200 Fifth Avenue

Our response to the Mayor's ‘Get Sheds Down’ initiative

In collaboration with New York City's Department of Buildings, Mayor Eric Adams recently unveiled the "Get Sheds Down" initiative, aimed at addressing the issues posed by unsightly and prolonged scaffolding sheds that compromise pedestrian safety. The primary focus of this initiative is to introduce more stringent regulations and heftier fines on what Mayor Adams has coined as "ugly green boxes." The average lifespan of a scaffolding shed in NYC is 450 days, with the oldest one, located in Hamilton Heights, Manhattan, having stood for a staggering 17 years. The program encourages property owners to expedite necessary repairs and remove sheds with expired permits from public sidewalks. Additionally, Mayor Adams is proposing legislation permitting traditional scaffolding to be painted in various colors to better blend with the aesthetics of the surrounding building exteriors.

While we share Mayor Adams' dedication to enhancing the safety and aesthetics of New York City sidewalks, our initial assessment suggests that the Mayor's initiatives might bring about limited substantive changes. The extended duration of scaffolding installations primarily results from bureaucratic impediments tied to complex regulations and uncertainties in the city's building codes rather than the actions of building owners. Furthermore, the emphasis on imposing higher fines on private building owners raises concerns, particularly when the city itself accounts for a substantial portion of the existing scaffolding structures. For instance, the Housing Authority currently maintains 137,022 linear feet of sidewalk sheds, with an average lifespan of 8 years across 114 developments.

Also as part of the "Get Sheds Down" campaign, Mayor Adams is sponsoring a contest to select new scaffolding designs for use by contractors and building owners by 2025. However, there are concerns from a lot of potential contestants and potential end-users of the new product about the feasibility of this initiative. Firstly, the City will retain exclusive rights to the intellectual property of the winning design, leading to questions about the city's intentions with the contest and how liability will be handled. Furthermore, several crucial details, including the fabrication process, financial arrangements, product maintenance, and logistical aspects, remain undisclosed, casting doubts on the practical execution of this contest and its potential impacts on the construction landscape. Consequently, several groups that intended to participate have now decided not to participate in the contest.

What is clear at this point is that, until 2025, Urban Umbrella will remain the sole independent provider of a legal alternative to traditional green shed scaffolding. We share Mayor Adams' dedication to enhancing the safety and aesthetics of New York City sidewalks and remain committed to continuing our constructive dialogue with City officials to offer our expertise in construction innovation.

Considering using Spring Scaffolding's knock-off Urban Umbrella product? We Will Match Their Pricing!

In New York City, the Department of Buildings officially recognizes Urban Umbrella as the sole approved alternative. However, we are currently in a Federal legal battle with Spring Scaffolding, a company that has developed an imitation product. We contend that this product constitutes a violation of trade dress infringement under both federal and common law.

If you are contemplating the use of Spring Scaffolding's product in NYC, we are prepared to match their pricing without any inquiries. We take pride in offering the only approved product, renowned for its safety and quality. Moreover, our product includes a complimentary 24/7 maintenance service and a white-glove service package, ensuring that you receive top-tier support.

Email Sales@UrbanUmbrella.com for a quote

Will a new law negate the Mayor's ‘Get Sheds Down’ program?

A new Department of Buildings (DOB) rule with significant implications for New York City’s scaffolding industry goes into effect on January 1, 2024. The rule, enacted under Local Law 126 of 2021 (within §28-301.1.1 of the New York City Administrative Code) mandates the regular inspection and maintenance of building parapets citywide; “building parapet” refers to the part of any wall entirely above a building’s roof line, often featuring signage, cornices, and other architectural detailing. Although the rule went into effect this past September, official enforcement will begin on January 1st of the new year. By that time, building owners/managers must make arrangements towards compliance. 

Parapet inspections must be conducted by “a person competent to inspect parapets”; they need not be a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI). Inspections must be conducted at close range across the entirety of the parapet. If any hazards are found, the inspector must immediately notify the Department of Buildings via report, and public protection must be installed. While public protection may take the form of fencing and netting, it will most often manifest as sidewalk scaffolding; public protection must remain installed until work is completed, which must occur within ninety days. 

The Building Code does not stipulate when these inspections should be conducted. Unlike with façade inspections under FISP, there is no mention of a suggested or required frequency. Nor does the Code illustrate how reports should be filed, and penalties for non-compliance are not discussed. Hopefully the DOB will provide clarity in these areas in the coming months. 

What is clear is that this new rule is an important step towards ensuring pedestrians are kept safe from a broader scope of unsafe conditions than those addressed by Local Law 11. However, it directly hinders Mayor Adams’s “Get Sheds Down” initiative, as it will almost certainly result in the installation of more sidewalk scaffolding, not less, across a much larger aggregate of structures. Because there is no set timetable for the completion of these annual inspections, and because they are far more visibly conducted (as they are for public-facing parapets only), New Yorkers should expect an overall increase in the number of work done unto their buildings. 

JFK rideshare project complete

Our new Terminal 7, JFK Airport Ride Share Canopy, has recently been launched. It is the first of its kind at an airport, boasting a six-hundred-foot canopy that serves as a safe pathway for travelers during ongoing construction. Furthermore, we are currently collaborating with multiple other airports across the country with the aim of introducing this product in 2024.

Introducing our new CFO

James joined Urban Umbrella in May as the Chief Financial Officer. James began his career at PwC’s Accounting practice and subsequently worked for several real estate developers including Banker Steel/NYC Constructors and The Related Companies. James brings extensive leadership experience in overseeing strategic and operational financial processes to execute the company’s financial strategy. Throughout his career, James has been involved with numerous high-visibility projects in New York’s Hudson Yards, Midtown Manhattan, Chicago, Dallas, California, and other locations across the United States. James graduated from the University of Minnesota earning both a Master of Accounting and Bachelor of Science from the Carlson School of Management and holds a CPA certification. In his free time, James is an avid marathoner.

An amenity to construction

While often selected due to the aesthetics and safety the Urban Umbrella system provides to pedestrians and buildings alike, the benefits go so much deeper.

Almost every New Yorker can agree with the fact that traditional scaffolding is dark, dingy, and filled with cross-bracing, which eliminates visibility to the ground-floor tenants, entrances, and retailers. This can become a huge problem not only for storefronts trying to do business but also for tenants and residents who need to battle unwanted loitering as they enter their building and, further, for brokers trying to lease/sell a unit within a building.

An alternative was needed to solve the gloom that traditional scaffolding brings, and thus, Urban Umbrella was born. Since installing at 841-853 Broadway and 261 Fifth Avenue, The Feil Organization has signed over 40K SF across the three buildings. Since installing at 630 9th Avenue, GFP has also renewed 7K SF of space in the building.

Urban Umbrella takes over Nashville

Through a joint venture with BrandSafway, Urban Umbrella has completed its 3rd Installation in Nashville at one of the most anticipated developments in the market, 1010 Church.

Developer Girratana is a trailblazer in the market, always looking for ways to innovate, whether through their developments or their construction. With increasing awareness being brought to pedestrian safety in Nashville, Girratana looked no further than Urban Umbrella to provide a path for pedestrians to walk and leverage the system as a marketing vessel for their ALCOVE development.

Located in the heart of downtown Nashville, 1010 Church will rise 60-stories within 750 feet

Now Live in Houston & Atlanta

Austin set for November

We have recently expanded our operations to two new cities, Houston and Atlanta, increasing our active market presence to thirteen cities. Additionally, we are preparing to launch in Austin in the near future. Although our headquarters are located in NYC, which boasts the largest scaffolding market globally, we have noticed a growing demand for premium scaffolding services in various other cities.

Leveraging our extensive network of partners across the country and introducing a new product tailored for the needs of other urban areas, we are well-equipped to provide scaffolding services in any major city in North America at a competitive price point.

Are you interested in incorporating an Urban Umbrella into your city's infrastructure? Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by giving us a call.

Industry news

Event Canopy Product on display at Tribeca Film Festival & NY Fashion Week

Our Event Canopy Product was featured recently at the main entrance of The Tribeca Film Festival, further expanding the products that we offer. Urban Umbrella's Event Canopy also continues to make waves in the fashion industry. As part of our partnership with IMG Focus., the leading global sports, fashion, media, and events company behind Fashion Week, we provided an indoor-outdoor installation for Philip Lim's runway show during New York Fashion Week. You can find more details in the coverage below. 

Employee spotlight - Paul DeFeo

Following his five-year anniversary at Urban Umbrella, Urban Umbrella's longest-tenured employee, Director of Product, Paul DeFeo sat down with Chief of Staff Benjamin Maltz to recount his time at the company, comment on the state of the industry, and discuss all things scaffolding.

Q: Five years, that’s quite an achievement. How did you get your start here? 

PD: I applied to several architecture and engineering firms straight out of grad school [at Penn State] in 2018. One of those firms was Agencie; it wasn’t the right fit, but through that firm, Ben [Krall] got ahold of my resumé, and I drove in for an interview. The rest is history. Although a departure from the more conventional structural engineering jobs my friends and I were searching for, Urban Umbrella—at the time this niche, ragtag, pioneering group—seemed right up my alley. I think I was the right sort of person for the job at just the right time. Offering me the position was a leap of faith, as was accepting it, and I’m incredibly glad both decisions worked out the way they did. 

To read the full interview click here:

The impact of easing the use of drones in NYC for building inspections

Recently, Mayor Eric Adams eased restrictions around the usage of drones in New York City. Engineers, inspection companies, and contractors are eager to see how this conversation evolves. We wanted to take a moment to provide a brief overview of the ongoing conversation.

What is the realistic utility of drones in facade inspections?

  • Per the NYC Building Code, façade inspections must be conducted by a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI) across all façades at arms-length. “Arms-length” often necessitates the construction of pipe or suspended scaffolding.
  • It is currently unclear whether existing QEWIs would be able to apply for a drone piloting license themselves or if drone inspections would require the involvement of both a QEWI and a registered, licensed drone pilot. 
  • Although the Mayor’s plan seems to be in full effect (the public can now apply for a UA permit on this NYPD website), it will likely be some time before we see regular inspections conducted by drones. The new drone fly process in New York City is quite strict. For instance, If a UA will capture audio, video, or still images during its journey, all community boards within the flight path must be notified.

Why some advocate for drone-mediated inspections:

  • Aerial perspectives and airborne mobility increase inspectors’ flexibility.
  • High-definition video camera software would enable inspectors to conduct accurate assessments safely from the ground and in a fraction of the time. 
  • Inspection feeds could also be recorded and saved for future comparisons. 

What are the key concerns tied to drone inspection:

  • Opponents contend that the tactile assessment of certain façade conditions is often necessary for adequate, proper diagnoses and that drone flight itself presents new safety issues worth pause. 
  • Several community leaders have spoken out against a feared invasion of privacy if drone inspections are recorded.
  • Some have even voiced unease regarding noise. 

Could drone-mediated inspections lead to more repairs and as a result, more scaffolding?

Drones have the capability to capture extremely detailed images, which could lead to the identification of minor aesthetic flaws or hairline cracks that, in reality, have no significant impact on the building's structural integrity. Building owners might feel compelled to address these minor issues unnecessarily, incurring additional maintenance costs.

Noteworthy new jobs

575 Fifth Avenue

200 Fifth Avenue

200 Park Avenue

787 Eleventh Avenue

JW Marriott Essex House

57 West 57th Street

YSL & Burberry, 57th Street

The Yale Club

Fleet Street, Brooklyn

The Moxy Hotel

An Urban Umbrella for any job

We have grown significantly since our humble beginnings in 2017 as a small startup with just one product. Today, we operate in multiple cities and offer a range of solutions for our clients. These offerings include various load capacity levels suitable for all project types, along with the flexibility to create custom spans ranging from 20 to 50 feet in both height. Each of our projects features a prominent sweeping corner, providing an ideal space for signage and branding.

Explore our other services

Urban Umbrella offers eight services. Click below to download brochures to learn more about each services.

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