The city that never sleeps is also, it seems, unable to take down scaffolding. New Yorkers have grown so sick of the ugly structures, and the accompanying ground-level cages in place to protect and divert pedestrians, that Eric Adams, the mayor, last year launched a campaign to clear them from the streets.

Now computer scientists in the city have made a hit list of possible targets. Using ai to sift through thousands of hours of dashcam footage, the researchers identified some 5,000 scaffolding sites across all five boroughs, of which 500 were found to have no permit. “This city is the best but also kind of a disaster,” says Wendy Ju, a computer scientist at Cornell Tech in Manhattan, who worked on the project.

New York’s steady submergence beneath scaffolding is a classic example of a well-meaning policy producing bad side-effects. (Or in this case, sidewalk effects.) Shocked by deaths from falling masonry, officials in 1980 introduced compulsory façade inspections every five years.

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