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New map shows the ridiculous amount of obstructed sidewalks in NYC

Written by
Clayton Guse

New York City is home to some of the world’s most compelling architecture. But for many walking on the street level, the beauty up high is blocked from view by sidewalk sheds down low. As of Thursday, those sheds covered a more than 270 miles of sidewalks across the five boroughs—we know this because the city’s Department of Buildings released an interactive map that shows every single one of them in real time.

At the time this piece was published, there were 7,986 active sidewalk sheds standing up in the city. The DOB notes that it’s important not to confuse these sheds with scaffolding. Sidewalk sheds, which are often accompanied by scaffolding, are “required by law to protect the public from potential hazards when a building has facade defects, is undergoing facade maintenance projects or where there is ongoing construction,” according to a press release from the department.

The new map contains a trove of data for urban planning nerds to geek out about. Each point on the map shows exactly where each shed is located, and the average number of days that each shed has been up is aggregated on a sidebar. The project aims to help locals not only be more informed about the effect of construction and rehabilitation work on the city, but also to be better aware of property owners who obstruct sidewalks and views. 

“We are excited to deliver another data-driven tool to help New Yorkers learn more about our city’s built environment and to help DOB improve our service to the public,” Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler said in a statement. “Real-time mapping not only increases our ability to monitor structures such as sidewalk sheds but also shows how we are harnessing technology to hold building owners accountable.”

So the next time you’re wondering why (or how long) the entrance to your favorite brunch spot is blocked by an ugly sidewalk shed, consider checking out this map for some good, juicy data points to back up your gripe. 

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