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Why has this Harlem building been covered in scaffolding for 17 years?

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The issue highlights the DOB’s problems with controlling scaffolding across the city

Via Google Maps

Scaffolding surrounding a Harlem building has once again brought to light the city’s difficult relationship trying to manage the hundreds of miles of scaffolding that cover buildings across the city. The New York Times recently turned its attention to 100 Lenox Avenue, where there has been some form of scaffolding in place for the last 17 years, most likely a record for the city.

The building, which has 20 apartments and retail on the ground floor, first saw scaffolding go up sometime in 1990, after the city sold the building to an affordable housing non-profit. That particular group, the West Harlem Community Organization, has been dealing with legal issues for a while now, and hasn’t made the requisite repairs on the building’s facade for the city’s Department of Buildings to allow it to come down.

In fact, in one instance in 2003, when the owners of the building failed to install scaffolding, the DOB went ahead and did it themselves. Over the years, residents and tenants have had brief moments of reprieve from the scaffolding but then falling stones from a window frame, and a fallen brick a few years later meant the scaffolding was increased to wrap around more portions of the building.

Residents and retail store owners the Times interviewed complained of the crowds that gather under the scaffolding, and the trash that accumulates on top of the scaffolding, allegedly thrown down by tenants. Retail store owners also complained of how the scaffolding was affecting their business.

A spokesperson for the DOB said it was imperative to keep the scaffolding up until the building owners made the requisite repairs. This particular building however is an example of the frustration many New Yorkers experience over the seemingly endless existence of scaffolding: currently there’s over 285 miles of it covering 7,862 buildings. The city has been taking steps to keep it in check, like the interactive map they released in May to keep track of it. Simultaneously, a City Council bill is in the works that would require scaffolding to be taken down within six months of it having gone up.