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NYC scaffold war spills into concrete jungle as rivals sue each other

The race to acquire the city’s more lucrative and “cleaner” sidewalk sheds is getting uglier.

Urban Umbrella’s airy white huts with flower-shaped roof arches are less jarring than the dark, leafy jungle gyms that sprawl across the city, but they’re still the company’s “unique” and “characteristic.” The company is suing rival Spring Scaffolding Co. for infringing on its design. .

The lawsuit in New York federal court alleges that Spring tried to “piggyback” on Urban Umbrella’s success and that by using white, a color only Urban Umbrella is allowed to use under building codes, He has been accused of violating the Standards Act.

Spring’s lawyer, Serge Krimnus, countered that Urban Umbrella’s claims that it had a unique and legally protected design were false.

He said Urban was trying to “bully the scaffolding industry” and that Spring had a “35-year-long reputation of excellence”.

The incident uncovered, if only a crack, the lid on a clandestine hut industry that is ravaging hundreds of miles of sidewalks with monsters of steel jungle.

These are the result of Local Law 11, which mandates facade inspections that typically uncover unsafe conditions, often resulting in sheds being left abandoned for years.

Urban Umbrella’s airy white cabin has a flower-shaped roof arch. Stefano Giovannini
Rival Spring Scaffolding’s scaffolding at the Plaza Hotel at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. Stefano Giovannini

Spring is countersuing Urban Umbrella and founder Benjamin Krall for defamation and for interfering with Spring’s business relationship by telling Spring’s customers that its warehouses were “illegal.” There is.

“We are the only independent company that is exempt from offering products that look different,” Krall argued.

Urban Umbrella’s claim that it had the exclusive legal right to paint its sheds white dates back to 2011, when the company won a design competition launched by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Benjamin Krall, founder of Urban Umbrella Courtesy of Ben Krall

Since then, the Building Standards Act has stipulated that “model sidewalk sheds whose prototypes won prizes in city-sanctioned design competitions may be white.”

Except for the “dark metallic” cross brace, everything else is inexplicably supposed to be hunter green.

Instead of ugly steel cross braces, this “umbrella” has a thin post that looks like a flower at the top.

They grace such famous locations as the Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South, Burberry on East 57th Street, Tiffany and Fendi in Soho, and the many glamorous boutiques on Madison Avenue.

However, Springsheds, also white, have recently been installed in the Normandy Court Apartment Building at 205 East 49th Street, the Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway, and the retail corner at 608 Fifth Avenue at East 49th Street. It appeared in etc. .

Urban Umbrella’s claim that it had the exclusive legal right to paint its sheds white dates back to 2011, when the company won a design competition launched by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Stefano Giovannini
Urban Umbrella scaffolding at West 57th Street and Sixth Avenue. Stefano Giovannini

Spring justified its use of white by arguing in a court filing that “any company that manufactures scaffolding products similar to the model whose prototype won a city-sanctioned design competition may use the color white.” There is.

However, the Building Standards Act does not say anything about “similarity.”

Department of Buildings spokesman Andrew Rudanski said the Urban Umbrella Hut “could be white because it is the only prototype that won a city-approved design competition.”

Urban Umbrella, launched in 2009, accounts for just 2% of the city’s $500 million annual cabin rental business and only 120 of the 9,000 total cabin rentals, Krall said.

Urban umbrella scaffolding at West 57th St, between 6th and 7th Avenues. Stefano Giovannini

But they’re very lucrative, as homeowners pay them up to $400 a foot, or four times more than a typical steel jungle monster. (Mr. Krall says he recently lowered the cost to two to three times his standard.

As rivals compete, a new company, Shed Innovations, plans to launch its own new design next year.

The DOB is also considering proposals requested by Mayor Eric Adams for new shed styles that could further shake up the urban umbrella’s dominance.

Rudansky said that at Adams’ request, the DOB will also work with the City Council to “make immediate interim changes” to “allow for more color options.”

The DOB is considering proposals requested by Mayor Eric Adams for new shed styles that could further shake up the urban umbrella’s dominance. Europe Newswire/Shutterstock

Colors other than green and white are already appearing.

Adding to the color confusion is Urban Umbrella’s blue-painted shed outside the Burberry store at 9 East 57th Street.

Asked for clarification, Krall said, “I don’t think the code is clear on the use of colors as long as it’s brand compliant. Even the DOB doesn’t know what kind of violation to give.”

Rudansky said he has not yet received any complaints about the blue-colored scaffolding.

“It would be necessary to visit the site to observe the hut firsthand,” he added.

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