Monday, December 5, 2022
Clear. High 47 degrees.
Our calendar has lots of local events! Click on the link or the lady in the upper righthand corner.
By Carol Tannenhauser
Anyone who has ever lived, worked, or studied under scaffolding for a long period of time knows how dreary it can be, and the joy that erupts when it finally comes down.
So it was last week at the landmarked Joan of Arc Junior High School building on West 93rd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus, when the metal pipes, wooden planks, and white netting were removed after nearly nine years.
“There is an air of excitement flowing through the schoolyard and hallways now that the scaffolding is gone,” wrote Gui Stampur, a parent at the Manhattan School for Children (MSC), one of three schools that share the Joan of Arc building. “We have our schoolyard back, and [it] looks like a school again, not a construction site.”
Lynn Feng, another parent, was thrilled that all the construction equipment had left with the scaffolding. “The sun quite literally (and figuratively) is shining through!” she wrote to the Rag. “Walking to school on that first day without the sidewalk shed, my first grader pointed up and said, “Look, you can see the sky!””
On Thursday afternoon, WSR ran over to take a look. Like a freshly shaven face, the building appeared light and clean — and younger than its 81 years. Construction workers were removing the last bit of netting from the iron fence in front of the school, while one sprayed the stone, scrubbing away indiscernible marks. “We came in and saved it,” he said, proudly, indicating that the contracting company had to be changed midstream.
The construction project to repair Joan of Arc’s “aging and leaky roof” was first announced in May 2014, and was expected to last three years. Why the scaffolding remained up for nine years is a long-running saga. Work expanded to include city-mandated repairs to the building facade. A city-hired contractor had to be replaced because of unsatisfactory work. The pandemic and supply chain issues caused further delays, according to the School Construction Authority, the city agency in charge of the work. Frustrated parents petitioned the agency to speed up its work schedule. They complained to media and Community Board 7, demanded more city transparency about the seemingly never-ending project. And then one day, it was finally done. Said parent Feng: “It’s amazing to see what an architectural gem was hiding behind all those layers of scaffolding and SCA mismanagement.”
Some of the parents are now embarking on a new project. “It is time for us to build an inclusive playground that meets the needs of all children at Joan of Arc,” Stampur concluded. “If you are reading this and want to join the effort to build an inclusive playground akin to the Bloomingdale Playground at 104th Street and Amsterdam, please reach out to email@example.com.”
The scaffolding was also recently removed from the Broadway side of the Ansonia, between W. 73rd and W. 74th Streets.
“Hallelujah!” exulted Peggy Taylor, a resident. “Let there be light!”
But Taylor added: “Although I hated it (except when it provided shelter from rain and snow), I knew that the overhaul was required by law and necessary. I didn’t want the Ansonia to be guilty of maintenance negligence and responsible for the death of a two-year-old like the one killed in 2015 when bricks from the Esplanade Retirement Home (now West End Assisted Living) broke loose and struck her on the head.”
* For a comprehensive look at the prevalence, permanence, and problems of scaffolding, read the Rag’s Special Report: The Omnipresence of Scaffolding and Its Impact on City Lives; Why and What Is Being Done?
Enjoy the chill!
New York needs to start fining owners with scaffolding up for more than six months.
Many projects, especially those involving facade repairs cannot take place in cold or rainy weather causing delays. Many projects take 18 months to complete, especially facade work. Local Law 11 usually requires extensive work that cannot be completed in 6 months, especially when awaiting approval of work from government agencies, which also causes delays. Owners have to pay large fees each month to keep the scaffolding up. It is not by choice that they do so, but by necessity.
The problem is the fines are so low — $100 per month — that it is much more economical for the building owners to pay it than to make the repairs. It makes more sense for them to leave it up for years and avoid liability than to invest in the repairs.
And if there are permit and or construction delays due to reasons out of the buildings control such as the Pandemic and supply chain issues or unforeseen complications to what has to be done what then? I can see fining them if the work is done and it is still up longer than is mandated under the law.
In many cases it’s not that the work is delayed, but that it is left undone.
The scaffolding at 56 west 94th has been up for over 5 years and NO WORK has been done – it is just there . The tenants have tried to get it removed but no one is responding ! It’s ugly and attracts rats .
Oof, I had scaffolding and sheds/ tunnels for about three years while they were building “The Charlotte” next door to me, and yes, this summer when I was in the tunnel a rat ran over MY FOOT from one side of the shed to the other side. I screamed. They really are rat refuges.
Glory Hallelujah, the Ansonia returns to life! I never saw workers on the facade, and thought the scaffolding would be there forever
On a broader issue, the city needs to extend the timeline for Local Law 11 work from 5 years to at least 7 years. As a board member of my condominium for over 15 years, I have realized that by the time you complete one cycle of LL11 work (getting the consultants in, figuring out what needs to be done, negotiating the work contracts, completing the work), it takes nearly 3 years and it is then almost time to start again. And this is why so much scaffolding is up all the time.
Seven years will provide some breathing room for the building finances and also lead to less scaffolding.
Three years for “one phase” is ridiculous…the process should be sped up!
I’ve been through 4 cycles of LL11 work in my building. We have tried everything. We monitor progress almost daily to push things along. Unfortunately, it just takes a certain amount of time to get the project completed (this is from initial concept to scaffolding being taken down). The City needs to change the rule to be 5 years from COMPLETING last cycle vs. 5 years from START of last cycle, This will have a big impact on the building finances and scaffolding and no impact on safety.
Good idea. I’ll propose it to Council member Abreu.
Thanks. See my comment above about 5 years after completion of work vs. 5 years from start of work
Kudos to Carol Tannenhauser for the excellent reporting and writing of this article. It answered the nagging question of why it took nine years, and her comparison of the newly cleaned facade to a freshly shaven face will accompany me on Monday errands like a smile.
Between the outrageous number of sidewalk sheds and the “tool sheds” restaurants have erected in the streets, New York looks like one big shantytown these days. How can we get our city back?
Interesting that they finally fire the principal at MSC, and the scaffolding comes down the next week….
As a 1963 graduate of JOA I am glad to see the Old Lady set free.
The building on the northeast corner of Columbus and 74th (61 West 74th) has been obscured by scaffolding and netting for several years, and no work whatsoever is being done. How the tenants (or unit owners?) suffer through being boxed in is beyond baffling. What is clear is that those of us who live nearby are heartily sick of this eyesore, which is starting to seem permanent. Then again, Crumble (a cookie chain) is about to open on the building’s Columbus side — and why would it do business under a sidewalk shed unless the company was told the scaffolding etc would vanish in short order? Questions, questions…
Maybe the Bank Street School on 112th street between Broadway and Riverside can be encouraged to take down its scaffolding. Bank Street is probably not required to follow the NYC school construction rules because it’s a private school, but someone needs to get them moving along. too. About a year into the pandemic, neighbors on the street fought Bank Street when it closed down the street between 7 and 4 every weekday, without proper permits. The neighbors won. They should find out what’s happening with their scaffolding.
Anyone remembers when the scaffolding went up at the Ansonia? I live really close and I’d say 5 years but I may be stretching it.
I live in the neighborhood and notice that as soon as some scaffolding comes down on the Ansonia more goes up again. That said, we do need safety from deteriorating buildings and that beautiful building is older than most in the neighborhood. I wonder why the scaffolding or shed as it is also called has to be built way before permits to do repair work are granted. That can leave expensive scaffolding in place for more than a couple of years before it is needed as a safety measure during repair work. I wish someone would investigate Local Law 11. Let’s put up the scaffolding before actual work commences at least. Pity we cannot enjoy the magnificent architecture of New York anymore The scaffolding companies are surely making a mint on these projects.