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Scaffold Has Cast Shadow on Harlem Street for Too Many Years, Residents Say

By Jeff Mays | April 4, 2012 7:02am
Residents at 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue say the scaffolding has been in place for 8 years, attracting crime and loitering,  but no work is being done on the landmarked building at 260 Lenox Ave.
Residents at 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue say the scaffolding has been in place for 8 years, attracting crime and loitering, but no work is being done on the landmarked building at 260 Lenox Ave.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — It's something the residents of 123rd Street, off Lenox Avenue, still talk about — the day that scaffolding that's cast their corner into shadow for eight years now briefly came down.

"It was wonderful, it was a week of nothing," said long-time resident Barbara Heard. "You could see the sky."

It was a short lived respite. Days after the structure came down two years ago, it was put back up.

Usually, the corner is packed with men drinking beer under the scaffold's shelter, urinating, arranging drug sales or using the rusty bars of the scaffolding like a Nautilus machine to do pull ups, residents said.  People have been robbed underneath the scaffolding.

As soon as the new scaffolding went back up, the anti-social activities resumed. By 10 a.m. one morning, a  man was pouring beer into a cup while three others were standing on the corner.

"I caught a guy urinating," said Laurent Delly, a property owner on the street and vice president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association.

"When I asked him what he was doing, he said it's Harlem."

Residents said they've pushed everyone from the building owner to the Department of Buildings and the Landmarks and Preservation Commission, to help remove the scaffolding that's hung over 260 Lenox Avenue for close to a decade.

A deli also sits on the corner of the building which is located in the Mount Morris Park Historic District.

"There's no work being done," said Ed LeMelle who's owned a property next to the building at 260 Lenox Avenue with his wife Stacy since 2000.

"Scaffolding should be set up when work is being done,"

There were so many people loitering on the corner recently that LeMelle said he could barely get his sick mother loaded into an ambulance to take her to the hospital. And he has lost potential rental tenants because they arrived and saw the throng on the corner.

"People who live on this side of the block cross the street just so they don't have to walk under here," said Heard.

According to DOB records, a stop-work order exists on the property which also has nine open work without a permit violations.

Siddiqui Tariq, an architect for the owner, Muhammed Shahid, said they have final appointments with the DOB this month to get permits for exterior and interior work. Tariq claimed they would rush the exterior work so that they can remove the scaffolding in five months.

DOB did not respond to requests for comment.

Asked why the scaffolding has been up for eight years without any work being done, Tariq said, "It's a landmarked building so it takes a long time."

It's an excuse that area residents aren't buying.

"You could have built another world in eight years. It doesn't take that long," said Heard.

"It's been a nightmare, the urnination, the drinking, the drug-dealing," said Pascal Lewis who has lived on he block since 1987.

During the summer, LeMelle said he can't open his window because of the crowds smoking everything from cigrettes to marijuana to PCP.

Resident say they feel their concerns might be taken more seriously if they lived downtown.

"This wouldn't happen at 72nd Street and Park Avenue," said Delly.

Area residents say they are joining together to get unused scaffolding removed. At 115th Street and Lenox Avenue, Lorey Hayes said her co-op has been trying to get a scaffolding on the corner across the street removed for six years because no work is being done.

"These scaffolds attract so many people because you can hide and no one can see what you are doing," said Hayes. "That's not good for this neighborhood."