After Murder, City Now Hastens to Tear Down Former Fish Market Building

The city-owned former fish market building, 95 South St., which has been vacant since the Fulton Fish Market moved to Hunts Point in 2005. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 19, 2021

The city’s long-delayed demolition of a crumbling former fish market building is now slated to begin this month, following the recent murder of a 19-year-old woman whose body was found there. 

Plans to tear down the 81-year-old structure, vacant since the Fulton Fish Market moved to Hunts Point in 2005 and deemed in danger of collapse, was to begin more than two years ago. The Economic Development Corp., the city agency in charge of the property, said in a statement this week that the work would commence within the month, “starting with a construction fence, followed by the abatement and demolition process.”

The graffitied and poorly secured building has been sheltering an encampment of homeless people, including the two men charged with murdering the woman, Rosalee Sanchez, who reportedly had been living in the area on the street. On March 6, her bludgeoned and stabbed body was found in a stairwell wrapped in plastic. 

Local residents believe that people living in the building have been the perpetrators of thefts and drug use in the neighborhood. 

“Over the years weve had numerous complaints and notifications about homeless encampments at/around the [New Market] Building,” Diana Switaj,  Community Board 1’s director of planning and land use, said in an email. “There have also been reports about fires, violent incidents, aggressive solicitors and drug paraphernalia.”

Brian Nelsen, the community affairs officer for the 1st Precinct, said that because of an ongoing investigation of the murder, he could not comment on the situation in the building or possible crimes connected with it. An NYPD spokeswoman said the homicide was the only reported incident in the building this year and could not provide information on possible earlier incidents. 

Twenty people were evicted from the building in late February “in one shot,” according to a police source quoted by the New York Post. “We found all these bedrooms. It was disgusting, terrible living conditions … There was a canoe in there. It stunk like you wouldn’t believe,” the source told the Post.

Asked why the city had not followed through with its plans to demolish the building, Helen Jonsen, an Economic Development Corp. spokeswoman, said in an email:After funding delays compounded by COVID-19—we received the necessary resources last month (February 2021) to proceed with demolition.” (Most recently, the work was reportedly planned for later this spring.) As for why the building had been left open to squatters, she said only that the agency would “continue our efforts to seal and secure the building.” Mobile light towers are now onsite for added visibility and security and the NYPD is patrolling the building daily, she said.  

The future of the New Market Building was uncertain after the Howard Hughes Corp. abandoned plans in 2015 to put a 42-story residential tower on the site. Preservationists and local activists insisted the building has historic merit and argued that the city should restore it for public use. (Though it is on the state and federal registers of historic sites, the New Market Building lies just outside the historic district and is not a protected city landmark.) But the city deemed the decking and pilings beneath the building in danger of collapse and too costly to repair. In early 2018 officials announced plans to demolish the old fish market structure as early as that fall.