The Abyss On Avenue C: ‘Maybe a Monster Lives Inside It’

Certain things tend to haunt us this time of year. Last year, it was a ghostly patch of decaying pumpkins that vanished into thin air one day. And this year? 

holeSasha von Oldershausen

Behind a green plywood fence on the corner of Avenue C and Sixth Street lies one of the greatest, most disturbing mysteries of the East Village.

“Oh my goodness,” said Denine Stewart, an East Village resident, as she peered through the fence for the first time.

“I’ve always wondered why this fence is here and so offensive to the eye. Now I see why: inside, it’s doubly offensive,” she said.

Keith Beavers said the site has been around since he opened Alphabet City Wine Company down the block, in 2007. “It was little then and now it’s gotten bigger,” he said, emphasizing the enormity of the thing with a word that cannot be uttered here. “It’s as big as a smart car.”

In fact, it’s bigger than a smart car: 12 feet by 10 feet to be exact, and approximately six feet deep, according to Department of Buildings records.

But what is it?

sinkhole_fenceSasha von Oldershausen

One resident speculated that it was an ancient burial ground; another thought it was an East Village artist’s attempt at the avant-garde.

Hugh Mackie, owner of the Sixth Street Specials motorcycle repair shop and an East Village resident since 1981, has watched the site evolve. “That is one rat-infested hole,” he said.

But the chasm at 699 East Sixth Street isn’t just another East Village sinkhole. This abyss is man-made.

Stefan Bohdanowycz is that man. The president of Trident Structural Group, a contracting company, recalled having worked on the site.

“The engineer made us do some probing tests to determine what kind of foundation they would need for their development,” Mr. Bohdanowycz said, adding, “In general, when you do a probe, they leave it open until they start building. I don’t know why the development is stalled.”

“I heard a whisper that they wanted to build a residential building there,” he added.

Department of Building records confirmed that the development was to be a residential building of six stories, with a total of eight dwelling units. Morton Kriger, a New York City lawyer and property owner, spearheaded the project. Mr. Kriger had made earlier news when a hired laborer was convicted for illegally dumping asbestos at another one of his properties, in Connecticut, in 1997.

Anthony Cucich, the architect assigned to the East Village project, remembered working with Mr. Kriger, and the false start. “We got the permit and everything, and he stopped the job,” Mr. Cucich said.

Since that time, the vacant lot has become a scourge for East Village residents like Mr. Mackie. “There was an enormous rat problem, probably because it’s full of water. There were thousands of them,” he said, later adding, “Some guys came with a truck full of earth, and put earth all around the edge, about five feet up along the edges.”

With the rat problem contained, only one question remains. Why isn’t the owner doing anything with the lot?

Mr. Kriger was unavailable for comment. But other East Villagers weighed in on the issue. Walking the avenue one afternoon, Neftali Caraballo told The Local, “Maybe a monster lives inside it.”

sinkhole_closeupSasha von Oldershausen Look inside. If you dare.