The city tore down Bay Ridge’s infamous “spite wall” after a decade-long battle with its builder.
Robert Cunningham built the wall between his 87th Street house and his neighbor’s in an aborted home-expansion, and then refused to remove the freestanding facade. But city workers finally dismantled it on Oct. 20, much to the relief of neighbors who were tired of staring at the cinder-block monstrosity day in and day out, one said.
“It’s been here for years and I’m glad to see it go,” said Fred Speranza, who lives two doors down. “It was an eye sore for the block. It was just an ugly thing.”
Cunningham built it in 2007 as part of a home alteration, but the city quickly slapped him with a buildings violation and a stop-work order, because he did not have a permit for the partition, according to a Department of Buildings spokesman. He gave up on the home addition, but never demolished the errant barrier, which neighbors believe he did to spite the city.
Since then, locals have logged more than 120 complaints to the city, and the Department of Buildings has in turn issued Cunningham $110,900 in fines — none of which he has paid, agency records show.
The city inspected the wall again in May and determined it was in danger of collapse and ordered an emergency demolition. Officials told Cunningham that if he did not destroy the thing, they would — at his expense. The unbudging homeowner took the city to court, but he lost, and the city sent in the wrecking crew last Thursday.
Apparently not to go down without a fight, Cunningham allegedly threatened workers, so police arrested him and charged him with reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration, and menacing, according to a police spokesman.
Cunningham pled “not guilty” at his arraignment and was released without bail, according to a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office.
The office did not have contact information for his attorney, and Cunningham did not return phone calls requesting comment.
Neighbor Matthew Gershon has worked with Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and Community Board 10 to level the wall. Gershon, who has been fighting to get it removed since 2007, declined to comment on his apparent victory.
Another neighbor was glad to see the wall go, but admitted it was a zany thing to wage a decade-long battle about.
“It’s a stupid thing to fight over,” said Bob Murray, who lives on 87th Street. “It should have been over and done with a long time ago.”