MIDTOWN EAST — A broken Second Avenue sidewalk that has been tripping up pedestrians for more than a decade has finally been fixed, residents say.
People have been stumbling and falling over an 8-foot-long crack in the sidewalk outside the Nigerian Consulate at 828 Second Ave. near East 44th Street since at least 2001 — even as the consulate and the city pointed fingers over whose job it was to fix the crack, according to neighbors, court papers and a 2001 New York Times report.
The crack has been blamed for at least three injuries — including one person who suffered a broken ankle, according to court papers.
Locals had almost given up hope that the crack would ever be fixed — until a couple of weeks ago, when the sidewalk was mysteriously torn up and repaired, locals said.
"People wouldn't see it and literally fall on their face," said Shelley Ackerman, an astrologer and actress who's lived on the block for 21 years. "Now it's OK, but it makes you wonder, who's in charge of the safety requirements here? It shouldn't have taken that long."
Ackerman said she tripped on the crack more than 10 years ago and fell on her face, bruising her knee and scratching her chin. She tried making complaints to elected officials and 311, but she said she got no response until 2009, when someone painted a red line along the crack in an attempt to make it more noticeable.
The Department of Transportation said the city did not fix the sidewalk, adding that it wasn't an emergency situation.
The DOT had long maintained that it was the consulate's job to fix the sidewalk. Inspectors issued the consulate a violation last May for failing to maintain the sidewalk after the city received a complaint, a DOT spokeswoman said. The city also previously issued the consulate a violation in 2000, which remains unresolved, according to DOT records.
The consulate did not respond to requests for comment. But a security guard for the consulate claimed the consulate fixed the sidewalk on Oct. 18, "because people kept falling."
Two people filed claims against the city after they tripped on the sidewalk and got hurt, according to the city comptroller's office.
Mujtaba Agha, of New Jersey, fell on the sidewalk and broke his right ankle on March 18, 2013, court records show.
"He was caused to trip, fall and sustain permanent personal injuries by reason of the raised and defectively created and maintained uneven sidewalk," according to the petition filed with the city in January 2014. The suit was later partially withdrawn, records show.
Shaul Aharon fell on the sidewalk on Aug. 2, 2011, and filed suit against the city and the Federal Republic of Nigeria in June 2012, court records show.
The claim has since been marked "sensitive" and sealed, according to online court records.
The city has not paid anyone in either of the claims, a spokeswoman for the comptroller's office said.
Muhammad Kamal, who has been selling handbags and scarves from a table outside of the consulate for 22 years, said he had seen passersby fall on the crack for as long as he could remember.
“Now it's OK, but so many people fell down every day," said Kamal, "Sometimes they break their legs.”
Ackerman was relieved to see the sidewalk patched up.
"It was a pleasant surprise to see the work being done, but it sure took a long time," said Ackerman.