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Stalled Work Site Leaves Gramercy Sidewalk a Filthy Safety Risk, Locals Say

By Noah Hurowitz | December 21, 2016 1:02pm
 Harry Weiner and Jeanne Pryor, neighbors of the stalled construction site at 133 Third Ave., say the site has become a magnet for trash and loiterers and worry about broken pavement on the sidewalk in front of the property.
Harry Weiner and Jeanne Pryor, neighbors of the stalled construction site at 133 Third Ave., say the site has become a magnet for trash and loiterers and worry about broken pavement on the sidewalk in front of the property.
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DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz

GRAMERCY — Neighbors of a long-stalled Third Avenue construction project are demanding its developer is held accountable for letting the site become a magnet for litter and a haven for public urinators.

The area around 133 Third Ave., between East 14th and East 15th streets, has become an eyesore since a contractor sent wet concrete pouring into a next-door NYU dorm and an ensuing lawsuit filed in 2012 put a halt to the work, neighbors said.

Now they’re hoping property owner, John Pappas of McArthur Morgan LLC, is forced to pay the thousands of dollars in fines he owes — and that the city will step in to fix a jagged section of broken sidewalk in front of the site, according to Harry Weiner, a board member of a neighboring coop on East 15th Street.

A bus shelter several feet north of the property worsens the problem, Weiner said. The broken sidewalk is a safety hazard for passengers running to catch buses.

“Two thirds of the sidewalk are taken up by the fence and, with the broken cement, it’s hard to line up for the bus,” he said.

“It really poses an obstacle to anyone walking with a cane or a walker and, between the obstruction of the construction site and the broken sidewalk, it really creates a hazard.”

According to Weiner, the MTA temporarily moved the bus stop to below 14th Street when the construction was active. The agency moved it back after the project stalled.

A solution to the safety hazard would be to move the bus stop back below 14th Street until the situation is resolved, he said.

An MTA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pappas got approval for demolition of a building on the lot in 2008 and tore it down.

In 2011, the city granted him a permit to build a 16-story, mixed use residential and commercial building on the site, between the NYU dorm and the Kenwood Estates apartment building, records show.

But the new structure had only risen four stories when, in December of 2012, the contractor poured concrete that ruptured a wall and spilled into the dorm next door, court documents show.

Coral Crystal LLC, the company that owns the dorm, sued Pappas’s company for damages and construction ground to a halt.

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Since then, a construction fence and scaffolding which extends onto the sidewalk and leaves only two feet of sidewalk in front of the site has become an eyesore that accumulates trash and gives unsavory characters a place to congregate or relieve themselves, according to Jeanne Pryor, another member of the co-op board in Weiner’s building.

“This doesn’t help our neighborhood at all,” Pryor said. “It’s been like this for four years now.”

The civil court case isn’t the only trouble facing Pappas.

In the years since the project reached a standstill, he’s racked up thousands of dollars in fines levied by the city, including violations for the broken sidewalk and failure to maintain the construction shed.

There are 16 open violations at the site and Pappas is in default on seven violations after missing hearing dates, most recently skipping out on an Environmental Control Board hearing on Dec. 1, records show.

In total he owes the city $15,294 in outstanding fines, according to Department of Buildings records.

Weiner has reached out to elected officials and lodged 311 complaints — including one on June 17, the same day the DOB issued Pappas a fine for failing to maintain the construction shed.

But the only response Weiner got to his 311 complaint was a terse note explaining that maintenance is the burden of the property owner, according to an email he shared with DNAinfo.

“The developer was fined, but he’s still not taking care of the sidewalk and this is languishing indefinitely,” Weiner said.

In a brief phone interview Tuesday, Pappas pledged to get the project squared away “hopefully in the next month.”

“Nobody wants to get this thing going more than I do, but unfortunately the litigation has been a waste of time and money,” he said.

“Whatever it is, we’re going to clear it up.”

Representatives of NYU and Coral Crystal LLC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.