Room to walk on E. 29th Street

Room to walk on E. 29th Street
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The sidewalk on E. 29th Street is finally coming back.

After six years, the city has agreed to remove a wooden fence surrounding an abandoned Midwood construction site that extends out onto the sidewalk and forces pedestrians into traffic.

The city gave a permit to the Ruach Chaim Institute to build a three-story school near Avenue L in September, 2005, but the owners quickly ran out of money and construction stopped. Neighbors say the owners walked away from the property, but the sidewalk remained encased in the site’s permitter fence.

But after this paper called the city about the site last week, officials from Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Buildings visited the spot, informing us later that they would rip down the wooden ply boards and install a chain link fence. The sidewalk should be freed sometime this week, they said.

Neighbors cheered the news.

“It would be a tremendous relief to finally have a safe way of walking on the street,” said Julius Derdik, a member of a synagogue near the abandoned construction site. “With evening prayers taking place after dark, there have been a number of near misses. Pedestrians have almost been run over by cars driving down Avenue L.”

There is a narrow footpath along the edge of the wall, but it’s usually covered with broken rocks and glass, neighbors said. When this paper visited the site on Friday, it became clear that many people choose to walk in the street — around parked cars — instead of on the path.

“It’s pretty nasty,” said Eli Ritvo, one of many who opted to walk in the street Friday. “No, it’s not safe.”

Neighbors say the city agencies that oversee construction sites have been passing the buck on this project for years.

“The trouble is, we’re caught in between two different departments: The Department of Buildings handles construction sites and the Department of Transportation handles sidewalks,” explained Miriam Gordon, who complained to the city about the site last April.

The Department of Buildings added the property to its stalled sites list last week and fined the owners $42,000 for a series of violations — none of which have been paid.

“Inspectors from our stalled sites unit have been monitoring the property and periodically inspecting it,” said Ryan Fitzgibbon of the Department of Buildings.

Efforts to reach the property’s owners by deadline were unsuccessful.