Ode to a sinkhole…or, Oh, that sinking feeling

Photo by Maria Logis

Photo by Maria Logis

Maria Logis, who took this photo, says this sorry sinkhole, on Mercer St. between W. Houston and Bleecker Sts., is actually one of her favorite spots.

Not fit for sitting, the sorely sloped spot is at its best in April and May, when the cherry trees around it are in full bloom, blanketing the ground with their pink petals.

The site is situated outside New York University’s Coles gym. The gym, plus this spot and the Mercer-Houston Dog Run just to its south, are all slated for demolition to clear the way for a massive new university building, part of the school’s South Village expansion plan.

“It’s one of my favorite spots and is about to be demolished,” Logis said of the out-of-kilter sitting area. “It’s beautiful and worth seeing.

“The sinkhole has been gradually opening over the last 25 years, but in the last five years it has caused the area in front of the Coles center to drop about 3 to 4 feet. 

“The result is a stunning spot with three magnificent cherry trees, three benches and the ground they stand on slowly sinking,” Logis said. “This space used to be open to the public but more recently has been locked.

“This is the last year to see this sight because it will all be demolished to make room for the new N.Y.U. building. The dog run was just closed and is filled with construction equipment. To the north of the three cherry trees spot is a playground that has also sunk.”

The ground on this strip of Mercer St. sunk and cracked over the years because, when the block was cleared in the mid-20th century for an urban renewal and street-widening project, the basements of the razed tenements and factory buildings were just piled full — apparently too loosely — with the demolition debris, not creating a firm foundation.

The city’s Department of Transportation maintained control of the strip for all these years, during which N.Y.U. never moved to fix the foundations. Now, however, N.Y.U. will be building on part of this strip — which it will now own, after finally purchasing it — as part of the new project.

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