Chinatown residents concerned over demolition at jail site after cracks found in nearby buildings

CeFaan Kim Image
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
Chinatown residents speak out over demolition concerns
CeFaan Kim has more on community concerns over the Chinatown jail demolition.

CHINATOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Demolition at the future site of a jail in Chinatown is now impacting people who live in the area, saying that cracks are suddenly showing up in other buildings, and that foundational cinderblocks are shifting out of place.

One building owner showed Eyewitness News reporter CeFaan Kim an exterior concrete wall with cinder blocks popping out of place.

"You can see all the cinderblock walls cracked, out of alignment, that sort of thing," he said. "Especially over here, clearly there's some sort of tapering with the cinder block. It's bulging out."

The building owner says it's the result of demolition happening at the controversial mega jail site in Chinatown, a jail no one in the neighborhood wants. It's part of the city's controversial plan to shut down Rikers Island.

The Chung Pak building sits adjacent to that site.

In an Eyewitness News interview, a representative for its owner said they house a health clinic, dozens of toddlers enrolled in a daycare, and 88 units of low-income senior housing.

"Who is going to compensate for the hiring of these consultants, these architects, these engineers to advise us given their work is happening? Who is going to compensate our tenants who have to live through the water damage that's happening as they do the demolition," the representative said.

Edward Cuccin is also a tenant.

"It is very terrifying. We're terrified the building is just going to come crashing down on our heads," Cuccin said.

Eyewitness News reached out to Grammercy Group Contractors, hired by the city for demolition, but deferred us to the city.

"We absolutely do not trust Grammecy Group with anything anymore," said Jan Lee with Neighbors United Below Canal. "They violated the trust of this community. They violated the trust of the building next door. They've cracked their building. There's water seeping into this building as we speak."

Council member Christopher Marte is calling on the Buildings Department to issue an immediate stop work order.

"We wanted to make sure that the city understood our frustration because it seems like they're prioritizing a demolition and a hundred-million-dollar contract instead of the lives of Chinese seniors," Marte said.

The average age of the seniors living here is 90 years old.

Eyewitness News reached out to the DOB, which is overseeing the project, and responded with the following statement:

"The Department of Buildings responded immediately when the city was made aware of this condition - and we are confident there is no immediate danger or threat to safety. When this construction project started, the building at 96 Baxter Street had some existing damage - when a recent inspection found additional damage with no clear cause, DOB halted some of the construction work right away. We will continue to investigate the cause of the damages, and contractors will make repairs as soon as they are given access to the property."

Demolition work is expected to continue through the summer.


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