Scaffolding Up for 16 Years Around the Brooklyn Supreme Court House

If the scaffolding surrounding the Brooklyn Supreme Court building on Adams Street was a person, it would be preparing to finish its sophomore year of high school — and the city spends more money each year keeping the structure propped up than it does on the average public school student.

The scaffolding — or “sidewalk shed,” as it’s more formally known — has been wrapped around the courthouse at 360 Adams Street since 2007. Since fiscal year 2022, the city has been paying the private contractor who actually owns the scaffolding a tidy $5,635 per month to maintain it.

That’s $67,620 per year. In contrast, the city is expected to spend $38,000 each on public school students next year — a historic high. In 2019, the monthly fee was $4,340, as the Brooklyn Paper reported at the time — DCAS said that the department added more scaffolding “to address safety conditions” in FY22, hence the increased costs.

scaffolding over a sidewalk

Sidewalk sheds cover more than 2 million feet across New York City, and the city itself often keeps scaffolding up for years. Photo by Susan De Vries

Through the years, the city has partnered with multiple contractors to rent the scaffolding. The most recent permit was issued to Amityville-based Eagle Scaffolding Services, though DCAS did not confirm the company was the current contractor.

City laws require sidewalk sheds to be erected around buildings with facade issues — like crumbling bricks or aging cement work — to keep passersby safe from falling debris until the issue is resolved. However, the sheds often end up staying in place for years — even decades — while building owners delay making repairs.

The courthouse has racked up a number of Department of Buildings violations related to the condition of the facade — agency inspectors issued violations in 2008, 2012, 2018, and 2022.

According to city records, none have been resolved, so the scaffolding has to stay up. DCAS is responsible for making the necessary repairs. The most recent safety report notes that the stone on the tall facade is cracked, as is the brick parapet atop the building, and that the granite blocks that make up the external wall are shifting. Similar issues are noted in past reports.

crack in the brick parapet

DOB inspectors found cracks in the parapet at the top of the building. Photo courtesy NYC DOB

Repairs are expected to cost somewhere around $18 million, according to the Department of Design and Construction. The department is working with its design partner to investigate the facade — including the steel structure that supports the exterior stone panels — and plans to begin construction in 2025.

The scaffolding itself has been cited more than once. In 2021, the DOB noted that the sidewalk shed was not up to city standards on two separate occasions, a violation that usually comes with a $2,400 fine.

Both times, the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings waived the fines.

Last month, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Council Member Keith Powers released a report titled “Shed the Shed” as part of a joint effort to start removing sidewalk sheds en masse. According to city data, there are 8,903 sidewalk sheds currently standing across New York City — stretching a combined 2 million linear feet.


The scaffolding encircles the entire building: around the front at Columbus Park, down both sides, and along Adams Street. Photo by Susan De Vries

The report identifies the city as one of the worst offenders for long-term sidewalk sheds, with scaffolding on city-owned properties often standing for over a year.

Levin and Powers recommend launching a task force to find out just why the city has so much trouble taking care of their buildings and removing sidewalk sheds, and increasing fines and penalties on building owners who don’t act quickly enough.

The council member introduced a series of bills in the city hall last month relating to cracking down on the sidewalk sheds. The bills have support from a number of Brooklyn council members, including Lincoln Restler, who represents Downtown Brooklyn, where the infamous courthouse scaffolding stands.

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran in Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.

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