The tenants of 51 West 86th Street have had to live with a sidewalk shed outside their building for the last 15 years, a nuisance which was first brought into the public eye in late June.
Soon after the situation was made (more) public, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote a letter to the DOB to apply pressure on landlord Weinreb Management. A representative from 51 West 86th Street’s tenant association also told us that Helen Rosenthal had gotten involved and starting contacting the DOB on their behalf.
Tenants also inform us that Weinreb has sidewalk sheds at ten of its buildings, including 5 West 86th Street, 255 West 88th Street, 777 West End Avenue, 420 West End Avenue, 276 Riverside Drive and several on the Upper East Side.
The tenant’s association wrote a letter to Weinreb on July 14, stating in part that “Despite the longstanding presence of the shed and the scaffolding, no work has been done on our building for years, in the case of the shed, and for almost a year in the case of the scaffolding.”
The letter outlined issues created by the shed and scaffolding – including the obstruction of light; attraction of dirt, dust, pigeons, insects, and dogs using the shed as a bathroom; as well as safety concerns including an increased ease of access into lower floor apartments from the top of the shed, and the age of the structure causing materials to fall and injure pedestrians.
The letter concluded with the request for a specific timeline in which all issues would be addressed and work on the building would be complete. The tenants asked Weinreb to provide this timeline within 15 days.
Weinreb wrote back on July 26, stating an anticipated completion date within 18 to 24 months. The letter indicated that certain delays may take place because of required approvals from NYC Landmarks, and that the appropriate applications to proceed have been submitted.
In regards to the nature of the work needed at 51 West 86th Street, Weinreb identified the aging terra cotta which needs to be replaced, further stating that certain steps have been taken to allow professionals to inspect the facade up close.
Weinreb wrote that updates would be provided as work progresses, but the tenants weren’t happy with their landlord’s response.
According to tenants, this July 26 letter was the first and only instance in which Weinreb communicated with them about the shed and scaffolding – and that the letter was delivered “haphazardly,” with some residents finding it under their doors, others having to get a copy from the doorman, and some not receiving it at all.
The tenants wrote back on August 2. This second letter called out Weinreb for failing to address their health and safety concerns. The tenants also requested a more specific timeline on the completion of the work and a commitment to transparent communication. (Weinreb reportedly gave the DOB an 18 month timeline back in July, which has more recently been extended to 18-24 months).
“We remind you that the fifteen-year presence of the sidewalk shed and the nine-month presence of the pipe scaffolding are affecting the habitability of our apartments. Under the warranty of habitability the Weinreb Management Company is responsible for keeping our apartments and the building safe and livable at all times,” the tenant’s second letter stated.
They also called out Weinreb for obtaining a permit over four years ago, only to let it expire before completing any work – and for indicating that ‘diligent’ efforts have been made. “As we have already noted, the sidewalk shed at our building has been in place for fifteen years – among the longest in the city. You have not been diligent.”
While the tenants expressed their interest in finding amicable solutions with their landlord, they indicated that they’re “prepared to explore other options” if they have to.