Manhattan is home to about 4,000 separate scaffolding sites at any given time, stretching for an estimated 150 miles. They’ve looked the same for decades. Now it’s getting something shiny, bright and white on more and more street corners, replacing what has long been drab and dark.

“We’re trying to create a white glove service for the installation, for the pedestrian in the ground floor retailer,” said Benjamin Krall, CEO of Urban Umbrella. He came up with Urban Umbrella about 10 years ago. His scaffolding features translucent top panels and LED lighting.

The system fits together like jigsaw pieces with translucent top panels to let in more light. The most recent installation is at Astor Place and Broadway in NoHo.

“A scaffold is a scaffold, but it does look more pleasing to the eye,” said East Village resident Omar Clavijo.

The cost is three to four times more than traditional scaffolding. Krall says it works best when he pitches his product to retailers, counting on them to convince the landlords.



“We are at least going to give your ground floor retailer a shot to stay in business because one in five retailers exposed to traditional scaffolding will go out of business,” Krall said.

Four projects were installed last year, but there’ll be 50 the end of this year, and double that are already in the pipeline for next year.

He says it took about a decade to catch on because they were offering something so new, and refining the materials took time. Then the design passed a crucial city test, one involving a cannon.

“We want to blend in, so we don’t want the pedestrian to know we’re there,” Krall said. “We don’t want people to know that there’s actually work happening. That’s the point.”

Also look for more lights that change colors, with music piped in. Those are innovations that help businesses, but Krall knows one thing will never change about any kind of scaffolding.

Aerial Working Platform

“We are improving a product people still hate. They’re still happy when it comes down,” Krall said.

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