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Pre-School Sues Condo Board Over Sidewalk Shed

Bill Morris in Legal/Financial on August 29, 2023

Gramercy Park, Manhattan

Sidewalk sheds, access agreements, condo board, mandatory repairs, Jack and Jill School.

A condo's sidewalk shed that encroaches on a school playground has triggered a $378,000 lawsuit (image via Google Maps).  

Aug. 29, 2023

There's no shortage of reasons why New Yorkers loathe the protective sheds that cover 400 miles of city sidewalks. They're ugly. They're dirty. They're magnets for sketchy characters. They stay in place way too long. Now here's a new one to add to the list: they're also bad for school enrollment.

The Jack and Jill School, a pricey pre-school at 290 E. 16th St. near Gramercy Park, has filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court claiming the 30-unit condominium next door, the Abbey, installed a shed above part of a playground that's deterring parents from enrolling their children in the school, Crain's reports. The suit seeks $378,000 plus interest and fees for “private nuisance, trespass, unjust enrichment, tortious interference with plaintiff’s prospective contractual relations, breach of contract, and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

That eye-popping number comes from the fact that annual tuition for a 3-year-old at Jack and Jill is $21,000, and for 5-year-olds it's $24,860. Last year the school accepted 20 3-year-olds — but only five enrolled, with some parents saying the shrunken playground was a deal-breaker. 

The problems reportedly began in January 2021, when copper pieces began falling onto Jack and Jill’s playground from the roof of the Abbey, a brownstone building from the late 1800s. A portion of the shed went up a few months later, but only on the East 16th Street side.

But in winter 2022, more material began raining down from the Abbey, this time brownstones, which prompted the condo to expand the footprint of the shed into the playground, forcing the relocation of playground equipment in the process.

Despite promises by the condo for years that it would repair the building and remove the shed, nothing substantial happened, according to the court filings. Finally, the school and church demanded the shed be removed from their property by Aug. 18, a day that came and went without any change.

“Despite plaintiff’s best efforts, defendant has evaded and delayed, leaving plaintiff with no access agreement, scaffolding on its property and its business and reputation on the line,” the suit says.

Some critics have slammed New York’s sidewalk sheds as being kept up long past their usefulness date in a bid by landlords to avoid costly repairs but keep pedestrians safe. Last month Mayor Eric Adams proposed hitting large landlords with financial penalties if they don’t complete repairs in a timely manner.

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