MANHATTAN — A taxi that crashed into the north side of the historic fence that surrounds exclusive Gramercy Park several weeks ago left a gaping hole in the wrought iron structure — one that’s going to cost nearly $50,000 to repair.
Currently, the hole in the landmarked fence is being plugged by several shutter doors scrounged from the Gramercy Park Hotel’s basement storage space that have been strung together along the edge of the park, said Arlene Harrison, a trustee of Gramercy Park and president of the Gramercy Park Block Association.
And it will likely take several months before the fence, which dates to 1831, is back in pristine, pre-crash condition, she added.
The accident occurred at the end of May about 2:30 a.m., when a cab went sailing through the intersection where Lexington Avenue meets East 21st Street, running smack into the fence, authorities and Harrison explained.
She said no one was injured in the incident, and the police report does not indicate the driver was impaired at the time. Nonetheless, the damage to the fence is substantial.
The initial estimate shows that 36 fragments of the fence’s pickets will need to be pieced back together. Some pickets will have to be replicated entirely, in keeping with the fence’s landmark status, and the curb will also need to be repaired.
In total, the repairs are estimated to cost $47,834, Harrison noted. The trustees will spend the next several months looking into getting the cab company’s insurance provider to cover the costs.
Harrison said the area where Lexington runs perpendicular to East 21st Street has historically been a troublesome spot for drivers, but accidents like the one that happened in May have become increasingly rare.
Drivers used to speed south on Lexington Avenue, only to realize too late that the street dead ends at East 21st Street and vehicles are forced to turn right.
Harrison said the Gramercy Park Block Association worked closely with Community Board 6 and the 13th Precinct over the years to convince the city to change the timing of the stoplight at the intersection so that more cars would encounter a red light as they approached.
In a 2005 article in Town & Village, Deputy Inspector Paul McCormack, then the commanding officer of the 13th Precinct, said problems at the intersection had become increasingly "serious" after two accidents occurred at that location within hours of each other.
Police Officer Joe Abbruzzese agreed.
"It's only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or killed," Abbruzzese told Town & Village. "We really have to come up with measures that will put an end to these accidents."
A few months later, Harrison wrote a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg explaining the severity of the problem, noting that 209 accidents occurred at that intersection between 1996 and 2005.
The signal timing was ultimately changed so that the light turns green 20 seconds after the light one block north at Lexington Avenue and East 22nd Street does.
The change did not put an end to all accidents at that intersection, Harrison said, but the number of crashes has decreased dramatically.