MANHATTAN – Like many restaurants struggling to stay afloat during the tightest restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mexicoma installed a sprawling outdoor dining setup featuring a roof to shelter customers from the sun in the summer and elements in the spring and fall. Though, when the Upper East Side Mexican restaurant shut down last month, they left behind a structure in shambles that’s been turned into an apparent homeless encampment— leaving neighbors worrying about their safety.
It’s not clear when exactly Mexicoma closed for good— the front door’s glass is smashed and the phone number is disconnected. Emails and messages on social media have gone unanswered. Neighbors told Upper East Site it looked like the restaurant had gone under a few times, with the beginning of February being the last.
That’s because at some point, someone tore the roof off of the outdoor dining structure sitting outside Mexicoma on East 85th Street at the corner of Second Avenue, leaving just a broken shell and wooden posts— some spots filled with accumulating trash, others acting as storage for construction barriers.
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“It is really unsafe,” said Caryn, who lives on the block. “It was a cute restaurant but now they need to come finish and clean up.”
One section of the former outdoor dining structure appears to have been converted into a homeless encampment— with a makeshift bed built from cardboard with a blanket and what appears to be an attempt to build a roof over the sleeping area.
“I’ve lived here 35 years, this is insane,” said another neighbor of the growing blight outside on the busy street corner.
Neighbors reported seeing drug paraphernalia in the deteriorating wooden enclosure, though on Monday Upper East Site didn’t see any, we did spot a dead rat next to the makeshift bed.
Two neighbors tell Upper East Site that calls to 311 were unsuccessful in reporting the potentially dangerous zombie dining structure— both said they were told 311 couldn’t accept the complaint before being transferred and disconnected.
“It’s horrible!” said Tamara, a concerned neighbor.
“We tried to call 311 to lodge a complaint but they did nothing!”
After being contacted by a concerned neighbor, Council Member Julie Menin’s office says it was able to get the abandoned structure outside Mexicoma added to a DOT removal list— and it plans to push for a speedy removal of the dilapidated dining area.
The NYC Department of Transportation says you can report zombie dining structures through the 311 website— though it’s not clear what happens when a report is filed because this eyesore had already been reported as abandoned through 311 on February 14th.
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Just over two weeks later on the morning of March 1st, the 311 request was updated— after inquiries by Council Member Menin’s office and Upper East Site. A message now displays reading “The Department of Transportation inspected the condition and has scheduled the items for removal.”
At least two reports were filed with 311 about the homeless encampment as well.
In response to one complaint, the NYPD referred the issue to the Department of Homeless Services, while the other complaint was closed with a message saying DHS “visited the location and is coordinating with their agency partners to address the condition.”
Despite multiple attempts, Mexicoma management nor the property’s owner could be reached for comment.
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