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A Methuselah of Sidewalk Sheds Finally Comes Down

Harlem, Manhattan

RIP, Ancient Shed

The late, unlamented Methuselah of sidewalk sheds before it was dismantled (image via Google Maps).

Oct. 18, 2018

At the corner of Lenox Avenue and 123rd Street in Harlem, one of the true Methuselahs in a city full of seemingly immortal sidewalk sheds has finally come down. At the time of its dismantling earlier this month, Crain’s reports, the widely loathed shed was 14 years old.

Laurent Delly, who has lived next to the shed for years, said, "Residents have witnessed Sodom and Gomorrah underneath the scaffold." 

In the fall of 2014, when the shed reached the decade mark, the New York Times reported: “The moldering structure’s first 10 years, neighbors say, passed without ever being tested by significant construction overhead. With its murky corners and tiers of blue piping, the shed has become a jungle gym for strapping men and a hideaway for drug deals. Evenings feature camaraderie among street friends, occasional outdoor sex, and the usual neighborhood drama, [which] can sometimes escalate into brawls.”

In the end, it cost less than $60,000 to fix the facade of the four-story building. But the landlord, Zamzam Realty, paid about $700,000 in fines for project-related violations, including a stop-work order. Last year the city ordered Zamzam and its president, Muhammad Shahid, to appear in criminal court for building-code violations and keeping up a shed without a valid permit. That nudge helped get the lengthy renovation project moving. 

About 8,000 sidewalk sheds now cover 300 miles of city sidewalks – enough to circle the island of Manhattan half a dozen times. They’re intended to protect pedestrians from falling debris during mandatory facade work on buildings, but they also clog pedestrian traffic, entomb small businesses, and provide a venue for the aforementioned sketchy behavior. The city’s Department of Buildings even has an interactive map of the ubiquitous eyesores. 

The Methuselah of Harlem was old but hardly ancient by New York standards. The oldest shed in the city has stood a few blocks to the south, at the corner of Lenox Avenue and West 115th Street, exactly twice as long as the late, unlamented Methuselah of Harlem – 28 years, and counting.

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