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Troublesome Lenox Avenue Scaffolding Dismantled, For Now

By Jeff Mays | August 17, 2012 11:59am

HARLEM — When construction workers showed up and began dismantling the much-maligned scaffolding at Lenox Avenue and 123rd Street that has flummoxed local residents for eight years, neighbors talked of having a champagne toast.

"It's been many frustrating years," said Syderia Chresfield, president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association. "To walk by there and see the sun is amazing."

But it may be too early to pop those bottles just yet — as the owner of the building said he's not sure the scaffolding will be gone once and for all.

"I don't know if it's coming down for good or not," said the owner of the structure, who would only give his name as Asherif. "We'll have to see what happens."

The scaffolding, installed during the renovation of the landmarked building at 260 Lenox Ave., has become an eyesore and magnet for trouble, residents claimed.

Groups of mostly men hang out under the scaffolding both day and night, drinking beer and urinating, using the metal bars for exercise, and selling and smoking illegal drugs, area residents explained.

Calls and letters for help to the Department of Buildings and the Landmarks Preservation Commission did not resolve the situation, residents added. The DOB investigated a complaint that there was no permit for the scaffolding on Aug. 14, but found that a renewal had been requested on July 23.

On July 4, a portion of the building's roof suffered a partial roof collapse that the DOB said was due to a "lack of maintenance," including poor drainage and a disconnected pipe. Building owner ZamZam Realty was issued a violation for failing to maintain the structure, and a stop-work order still exists on the building.

The owner of the four-story building said he plans to renovate it for commercial and residential use. Area residents say they would be excited to see the vacant building used again, but can't understand why the owner won't complete the work. 

If no work is being done, the scaffolding should remain down, they said.

"We are trying to keep the pressure on," Chresfield said. "If they had done the work years ago, all of the crime and commotion under that scaffolding would be gone."

A few years ago, residents celebrated prematurely when the scaffolding came down — only to see new scaffolding installed.

Stacy Parker Le Melle, who lives next to the building with her husband and son, said she was "cautiously optimistic" about the recent action. She said the roof has been repaired, and now she wants the scaffolding gone for good.

"Eight years is too long," Le Melle said of the landlord, "to keep aiding and abetting the criminality and bad behavior on our block."