Blight? City DOT cites Empire State Development for sidewalk conditions (worse than those used to justify eminent domain)
|Pacific Street sidewalk hazard, east of Sixth Avenue|
The location: around the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park B15 site, at Sixth Avenue and the adjacent pieces of Dean and Pacific streets.
On another level, the action raises a supreme irony: the sidewalk conditions are actually worse than the "blighted" conditions--at least on this block--used to justify eminent domain for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.
And, as shown in the photo above right, the conditions are worse than that documented in the 2006 Blight Study for Block 1128, Lot 4. (Note that no government agency is designating blight today; that's my layperson's observation, comparing conditions today with those found in 2006.)
Moreover, the property owner subject to sanction is Empire State Development (ESD), the very same state authority that approved eminent domain to purportedly remove blighted conditions. (Developer Greenland Forest City leases the land, and aims to build 664 Pacific, a 27-story tower with market-rate rentals and a school, on the B15 site, but that plan remains delayed.)
The city is requesting that the owner replace 1187 square feet of sidewalk. It is not suggesting that condemnation is required (for a second time).
A citation, but no response yet
Two days ago, after learning from neighborhood residents about the publicly posted notice of violation, I contacted ESD. The notice indicates that this was a second attempt to issue the violation, because a previous notice sent by certified mail was returned without a signature.
I asked ESD several questions: was it was aware of the violation; did it plan to contest it; and did it plan to repair the conditions or let the city do it and send the bill ($17.93 per square foot, or a substantial $21,283 in total).
Below, more photos of current conditions, as well as the 2006 conditions.
Sidewalk gaps on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue
The Notice of Violation
Looking at the 2006 Blight Study
In 2006, the Blight Study did find indications of blight on sidewalks here, but specifically mid-block Sixth Avenue, citing "Unsanitary and Unsafe Conditions":
As shown in Photograph B, lots 1 and 2 are surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Weeds grow on both the inside and outside of the fence. The weeds on the outside of the fence encroach onto the sidewalk... The sidewalk bordering lots 1 and 2 is cracked in many places, and weeds grow along the curb and through some of the sidewalk cracks (see Photograph D).Indeed, as shown at right, there are weeds growing through the sidewalk. It doesn't look much different than some of the stretch today, and without the deep gap in the photo up top.
Regarding the corner of Dean and Sixth, the Blight Study also cited "Unsanitary and Unsafe Conditions":
The sidewalk along the 6th Avenue side of lot 89 is in poor condition. In some places, the sidewalk is cracked and crumbling and in others, it is poorly patched (See Photograph B). Weeds grow along the curb for the length of the lot.
In contrast, as illustrated by Photographs H and I, the blocks south of Atlantic Avenue host a combination of vacant, underutilized, and physically deteriorating structures and vacant lots, and are lined with cracked and crumbling sidewalks that are overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash.Shirking responsibility
But guess what? When community commenters said, during the environmental review, that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had failed to maintain the appearance of the railyard and environs, the condemning agency's response, in toto, ignored the question of responsibility:
Chapter 1, “Project Description,” and Chapter 3, “Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy,” describe in detail the present condition of the project site, including the Vanderbilt Yard.I'm not sure they can get away with it now.