of violation? If you want to be real all of this time has to be included. Otherwise the City seems far more interested in its fees, driving responsible building owners out of NYC investments then encouraging work and providing good housing. What the letter writer suggests cannot be done in today’s City government.

  60. In addition to steep fines and mandatory repair of these life-threatening conditions, the city should also: 1. institute vacancy fines for stores - there are too many vacancies as landlords wait for the next bank to move in; 2. enforce current laws against AIRBNB - I have it in my building, and calling 311 for enforcement has not worked to remove these illegal operators. Fine them and catch them.

  61. Since building inspectors are human, it's also likely they are susceptible to bribes. If so, there may be thousands more dangerous buildings that are not even cited or reported about. The article doesn't even mention this possibility.

  62. $1,000-$2,000 in annual fines? Seriously? Do you really think that building management even bothers? I think my building pays more than that a month just to get the mats washed. They need to seriously re think fines that match what building actually bring in, or they'll just be treated as a 'cost of doing business'. One of the main reasons why you seen endless pedestrian sheds; cheaper just to keep them up rather than paying to take them down/set them up again. And yes, endless eye sore, and very dangerous in the narrow sidewalks of FiDi. And of that list, I'd prefer to see the list of buildings that are are dangerous, but DO NOT have pedestrian protection set up. I think that's more of a concern.

  63. The city is quick to place violations on buildings at risk of facade failure. But when the city does nothing but write a violation and walk away that should put the city, along with the landlord, as the responsible party when failure does occur. When the city’s inspectors find such buildings, the sidewalk should be cordoned off and people should be prohibited from entering the building. That would certainly put the urgency on the landlords to fix it.

  64. I was stuck at a traffic light in my company car alone at Hector Street and Elizabeth in Chinatown in 1992 when bricks from the top floor of the Overseas Chinese Mission hurtled off from it’s top floor. The scaffolding contained them. Bricks spread from about the fourth story to both sides of the street and across several car lengths. Usually a fresh vegetable vendor outside the parking garage across the street, but not that day. I was the only person anywhere outside at that moment on that block. The rear of my car was covered in glass shards, but none reached my drivers seat. My corporate car was pockmarked over the entire chassis from the debris. Several parked cars close to the building were severely damaged. The precinct less than two blocks away responded in minutes when I leaned on my horn. I left my job in the City within a few months of that day and never returned to work or live there again. My company’s insurance paid for body work that took over a month to complete and didn’t contact me. I assume they didn’t pursue a claim against an antiquated foreign missionary building headquarters. The fleet claims adjuster said my company car’s was not unusual; they’d dealt with the LA riots after the Rodney King case. I still avoid going near building scaffolding if possible because it’s not substantial protection. Stories of old scaffolding being allowed to remain up and uninspected rigging show me the problem is still real.

  65. You point out another piece to the problem. If your insurance company went after the building then maybe the buildings insurance company wouldn't be so laxidasical.

  66. Scaffolding has blighted a once vibrant city. There are not blocks without the ubiquitous scourge of ugly steel webs and dank dark dangerous sheds. Yes. Safety is paramount. But. There has to be a better solution. Business and restaurant storefronts are so hidden by them that they are closing every week with lack of patrons wanting to go into the webs or sit in darkened windows. Clearly someone is making money from these horrible scaffolding/shed structures or they wouldn't have taken over the entire City.

  67. @Carol Colitti Levine What is more horrible: a temporary eyesore or getting killed by a loose piece of masonry?

  68. @DMW I believe that Carol Colitti Levine's point is that the buildings themselves must to be fixed to eliminate the "temporary" scaffolding.

  69. @DMW The point is they are NOT TEMPORARY and the eyesores have ruined the City.

  70. When friends visit New York these days, they don't marvel at our architecture and museums. They marvel at a city permanently shrouded in scaffolding and buried under noisy worksites. While the mayor pursues mulching and dream trolleys, the entire city is turning into a hideous, overbuilt construction zone, under blocks after blocks of scaffolding. While this article is correct, there is another side to the story. Scaffolding is now a billion dollar annual industry, with very little data on its safety value. It is true that every few years someone tragically dies from a falling piece of facade. Before and after the excessive laws were passed. While terrible, these incidents seem extremely rare, compared, say to deaths by bicycles, gas leaks, or falling down stairs. Meanwhile, deaths from falling scaffolding are not unheard of. If we compare data, we may be feeding billions to a sluggish industry that is actually creating more hazards than it is solving. Not to mention the tens of thousands of apartment dwellers and businesses who must live for three or four years under exterior scaffolds and netting amid drilling and scraping, all for unproven results. Any accidental death is tragic, but we don't shut down the highways or ban gas stoves when one happens. It may be that this whole approach is another case of misplaced panic. I would urge the city leaders to take a second look at the laws, the data, the scaffolding industry, and this whole approach.

  71. My building is undergoing it's local law 11 repairs. Our shed has stayed up for over two months after the repairs because the building department does not have the manpower to inspect our work. This happens all over NYC.

  72. I've been to big cities over the last few years that have buildings of similar vintage to NY. None of them have "sheds" on buildings where there is no construction activity. NYC seems to have the market pretty well cornered. I also object to the Times publishing this piece without the actual names of the actual people who ultimately receive the rent.

  73. The city must treat this problem with the same seriousness as a gas leak - shut the building immediately and install whatever it takes to protect pedestrians - fines should cover all costs and liens and a special court should be used to strip owners of all revenue and rights in all owned properties until the prolem is fixed.

  74. Crumbling infrastructure, no healthcare for millions, but we have a beautiful wall being built on the Mexican border. And the king lives in his golden palace in Manhattan, making personal deals that will keep his family rich for a century to come. Welcome to Amerika- but don’t let that falling brick hit ya on the head!

  75. PS - I posted the comment before I read the whole article. A few paragraphs down, you explicitly write "In 1979, Grace Gold, a freshman at Barnard, was killed by a falling 1-by-2-foot piece of concrete"

  76. @ejb I did not know the late Grace Gold, but I remember when the tragedy happened. Her sister Lori is a friend of a friend of mine. It's a small world people. The next victim could be you or me. Reader John said it best: "Real estate developers in NYC are as low and unethical as it gets. It is horrifying and not all that surprising that one of them bluffed his way into the White House."

  77. 420 64th 9n Brooklyn not on the list,

  78. I'm sorry, but the crocodile tears of the non-profit landlord (yes, you're a landlord) who won't maintain the building are ridiculous. If your organization can't afford to maintain its building, it should not own that building. Period. You've had 19 years to fix it. Surely you could've done some fundraising in that time. Instead, you ignored the fines because they were poorly enforced. Way to risk those kids safety. The city should have swiftly escalating fines for every month repairs are not completed and forbid sheds for longer than is necessary to do repairs. This is absurd.

  79. Having lived in one of the 1,400 buildings from 2011-2018, I can say it's 100% the fault of the developer-turned-"sponsor". This company is a small family-owned development company that turned the pre-war building into condos. They were also the management company for a 10 year period upon occupancy. They did a cheap job renovating the place, held control of the board once occupied, let the building languish in disrepair while charging rent to the association for the common spaces & amenities, and handed off to another management company 10 years later with a pile of issues, including major mechanical failures, elevator problems, and nearly every single unit having experienced a pipe burst or flood at least once. The fact that facade maintenance was not part of their pump and dump scheme is not a surprise. Fast forward, the building has had a shed out front for 2.5 years now ("don't worry, it will be up for a month" we were told), the board has been searching for money to fund repairs (finally adding 2 assessments to cover it), and the sponsor is still cashing checks. Real estate developers in NYC are as low and unethical as it gets. It is horrifying and not all that surprising that one of them bluffed his way into the White House.

  80. Here’s a thought. The city could send a crew to rip down the facade and leave the rubble, cordoned off. I bet that would get the landlord to turn up in a hurry. Or pass a measure permitting the tenants to pay rent directly to a city agency to fund immediate repairs.

  81. 22 inspectors for a city this size seems like a joke. They should probably have closer to 122 at least until they clear the backlog.

  82. During my many decades in Manhattan I wondered why the cityscape was disfigured by so many un-temporary scaffolds. As Important as they are for safety (and useful as rain shelters), they are ugly, impede pedestrian traffic, invite litter and block light. New Yorkers pay hefty taxes to support city agencies like the Housing Authority that don't do their jobs. I also wonder whether building owners are held liable for deaths and serious injuries caused by their selfish negligence. Or is that the city's liability and something else New York residents have to pay for?

  83. Would be very useful to map the listed addresses. The city has produced interactive maps of other things. I'd like to see where these places are so I can be aware as I walk to work, grocery, and such. NY Times has also developed some really nice graphics. Could you take this on if the city is not responsive?

  84. When fines do not work, perhaps jail time for building owners might motivate them to obey the law? Just a thought. Put some real teeth in the laws for a change!

  85. A woman was killed in midtown recently when some loose masonry fell on her. I read that the fine for such violations was in the area of $1200 or so. For a landlord who owns a building in midtown Manhattan, that's just part of the cost of doing business. How about prison time? How about a fine with some teeth that is commensurate with the seriousness of preserving public safety? How can this even be allowed to happen?

  86. The enforcement mechanisms are clearly not stringent enough. Ignoring a safety violation for more than 30 days (at the absolute maximum) should result in immediate condemnation of the property and daily fines of $10,000 until the building is repaired. I guarantee you all of these problems would be fixed within a week.

  87. @CP: Found the building I live in on the list; which was no surprise, since there's been a sidewalk shed for ten years. Condemning the building seems too drastic, since it would force my family (and the 50 other families in the building) out of our homes. I welcome the DOB's renewed interest in getting these facades fixed, but would prefer to stay put until the violations are cleared -- the insides of the building are safe.

  88. @InterestedParty For apartment buildings such as yours, a moratorium on evictions and a legally mandated rent holiday for all tenants until repairs are made and the sidewalk sheds are removed. That might get the owners' attention.

  89. @InterestedParty ...as far as you know...

  90. Change the law to make these criminal violations with jail time for non-compliance. That may get someone’s attention.

  91. The threat of confiscation of the property in question might get intransigent owners to respond.

  92. @carolem Confiscate the buildings and lets see who will take over the Buildings ? Oh -The City of NY ? The City's buildings got alot more problems than the facades and need Billions of work that has not even been started which we ha e known about for years !

  93. @carolem Many of the addresses on this list I recognize as NYCHA buildings.....

  94. When scaffolding is put up the owners should be required to place a large sign, let's say 8 feet by 8 feet, with an explanation as to why the scaffolding was installed.

  95. @Zanzibar16 @Zanzibar16 And how long it's expected to be up, and a contact number to call with questions and complaints.

  96. Apparently liens and fines have not helped insure public safety. Maybe the owners need to be arrested if they ignore those. Perhaps government seizure of these buildings under something similar to eminent domain might be the next step. If you cannot maintain a safe property for the public, you cannot own and operate it. There is a personal responsibility to ownership.

  97. When I was the assistant commissioner for building code enforcement from 1998 to 2003, we instituted an aggressive program of criminal prosecutions for serious building code violators, including specifically violators of façade safety laws. Although criminal court judges were extremely reluctant to jail violators, we nonetheless found criminal process to be an effective means to get compliance from building owners. Bureaucratic priorities inevitably shift for over time, for a variety of reasons. Officials change, both within the department and at city hall. Media and public attention moves on to other matters. City council takes on new legislative and budgetary priorities. It often happens that a successful program ends up getting cut for the very reason that its success dulls awareness of the problem the program was initiated to address. Evidently over the last 17 years, criminal prosecution of façade violations has moved off the top-priority list at the department of buildings. The Times does a service with this reporting. Perhaps renewed attention to a chronic problem will raise façade safety back up the city's priority list.

  98. @Ecce Homo Unfortunate to hear that judges are reluctant to jail violators. They shouldn't be, when those individuals have been criminally negligent. A two-year-old girl died and there will be more deaths unless this is fixed ASAP.

  99. As a tenant living in a non-compliant building, I can attest that the system in general including the judges in hearings is painfully sympathetic to land owners. Leniency abounds when it comes to fine reductions and construction deadlines.

  100. @Ecce Homo VERY well put. But times change and so should the remedies. These are VERY good times to be a property owner - times where probably all but a sliver of the real estate market is appreciating at a sharp clip and has for several years. Of course, responsible landlords respond to that by plowing back a little ... so that they and their properties don't sport a scarlet letter come SALE-OF-PROPERTY time (and fetch a higher price.) But there appear to be many who clearly want to put zero in and take the max out. Whether they are poor businessmen or not, the City has got to put teeth in the "delinquent properties ARE seized" after either some $ figure or time or whatever passes. I also know that the City makes certain repairs - "on an emergency basis" where landlords are irresponsible and BILLS THEM for those repairs. Not sure what the "collection rate" is, but there's no excuse for something deemed dangerous going 15 years unrepaired. It's not the "cornice" that's broken - it's the system. And it sounds like it may be easier to repair the system than to expect people to "do the right thing."

  101. These buildings are simply money machines for their owners. The landlords do not want to make any capital improvements. They would rather pay fines than $625,000 to repair a facade.

  102. The City Council has always struck me as a mix of political hacks - they may introduce a few bills in their few years of - at best - glory-hunting, but they hold a disproportionate number of meetings. And then there are some talented (and ambitious) ones. Is nobody paying attention here? BROKEN WINDOWS means a lot more in this context than it ever did re crime-fighting. When the city is defaced - never in touristy areas, I wonder why - by miles and miles of green "sheds," it shows that we're in need of some legislation. Sure seems to me like "low hanging fruit." If the cost of remedying a situation (sometimes life-threatening) is high relative to the fines levied, up those amounts until fines have the desired DETERRENT EFFECT. Again, taxes on cigarettes are thought to be a disincentive to smoking. This is not rocket science. And yes, I recognize that just as those taxes foster some illegality, building inspectors are a kind of "weak link" - at least in theory. People (landlords) who are so soul-less that they do nothing in the face of reports that their buildings could kill passers by are among the people MOST likely to offer bribes. But I'm sure there are many HONEST inspectors, ... and if the "landlord class" is stripped of a few truly bad actors, maybe some others will clean up their acts.

  103. It’s also that the DOB needs to pay inspectors more and stop coddling land owners. Pedestrians are finding out what it’s like to be a tenant in this city. The DOB will hear grievances and land owner side of the story but not from the other side of the story. As an Agency DOB needs to be empowered and better trained in interacting with those who are actually affected (sometimes mortally) by unsafe, non-compliant buildings. And the agency needs independence from the mayor’s office and Council - too much money from land owners and developers flows to politicians in NYC. Ultimately, these deaths, are on them.

  104. So long as corporations have the ability to use real estate as a tax dodge this will continue. So long as it is more profitable to leave a building empty and decaying than to renovate this will continue. So long as their are slum lords, the Kushner family comes to mind, this will continue. Simple solution: change the tax laws.

  105. I come to Manhattan frequently for business. The city should put up a warning sign "Welcome to New York, enter at your own risk!" Instead of prioritizing bike lanes how about prioritizing something important like this. The cheap fines are not an incentive to fix a building. Even if an owner is fined $1k every month the cost of renting a scaffold there is no incentive to fix a facade - the math says it's better to keep up the scaffolding indefinitely. The fines need to be increased dramatically, the city should use a exponential formula based on number of floors. Fines can start out low so that owners can have a fair shot at fixing a problem before it gets worse but then say after 3 months it goes up capping at $100k per floor per month (no I'm not kidding). This way the city will have the budget to pay for more inspectors plus whatever else they need.

  106. What ever happened to good old “ Pride of Ownership”? I strive continually to keep the exterior and interior of residential and commercial buildings I own in immaculate condition not because it’s mandated by law and ordinance, but because I WANT to. These rogue owners should suffer stiffer penalties as a consequence of their ignoring the law.

  107. @SirWallSt Because there is no pride when the City will not allow a Landlord to make money on his investment. The amount of new regulations plus no increases in rents is killing most Landlords. And thats besides that values of buildings have fallen drastically lately

  108. @david, if you sell your property tomorrow, will you have a net profit or a net loss? Most rational business owners who aren’t making the rate of return they desire wind up doing something else. Landlords who”can’t afford” to properly maintain their buildings should too.

  109. @Pjcraig Sorry. I understand that values of rent controlled buildings are down by approx 40% to 50%. And in addition because Landlords were not able to raise rents, many or most buildings need extensive repairs to the physical of the buildings plus the boilers and other plumbing issues, have not been tended to in the buildings, for many years. So the values are really plummeting. And you can expect alot of stories of cold buildings and buildings cited for non-repairs because there is absolutely no incentive for a LL to take care of a building when they there is no possiblity to make a profit. Lanslords shud be allowed to raise rents if or when they do well to their tenants and they keep their buildings well.

  110. There has been a “shed” in front of my child’s NYC public school for FOUR years and the owner (school is in a leased commercial property) continues to say that the work will begin in a few months...there is no process to ensure this works happens. Would be great if law stated a timeline to complete work once it is identified as a need

  111. Landlords realize that they provide a service that is widely needed and are depended upon to provide it. As a result, they abuse the power they get from the dependence that people have upon them, therefore, they believe that they can get away with so much such as rocketing rent prices, neglecting to maintain facilities within the building, including maintaining the structure of their property overall. As proven by Mr. Puryear's case, harsher and more proactive actions are required. Criminally charging, heavy fining that should be enforced by threatening to arrest and charge, and some sort of government seizure would be a nice wake up call.

  112. In my immediate neighborhood of co-ops, there are six corporations of two or three buildings. All were built within a few years of each other in the late 1950s. Two have completely replaced their parapets at considerable expense. One has patched up their parapet with minimal work, and the remaining three have covered their parapets with metal siding. Given that all were erected by the same developer, it is remarkable that the parapets are not all considered to be of the same condition. Obviously, some of the architects/engineers hired for facade inspections are more lenient than others.

  113. For once, NY should takes its cues from Chicago where facade enforcement is strict. We just spent $1mil on a 45 floor condo building that's 14 years old. Inspectors using binoculars sample scan the exterior of the building and extrapolate their findings. Using various formulas, it was determined ours needed repairs. Provable repairs.

  114. Not really a surprise. The real estate industry owns City Hall. It's been that way since the construction of the Tweed Courthouse in 1881.

  115. Scaffolding should only be installed if building permits have been issued. Scaffolding up for a decade with no construction? I never heard about all the people killed in the city by falling building debris. It is outrageous. Surely, Wrongful Deaths lawsuits could be filed against owners of these buildings and the city for not enforcing.

  116. @Gus while i agree it's galling to see scaffolding up for 10 years with no construction going on would you suggest that we allow unsafe buildings to be left exposed while owners seek out contractors, financing, and permits? it can be a protracted process, though not 10 years protracted...

  117. Unfortunately, the situation will get worse at rental properties in particular as a result of the devastating June 2019 rent laws that basically removed all incentives for owners to upgrade their properties.

  118. There’s a difference between adhering to housing codes and maintaining a building than providing frivolous “upgrades” to deregulate rent stabalized units while collecting tax breaks and vacancy increases. These LLs are not struggling . Let’s be real .

  119. Fines need to be increased to be commensurate with the increased fortunes of owners - real estate gets a pass due to extreme lobbying while owners get richer and avoid consequences. Hit them where it hurts - their bank accounts.

  120. Here’s one way to solve the problem: Give the city the authority to condemn and/or foreclose on properties that can’t follow the law in extreme cases. I’m sure the owners would start paying attention.

  121. Imagine seeing this sign: WARNING! The facade on this building has been declared unsafe and a risk to pedestrians. The landlord received this notice 149 days ago and has not taken action. They have not paid their fine in 135 days. I bet that would get landlords to act pretty quickly.

  122. It'll take a bunch of deaths.

  123. Who was the judge that deemed the Himmel Meringoff property to not be “unsafe” - and, how did this happen?

  124. Thank you, Ms. Beachy and NYT. You might just have saved lives.

  125. The immediate effect of over-regulation is that the bureaucracy must prioritize which regulations they choose to enforce. It's impossible to enforce them all, even with a massive (and always inefficient) bureaucracy in place. Generally, bureaucracies enforce the rules that generate the least political resistance. It was easy to enforce stop-and-frisk rules in the 1990s, because crime was high and there was little resistance to the policy. Now that equation has changed and so has the policy. In this case, the bureaucracy has not enforced the facade maintenance rule because there has been little pressure to do so, and lots of pressure from landlords not to. Articles like this, which actually publicize deaths resulting from non-enforcement will change the equation, and, undoubtedly, this very morning there will be meetings among inspectors to respond to the media attention. However, that just means that some other regulation will move down to priority list to make room for their new-found focus on this issue. For instance, does it make sense to de-emphasize the enforcement of regulations about staircase handrails, say, to now enforce facade regulations? "Only" three people have been killed by crumbling facades in forty years, and deaths from faulty handrails probably overwhelm that number. A bloated city code may make activists feel like their pet projects are receiving government attention, but it inevitably ends up like this.

  126. Fewer cops; more and better paid buildings inspectors.

  127. And who has been running the city bureaucracy for years? Liberals. While liberals proclaim themselves to be superior in every way, the reality is that everything they control, from big cities, public schools and universities become 2nd rate. Putting lives in danger by not doing their job should land the building inspection department in a serious lawsuit.

  128. Oh please, like conservative governance has done wonders in Mississippi or Arkansas.

  129. Then stay in Texas and don’t visit any soon. You can’t carry a gun around just because you want to, and so you wouldn’t like it here anyway.

  130. When a city official says, "WE are taking aggressive action," you KNOW nothing is going to be done.

  131. And, the city only inspects buildings that are 6 stories or taller. For years I lived in a building that was only 5 stories. The stone windowsills and lintels above the windows (also made of stone) would crumble and fall onto the busy sidewalk below. No one ever inspected it or cared.

  132. I know many of the readers of NY Times will not like this comment. I have reviewed the List of buildings the NY Times has compiled and more than 70% are apartment buildings with rent control. Which means the Landlord cannot raise rents and since last June even for major capital projects the LL may not raise the rents. This is an absurd situation when we do jot allow the LL to make money even if you believe in Progressive thinking. The LL's simply have no incentive to fix their buildings and are even willing to pay large fines but cant afford to pay (often union) very expensive contractors. This is not to excuse the LL's from fixing dangerous parts of their buildings. But large capital projects like facades, can drain the cashflow of a building for months and years. The new laws from last year do not allow for rents to rise under any circumstances, so how is a LL supposed to pay for the repairs ? And even if he can afford, do we really expect a LL to lose a year's cashflow to actually fix the problem ? Shouldnt we be incentivizing the LL's (many of whom are small mom and pop owners) with rent increases if they keep their buildings well and safe ? I predict alot more issues with the rent controlled buildings (like broken boilers, electric etc) because we give no incentive to an Owner to do the urgent construction needed in the Buildings.

  133. @David - agree with you. Every economist, liberal or conservative, says that rent control is the worst way to accomplish the goals of affordable housing and it ends up causing the opposite effect - an inefficient market with housing shortages.

  134. @David The thing is, David, that laws and regulations are only enacted to correct known problems. If building owners maintained their buildings in good condition at all times-- if they promptly repaired broken boilers, replaced loose handrails and cracked windows, and willingly repaired dangerous, crumbling facades-- we would not need any of those pesky laws or annoying regulations. Yes, there are too many regulations to allow every one of them to be a top enforcement priority at all times. But until people in general, and landlords in particular, voluntarily do the right thing in a timely manner, society will continue to need more and more laws and regulations. That's just the way it is.

  135. @David There is a case working its way through the courts challenging the constitutionality of rent regulations as a taking of property without recompense. The Supreme Court has previously upheld rent regulations, but the more conservative justices may change this.

  136. Jail time for owners for criminally negligent homicide would address the matter.

  137. Mentioned in the article, the local law in question requiring facade inspections only applies to buildings higher than 6 stories. One has to wonder about the facade integrity of all those buildings 6 stories and under.

  138. Persistent scaffolding discourages tourism. My husband and I visit Manhattan every couple of years-- usually for family gatherings of various sorts-- sometimes for a theater weekend. We usually stay at our favorite hotel in the Times Square area. Every time we visit, we encounter more and more scaffolding. Over the last 8 years (3 visits) we have not seen ANY scaffolding removed; we have seen much more scaffolding erected. We worry that the facades of more and more buildings are unsafe. We are annoyed because the scaffolding creates bottlenecks for both pedestrians and vehicles. Much of the scaffolded walkways are so narrow that we often have to step aside to allow oncoming pedestrians to clear the scaffold before we can enter. We often have to squeeze by trash bins or delivery pallets left in the pedestrian or vehicle pathways. Clearly, the building codes require building owners to erect scaffolding for legitimate reasons. However, there is absolutely no code enforcement that forces the building owners to actually correct the problems and remove the scaffolding in a reasonable time frame. Shame on the NYC City Council! The last time we were there, last July, we agreed that we do not intend to return to Manhattan for any non-essential purpose because the scaffold-impeded pedestrian and vehicle traffic is too darned annoying and scary and because we no longer trust the safety of the facades. Good job, Code Enforcement Department!

  139. Your loss. NYC is still awesome. Any other city in America is just anywhere USA...same malls, chain stores, suburbs. Enjoy the boredom!

  140. Simple solution is to have all rental income from the property placed into an escrow account until the work is done, paid back less fines, penalties and interest when work completed. A slightly more complicated one is to license certain companies to conduct the repairs if they are not completed within one-year, place a lien on the property and foreclose on the property if the owner does not pay the lien within 3 month of the work being completed. the amount of the lien would include fines, penalties, cost of doing the work, Interest at credit card rates, and a hefty mark up for the company.

  141. This caught my attention: "... the severity of the April violation had been downgraded by a judge who determined that the facade was not unsafe." Who was that judge? Was this judge a civil engineer in addition to being an attorney? Is this judge now aware that his/her decision contributed to a death?

  142. Another reason why a political candidate needs to emerge with an anti-real estate platform. It is time for some checks and balances against the developers/ brokers that having been running rogue for years.

  143. Do property owners raise rents while buildings go unrepaired? What if they were forced to freeze rents until buildings are brought up to code?

  144. Unfortunately the problem is much larger than this article indicates. It only includes buildings that are over seven stories high and subject to Local Law 11. There are hundreds of buildings that are three to six stories high where the facades pose just as great a danger. For example the Church on 86th and Amsterdam in Manhattan has had a sidewalk shed up for over twenty years. Yes- TWENTY YEARS. Pieces of brick frequently split off from the facade and steeple tower but there is no requirement that they do repairs as long as the sidewalk shed stays in place. Since it is less than seven stories high, the DOB does nothing.

  145. Wow. Thanks for writing this. There’s 2 buildings on my block with scaffolding to protect pedestrians. One is owned by NY City and the other was a City conversion. Both are poorly managed in every aspect (2 years of portable boiler, garbage etc) so this is no surprise. I am also fixing up my own building presently and it’s really difficult to get through the city bureaucracy to get the permits to start the work. The Landmark Commission can’t get out of its own way in order to enable the necessary repairs - 10 months in bureaucratic circles. It’s easier to pay the fine and plow forward than pay lawyers without an end in sight. Other building owners feel the same way.

  146. The city should be able to seize the properties of scofflaws. The threat of losing title to a property would be a powerful spur, and would avoid some of the unfortunate difficulties that accompany criminal prosecutions.

  147. I just don’t think this is what a wealthy city in a strong national economy should look like — worn scaffolding everywhere and block after block of empty retail. I struggle to wrap my brain around it. The pieces don’t add up. We can do better!

  148. Huge hi-rise under rapid construction now at 69th and Amsterdam with pedestrian traffic in 2 directions right under it. It was obvious just looking at the site next to elementary school, if you have any construction experience, with lots of unsecured tools and building material 400 feet up, that it was unsafe. Hand tools and fist sized debris regularly came down according to security guards I spoke to worried about their own safety. Residents complained to City Council, called the cops, nothing was done. Finally, a 20 foot wooden plank came off the top and landed in a walkway, luckily missing everyone. So the city banned foot traffic for a couple of months while building scaffolding: construction did not slow or stop. Someone did a calculation that a dead kid would cost them more than the scaffolding, o/w zero would have been done. Money Money Money Money Money Money. Repeat when in doubt.

  149. The insurance for buildings and constructing buildings is very expensive and the insurance carriers are very prickly about site safety. The NYC Building Dept has a “do nothing” mentality. The best way to get the attention of something/someone with such sloppy practices is to mobilize your block association to sue the GC and make it more expensive (lawyers, insurances etc) for them to operate. 1 violation is a problem, 10 is a big problem, 100 is a business model.

  150. Looking at this list, I noticed a building near my apartment that has had a sidewalk shed, scaffolding, and netting up for 13 years. Every so often a little work happens, but I can't understand why the co-op can't finish the project, and why the shareholders tolerate the situation. A quick look on ACRIS tells me that the building is in debt up to its cornice line, and BIS tells me that there's a stop-work order on the building. I can't imagine that anyone can sell a unit there, because who would want to buy into such a situation. A complete nightmare.

  151. New York city’s department of buildings is a joke. I got fined and issued a violation because the “white” that my contractor used to paint the ceiling of one of my tenant’s rooms after fixing a small leak was not the same “white” as the rest of the ceiling. I’m not kidding. The tenant filed a complaint (before even talking to me, mind you), and the city sent out an inspector the very next day, who agreed the whites were not the same and issued a violation. This is the same department of buildings that lets these negligent owners get away with not fixing a facade for 14 years, or worse, with not flagging dangerous buildings at all until it’s too late. But I sure am glad the citizens of New York City don’t have to worry about two different shades of white on their ceilings. One less thing to worry about while dodging falling pieces of concrete!

  152. Precisely the problem. Systemic inspections and databases on state and city levels need to be conducted - results accessible to the public to hold the owners and warn and inform tenants of potential negligence . This must be implemented with ratings . Landlords and building owners compliance needs to be transparently displayed - monetary incentives and penalties then implemented

  153. It is true but you cannot put every building that is filed as Unsafe at the DOB in the same basket . For example 175 5th Avenue “Flatiron” had sidewalk shed installed right away and the repairs are in progress for several months

  154. There are one million buildings in NYC. Violations on 1,400 of them represents 0.14%. Remove 1- and 2-story buildings in desolate neighborhoods, and the number threatening public safety is even more microscopic. So let's tone down the hysteria. Very surprised the author did not mention the new rent stabilization laws. Landlords cannot pay for Major Capital Improvements because the law won't let them increase rents. Oil/gas, taxes, labor all escalating but rent does not - this is the inevitable outcome. Beware the law of unintended consequences!

  155. Looks like somebody works in the NY real estate industry...

  156. MCIs accounted for are still permitted

  157. Reminds me every time I’m in SoHo that the big building on the corner of Houston and Broadway (home of a Crate & Barrel store) has had a scaffold shed around it for about as long as I’ve lived in the city. When is that ever going to come down, I wonder? I’m baffled why city planners and government cannot force repairs to happen sooner. Are they really that toothless in the face of owner intransigence? If owners claim they cannot afford repairs then they should be forced to sell their building to an owner that can fix it.

  158. Should a sequel to 1981’s ‘Escape from New York’ be on the drawing boards, principle shooting could begin tomorrow on the streets of 2020 NYC, which today resembles more a dystopian fourth-world hallucination than the erstwhile ‘greatest city on earth’. The 480 miles of Hydra-like ‘sidewalk sheds’ that grace our five boroughs are a civic, national and international disgrace. And seeming nothing can be done. Why must we live like this? Why is this acceptable? A global parallel is unknown to me…the rest of the world’s great cities don’t suffer from this soul-crushing plague, nor are they falling down before our eyes, whether new or old. One can only hope the new strictures the city is putting into place will help relieve the miasma, which has turned one of the world’s most spectacular walking places into a nightmarish labyrinth of steel and forest-green plywood.

  159. Well, that was over dramatic. Well done

  160. Was anyone charge with manslaughter in these foreseeable deaths, and if not, why so? If you are aware of a dangerous situation, and someone dies due to your negligence, it's on you. The rules are different for the rich. As an aside, any Trump or Kushner properties on the list?

  161. The commissioner's heart is in the right place but even if he hires more inspectors, those fines are a joke. City government will always go along with whatever the real estate industry wants, so changing the law could take forever. Change might happen faster in the courts if they sue the landlords AND the city for their complicity in the deaths of those citizens.

  162. It’s a she

  163. This was a big chronic news item when Giuliani was mayor. I remember because two people were brain damaged from falling facades in the area I lived and walked every day. They were 2 NYU owned buildings and they were fixed promptly by the university presumably fearing lawsuits. The fixes weren't pretty (large plates over brick facades) but they were functional. Those plates are still there today. My point is that there are feasible solutions, but there needs to be city enforcement, or no one will do anything.

  164. After 5 years of non-compliance, confiscate the building, repair then sell it to highest bidder.

  165. So, what's going to be done about this?

  166. Just a few years ago in the NYT was a photo of arrested DOB inspector's going to jail all chained up together ,that's where the blame should go , JMO but most of the DOB is bribe-able to sort of look the other way when serious violations are found. We need to recreate this agency to work for tenants not landlords yeah! it will never happen.

  167. The power of eminent domain needs to be explored here, to yank these building under the blighted condition doctrine and use them to expand the affordable housing portfolio.

  168. Sheds all over the city. One massive, awful looking depressing shed on every block. What a dump New York's become. In the rest of the world where in most cases the buildings are older and more elaborate than here, there are no sheds at all.. In some cases you'll see scaffolding and people working on the building to complete the structures that need to be fixed. The aesthetics of our beautiful town are being ignored, and the buildings will be eventually pulled down and rebuilt to house and entertain more and more tourists from the rest of America.. Very sad.

  169. I am so grateful for this article. Late this summer I was walking on Flatbush near 8th Avenue in Brooklyn, on the phone with my sister planning the baby naming for my niece -- when several large chunks of concrete slid right off the facade of the building next to me. If I'd been just a few feet further ahead, there's a good chance I wouldn't have been around to host the ceremony -- and that baby would have been named for me! Very scary. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue.

  170. Amen it’s time to enforce city and state regulations and criminalize Slumlords

  171. The solution for this could not be simpler: city inspectors should also be trained to make estimates of the time needed to effect repairs on building facades. When building owners are ordered to erect street-level scaffolding, for every day that scaffolding remains up beyond the inspectors’ repair estimate, owners should be fined $1000 a day, payable weekly, at the Department of Building’s offices, in cash, with failure to pay resulting in a warrant for the owners’ arrest. Those repairs will be completed in good time and order. Also, it’s sadly ironic that the Erica Tishman, the woman killed in December by falling debris, shares her surname with one of the country’s largest real estate-investment firms, Tishman Speyer.

  172. The issue of unsafe buildings *under* 7 stories remains unaddressed. These buildings tend to collapse — fatally — with alarming frequency.

  173. Building owners need to re-watch the building facade / roofing tile crumble in Ben-Hur. The consequences were epic!