It's impossible to resist the siren song of the construction site fence. But for years, in order to get a sense of all the digging and welding and moving-of-metal taking place, you'd have to go up on your tip-toes and sneak a peek over the top, or squint through a crack in the gate. But no longer! Have you noticed, more and more, that construction sites are including handy cut-outs in the fencing around their sites, right about average adult-eye-level?
Update: See our favorite of your photos at the bottom of this page!
At first, we thought this was just a nice touch on the part of contractors. Something for the curious pedestrians or the kids who want to look at dump trucks. But we should actually thank Local Law 47 of 2013, which went into effect on July 1st of last year. LL47/2013 subsection 3307.7 calls for "viewing panels" on all construction fencing, covered with plexiglass or "equivalent nonfragible material" (projects that began before July 2013 are exempted). Read the whole thing here, it's riveting.
Sadly, no part of the law stipulates that you have to put the coolest machinery near the window, but it's a start.
With Mayor de Blasio pledging to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joking that there should be so much construction in New York City that no one can sleep, expect to have plenty of viewing panels to peer through over the coming years.
And this likely serves an important civic function, too. Knowing what's happening within a construction area is a way to keep tabs on the changing landscape of New York City, and hold businesses accountable. Signs on construction sites ask average New Yorkers to report violations by anonymously calling 311 -- something that's been hard to do when everything it taking place behind that big green fence. And you may have also noticed more information about the future plans posted as well. LL47/2013 subsection 3301.99 calls for a panel with a rendering of the proposed building, details on who's behind the project, and more information that will give you a sense of what your neighborhood will look like in a year or two.
We reached out to a Department of Buildings spokesperson to ask about the reasons for the law, here's what she told us:
"By combining permit postings, contractor information and a project rendering into one simplified, easy-to-read, large panel, regulators have easier access to important information for enforcement - and neighbors have a quick and easy way to understand the changes underway in their neighborhoods."
Peering through a construction site fence: it's fun, it's easy, and it helps inspectors do their job.
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What Other Mysteries Can We Investigate?
This post and others like it are part of a new Brian Lehrer Show reporting project where we try to answer some of NYC's little mysteries. Read more about it here, and submit questions for us to investigate. Brian Lehrer Show producer Jody Avirgan will follow up from time to time on the blog and on air.