Bruce Brodoff Communications
Bruce Brodoff Communications
Rail Yard Feud Flares; Sewer Lines Still Cut
By Greg Gittrich

The owner of a 113-year-old railroad building has accused a developer of breaking her sewer lines, and several city agencies can't seem to figure out how to fix the mess at the Harlem River Rail Yard.

The dispute has dragged on for years, and the city Economic Development Corp. is dangling a $300,000 grant in front of the developer - but will only give him the money if the South Bronx sewer battle is resolved.

"It's an incentive," said EDC spokesman Bruce Brodoff. "We would like to get both sides to the table to settle this."

The grant would be to spur additional development at the rail yard.

Zee Frank, who has owned the red brick railroad edifice for 43 years, says contractors working for developer Francesco Galesi cut her sewer pipes three years ago. Frank also says Galesi's workers repeatedly have prevented repairs.

The pipes that serve the historic building run underneath the adjacent Harlem River Rail Yard. In 1990, Galesi signed a 99-year lease with the state to develop the site, which now includes a waste transfer station, a printing plant, a rail freight terminal and two power plants.

"He is responsible. He did it because he wants us out," fumed Frank, who has been squabbling with Galesi's company over the use of the 96-acre yard for more than five years.

Although Public Advocate Mark Green's office backs Frank's account of the dispute, Tony Riccio, senior vice president for Harlem River Yard Ventures, which manages the yard, denies the charges.

"We did not break any of her lines. There is no Machiavellian plot here," Riccio said. "She is a real nuisance, and I don't know what caused her problem."

The city Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the sewer system, said Galesi has not blocked the agency from fixing the lines.

Nevertheless, DEP officials say they are concerned about potential health problems that the broken sewer pipes could cause.

"She is in an isolated spot out there," said Charles Sturcken, DEP chief of staff. "We are trying to get the problem fixed."

Riccio offered that the sewer problems were likely related to the age of the Frank's building, which once served as the area headquarters for the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad.

"She has a very old building," Riccio said. "We are trying to work out an agreement."

But Green's office argued that a clause in the deed to Frank's property clearly stipulates that if her sewer lines need repair, she has the right to access the rail yard to fix them.

"We have been working for a long period of time on this, pressuring the DEP to restore the sewer connections, which they still haven't done," said Stephen Sigmund, a spokesman for Green. "The developer and the DEP should do the right thing and reconnect her service."

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