MORE THAN TWO YEARS LATER, BURNED-OUT BANK BUILDING REMAINS VACANT

111th citibank

By Joseph Epstein

Twenty six months have passed since a fire of unknown origin gutted the Citibank branch building on 111th and Broadway. The bank has since opened a temporary branch at 2872 Broadway, less than a block away from the original location, but the burned building remains scaffolded and vacant.

fire 111th
Photo by Kate Groob of the fire, which drew more than 200 firefighters.

According to Citigroup representative Deirdre Leahy, the corporation does not own the building at 2861 Broadway, which was the starting point for the fire on January 11, 2014 that lasted for more than 24 hours and caused considerable damage to neighboring buildings. Leahy said Citigroup is in talks with the building owner to reacquire the property.

Nicole Migliore, a representative from Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell’s office, told the West Side Rag that the delay has been partly due to the unexpected discovery of asbestos in the building last year. According to Migliore, the asbestos was being removed from September to December, and that after the removal the building underwent and passed a structural assessment. Migliore said that Citibank has been in talks with the owner of the building, 2861-2865 Broadway LLC, since January. Negotiations were set to conclude by the end of March, but no agreement appears to have been reached.

The delay in construction has angered some residents who live around 111th and Broadway.

“It’s really frustrating because it’s a real eyesore and it’s been there for over two years,” said Doralynn Pines. She noted that the last communication the neighborhood received on the matter was a letter written by Councilman Mark Levine last year. Since then Pines said, “Nobody has been informing anyone about anything.”

Pines is not the only resident frustrated about the lack of developments on 111th and Broadway. According to her daughter Giulia Pines, members of the community have been painting messages on the scaffold such as, “When?” and “2 years since the fire,” and the owner has responded by painting the scaffolding over. Pines said that there is now a constant “Wet Paint” sign on the scaffolding because people are constantly expressing anger at the delay in construction.

Tyrone Stevens, press secretary for Councilman Mark Levine, said that Levine has been in contact with Citigroup and that plans for the location are “still being determined.” The councilman is “closely monitoring” developments, Stevens added, and hopes to see the space ready for use in the near future.

However, according to Migliore, there is no public construction schedule and O’Donnell’s office has been waiting on one since September of last year.

The West Side Rag reached out to 2861-2865 Broadway LLC but received no response.

If the building owner and Citigroup do not reach an agreement, then the owner could potentially turn the two-story commercial building into a larger residential complex. The building appears to be in the R8 zone, which would allow for a considerably taller building on the lot, assuming there are no other restrictions on the property. Levine has raised concerns about this possibility, writing on Twitter on the day of the fire, “There is constant fear of new development out of scale with the existing neighborhood.”

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 5 comments | permalink
    1. cjBerk says:

      Similar to this yet not as large–months ago I called MS.Rosental’s office on W.72nd St.and spoke to a lovely woman -(Erica?).the problem is on NE side of West End and 72nd near the deli-there are dirty empty newspaper boxes from defunct publications (Learning Annex etc) that fill up with garbage and attract rats and waterbugs etc. I’ve seen rats playing there some nights (lovely!)…This is so easy to fix–how come
      They just can’t be removed? I was assured it would be done and yet there they all are…I’ll take a picture and post again so you get the full effect. Thanks.

    2. Rochelle says:

      Thanks for keeping on this. I live at 112th and Broadway and aside from being an eyesore, the sidewalk in front is a dirty mess and attracts vagrants. In fact, this whole block (between 111th and 112th on the West side of Broadway) has several stores that have been vacant for years. Why? Obviously it is somehow advantageous for the landlord to warehouse these storefronts, to the detriment of the community.

    3. arch_nyc says:

      If I had to choose between another corporate bank branch and a new residential building, I’d choose the residential building..I live two streets up.

    4. This site is a perfect location to build some affordable housing. Why are our elected officials so out of tune to the needs of the community by opposing development? Many of the surrounding buildings are 8-16 stories in height. Restoring the property to a limited height and use, is a waste of this resource.

    5. Paul Arents says:

      That building had also housed the archives of New York City Ballet. Good thing they moved shortly before the fire.