No matter how long you live here, sometimes you just see weird stuff on the streets of New York City you’ve never seen before — like the giant outdoor metal mailboxes Upper East Site spotted cemented into the sidewalk outside not one, but two Upper East Side apartment buildings just a few blocks apart. Could it be a coincidence? Better yet, are they even legal in Manhattan? We had to know.
We first spotted a large black metal cabinet in front of a recently renovated walk-up apartment building located at 233 East 96th Street, just west of Second Avenue, back in February.
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The large black metal cabinet, which has been tagged with graffiti, sits entrenched in the concrete, an unmovable and permanent fixture in the sidewalk. A small plaque on the front reading ‘U.S. Mail’ is surrounded by more than a dozen small mailboxes and larger spaces apparently meant to store packages — one of them with its key still in the lock.
No other building we had ever seen on the Upper East Side, or within Manhattan, had such a feature. That’s until a couple weeks later when we spotted an identical large black cabinet housing numerous mailboxes outside a different walk up building, located just a few blocks away.
The outdoor mailbox outside 322 East 93rd Street, between First and Second Avenues, also had graffiti tagging the rear of the cabinet and a small plaque reading US Mail. However, a postal carrier on the block explained to Upper East Site that they did not deliver mail to that box on the street.
Upper East Site turned to the NYC Department of Buildings for help. The agency explained that their jurisdiction ends at the property’s lot lines — meaning the mystery mailboxes were not within their purview. The agency did note that renovation plans for 322 East 93rd Street show a dedicated area for a mailbox within the interior of the building.
After hitting a dead end with DOB, we reached out to the NYC Department of Transportation, which oversees so-called ‘street furniture’ — things like light posts, benches, traffic lights and mailboxes installed on streets and sidewalks within the five boroughs.
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Following an inspection, the DOT issued a Notice of Encroachment on Friday, March 10th, for both mailboxes located in front of 322 East 93rd Street and 223 East 96th Street, which are in violation of section 19-133 of the New York City Administrative Code.
According to the notice, whomever installed the large mystery mailboxes had 30 days to remove them — at which point the DOT would reinspect the locations and could issue up to a $1,000 fine. The notice also warns that the agency could choose to remove the mailboxes themselves and bill the property owner for the work.
A review of Google Street View imagery shows the 93rd street mailbox was installed sometime after September 2021, while the 96th Street mailbox went up between 2019 and 2021 — basically proving you can install random shit on the sidewalk in New York City without permission and it will stay there for years, as long as you don’t get caught.
Now we’ve confirmed they’re not supposed to be there, but we still don’t know who cemented the large metal mailbox cabinets into the sidewalk — or why they did it.
A review of City property records revealed the two Upper East Side buildings are owned by similarly named limited liability companies which share an address and suite number in Brooklyn.
The same address, including suite number, is also used by Loom Capital Group, which describes itself as “one of the well-recognized managing companies in New York.” The company’s barebones website includes a portal for tenants to log in, but is thin on information about the operation itself.
“Loom Capital Group provides high-end services so that residents can enjoy life and have peace of mind. We believe our residents should tend to important matters, and not worry about the little things,” the website reads.
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A Loom employee was also identified as the agent behind a Street Easy listing for a third floor unit in 223 East 96th Street.
Upper East Site reached out to Loom Capital Group multiple times to find out why these properties on the Upper East Side have unauthorized mailboxes installed in front, however, we did not hear back.
As for the DOT, the agency said it planned to reinspect the mailboxes, though, it remains a mystery when they’ll actually be removed.
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I certainly wouldn’t want my mail to go to a mailbox out on the street. Just having to retrieve my mail out on the street would put me in danger. Having the mailboxes outdoors would certainly make it easier to break into them.
Did no one living in those buildings ever complain? I would have started with the USPS and my local Councilperson.