Did you know that there are currently more than 600 stalled construction sites in New York City? And according to the Department of Buildings, due to a slumping commercial real estate industry, many of these lots won’t be worked on anytime soon. But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is looking to turn these abandoned lots into farmers’ markets, cafes, and arts spaces, effectively turning these ugly eye sores into lively public spaces.
“New York should be encouraging such projects and follow the lead of cities like Seattle, which have passed laws that streamline approvals for temporary uses,” said Stringer in a Gothamist report. “Imagine a city where stalled construction sites are not simply inactive, dead vacant lots, but one where they boost the health and vitality of a neighborhood. That’s the kind of sidewalk renaissance we need in New York City.”
According to Stringer’s ‘Arrested Development’ report, 37 percent of stalled sites had problems with litter, 60 percent had fencing that was in disrepair or vandalized, and half of the sites had sidewalk obstructions. Stringer has created a website identifying stalled construction sites and is asking local residents to send in photos of stalled sites near them. Stringer is also pushing for legislation that would allow property owners and local government to create temporary public spaces on private property.
Transforming stalled construction sites into mixed used spaces is not a new concept. The Riverpark Restaurant has created a farm on a stalled site, and Lentspace on Varick and Canal Street has also been transformed into an exhibition space for artists. This summer, a lot on 30th Street near the High Line functioned as an outdoor café, skating rink, and outdoor space for pop-up installations.
It is quite surprising to see the abundance of markers when you first look at Stringer’s map of stalled construction sites in Manhattan. A majority of the sites are centered around Downtown, and one can only imagine how this map would look if stalled construction sites from all five boroughs were added. That being said, efforts should be made across the city to transform many of these vacant lots in order to help revitalize the city.