A scaffolding Eyesore, four years on News

| 27 May 2016 | 04:20

It is the never-ending construction project on 78th Street.

Unsightly scaffolding has been up around 101 W. 78th St. since December 2012, as part of renovations to an apartment complex known as the Evelyn.

The scaffolding around the property has been present and removed several times since then, and allegedly caused the restaurant Ocean Grill, which has been in business since 1997, to go out of business in December of 2015, according to a notice posted on Ocean Grill’s door. Ocean Grill has since filed a lawsuit against the owner of the building for “lost value.”

Andriette Flemings, manager of the nearby lingerie store Only Hearts, said that the scaffolding was an “eyesore,” and that it has hurt business. “There’s people who walk by and don’t see us because of it,” Flemings said, “With Ocean Grill gone there’s less foot traffic…and homeless people use it for shelter at night.”

At least two complaints have been filed with the Department of Buildings in 2016, claiming that noisy construction has been going on as late as 4:30 a.m., even though there is no permit for after-hours work on weekdays. One local resident complained that the scaffolding has been present for far too long.

“Scaffolding is a fact of life in nearly every Manhattan neighborhood, but they’re usually dismantled after a few months,” said Daniel Kennedy. “This one has been in place for years and has become an ugly eyesore. If it’s allowed to remain much longer, perhaps they should bronze it and apply for landmark status.”

The scaffolding is tall and imposing, covering about half the block and keeping light from reaching the sidewalk. The entrance to Ocean Grill, which lies underneath the scaffolding, is almost not visible.

In its lawssuit, Ocean Grill’s lawsuit states that even though the “lease clearly provides that the landlord was to use its ‘best efforts’ not to disrupt ingress to and egress from the tenant’s restaurant and to construct barriers and scaffolding in such a manner as to allow maximum means of lighting and means of ingress to and egress from the restaurant, the landlord did not do this. Instead, the landlord placed the construction hoist and barrier directly in front of the tenant’s customer entrance. The result was such a significant decrease in the restaurant’s visibility that the tenant’s business was substantially diminished. The tenant brings this action to recover its lost earnings as damages.”

Why has the scaffolding been up for so long? Newcastle Realty Services bought the property for $85 million in December 2012, according to therealdeal.com. However, construction was halted from January 2015 to June 2015 after Newcastle became the subject of a lawsuit by the state attorney general for illegally pushing out tenants in rent controlled apartments without the chance to buy their apartments. Newcastle was ordered to pay more than $1.5 million as a result of the suit, according to The New York Times. GTIS Partners, an investor in the project, has since bought out Newcastle and is now the sole owner, according to Roxanne Donovan, president of Great Ink, a media relations firm hired by GTIS. Newcastle declined to comment, simply stating that the property no longer belonged to them.

Construction has resumed on the building following the lawsuit and GTIS’s full acquisition of the property in June of 2015. GTIS anticipates removal of the bridge and scaffolding this summer, and anticipates full removal of the balance of the scaffolding along Columbus Avenue in the first quarter of 2017. GTIS declined to comment on the Ocean Grill lawsuit.

Construction has not gone off without a hitch, as five Department of Building violations were filed on behalf of the Environmental Control Board on May 9 but were cleared on May 18, including at least one stop work order.

According to a DOB representative, the ECB violations include failure to safeguard, failure to maintain safety equipment measures, vertical netting system failure, holes/openings uncovered, and failure to provide approved design drawings.