After almost a decade, a ‘forgotten’ street corner in Sheepshead Bay is expected to open to pedestrians again next month, said Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz.
The city fenced off the corner of Gravesend Neck Road and East 16th Street when pieces of the retaining wall started crumbling in 2010, he said. The Department of Buildings found the retaining wall on Neck Road and East 16th Street to be in danger of collapse, but since MTA didn’t have jurisdiction the site remained stagnant. (The MTA does own a lot one stop down the line at East 15th Street, which became a construction staging area in 2012.)
After the fence went up, time appeared to stand still at the corner, said Cymbrowitz. “By 2017, little had changed except that toddlers who were in baby carriages when the site was blocked off were now able to sidestep it on their own,” said Cymbrowitz, waxing poetic.
Though Sheepshead Bay’s archives date the standstill to about 120 years back, when the “Steps to Nowhere” actually led to an adjacent Neck Road station, which operated as part of the Manhattan Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road until May 14, 1924. (The steps are across the street from the corner Cymbrowitz is referring to).
“Since it was an extension of the wall by the train track, everyone assumed it was the MTA’s responsibility to fix it. But that wasn’t the case, and determining ownership wasn’t simple,” he said, adding that the site didn’t appear on the city’s tax maps either.
The corner languished and declined into an illegal dumping ground, Cymbrowitz said. Illegal dumping has also plagued other blocks nearby, like the Avenue Y underpass and private companies spilling waste on East 17th Street.
In the summer of 2016, a neighbor called Cymbrowitz about the forgotten corner, spurring an investigation that led his office in circles around various city agencies — none of whom were claiming responsibility for fixing the wall.
But the Department of Transportation stepped up and began repairs this past April and, barring unforeseen delays, the corner of Gravesend Neck Road and East 16th Street should be returned to pedestrians later this month, said Cymbrowitz.
“I’m pleased we were able to get things moving in the right direction,” he said. “Better late than never.”
We reached out to the DOT for comment and will update as we hear back.