Sidewalk Sheds: Pain in the Neck or Protection?

Written By: Randy J. Heller

Randy J Heller in front of new york city background for blog on sidewalk sheds

Anyone spending time in New York City marvels at the ubiquity of those ugly green sidewalk sheds on every other block. I can sometimes walk 5 or 6 blocks to the subway station on a rainy day without ever needing an umbrella, thanks to these piping and plywood enclosures. But if you own a ground-floor restaurant, you are probably less enamored of them as they block your light and signage and possibly discourage customers. Is there anything you can do about them?

In a recent case, a restaurant owner petitioned the court to have the neighbor’s sidewalk shed removed from in front of its restaurant. The neighbor was performing façade repairs on its 12-story building and had erected the shed in front of its own building and extending 20 feet beyond its property line in front of the neighboring restaurant.

The restaurant utilized Article 871 of the Real Property and Proceedings Law, which authorizes the commencement of an action for a permanent injunction directing the removal of structures encroaching upon a complainant’s real property. (This is not to be confused with RPAPL 881, which is the section authorizing the court to grant a license for access to a neighbor’s property to protect it against the risk of falling debris.)

In defense of the action, the owner of the building performing the façade work argued that the Building Code requires the erection of a sidewalk shed to protect pedestrians from construction or demolition operations. The Code requires that where a building is over 100 feet in height, the shed needs to be erected not only in front of the building where the work is being performed, but also to extend 20 feet along the sidewalk in each direction, beyond the building doing the work.

Moreover, the court noted, where a shed is erected on the public sidewalk, and does not block ingress to or egress from the restaurant, and is not attached in any way to the restaurant’s property, it is not an “encroachment upon the complainant’s real property.”

Since the sidewalk shed was not left there for an inordinate amount of time, was entirely on the public sidewalk, and was mandated by the Building Code, the Court denied the restaurant’s motion to have the shed removed. Going further, the Court noted that even if the shed were to have encroached, “the benefit to be gained by compelling its removal” did not outweigh “the harm that would result from granting such relief.”

When it comes to the protection of pedestrians from construction work overhead, aesthetics and blocking storefront signage must take a back seat.

about the authors

Randy J. Heller


For over forty years, Mr. Heller has specialized in construction law and litigation, representing some of the largest and most successful contractors in the nation.

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