Stalled Construction Sites Should Be Turned Into Public Spaces, Says Borough President

The hundreds of stalled construction sites around the city could be transformed into temporary vibrant public spaces, according to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

Citing a new report from his office, Stringer said there were 129 stalled construction sites in Manhattan and called on the city Monday to introduce new legislation to help open those spaces to the public temporarily.

“There are 650 stalled sites throughout the five boroughs,” Stringer said Monday, “They pose a great risk to public safety. They create dead pockets on otherwise vibrant blocks and they are blights on our world famous street vistas.”

Of the 129 stalled sites in Manhattan, Stringer’s office found 37 percent had litter problems, 60 percent had fencing that was in disrepair or vandalized and sidewalks were obstructed in more than half of the sites.

Stringer unveiled his report at LentSpace, a stalled construction site in Lower Manhattan that has served as a space for art exhibitions and tree incubation since 2009. Construction on the site is expected to resume in 2012. Stringer said he wants sites like this providing a space for recreation, art, performance and food vending. 

According to the report, “Arrested Development: Breathing New Life into Stalled Construction Sites,” site owners and entrepreneurs are reluctant to invest in short-term developments because of the lengthy approval process.

Stringer is calling for new legislation to streamline the application process for temporary use permits to encourage more developers to make use of the cities many stagnating sites.

The Department of Buildings began tracking inactive sites in 2009 under the Stalled Sites Program, a voluntary program designed to increase public safety around stalled constructions sites and to help owners get back to work on sites faster once finance is available.

Since then, the number of recorded stalled sites has increased from 403 to 646, reaching a peak of almost 700 in November 2010. The actual numbers of dormant, unrecorded, building lots is likely to be far higher.