Checkmate for Papaya King: Extell files demo plans on UES

Developer taking aim at 171-179 East 86th Street

Extell Development's Gary Barnett and 171-179 East 86th Street (Extell Development, iStock)
Extell Development's Gary Barnett and 171-179 East 86th Street (Extell Development, iStock)


Extell Development's Gary Barnett and 171-179 East 86th Street (Extell Development, iStock)

Extell Development’s Gary Barnett and 171-179 East 86th Street (Extell Development, iStock)

UPDATED June 30, 2022, 1 p.m.: Hot dog connoisseurs aren’t relishing the likely loss of Upper East Side institution Papaya King.

Gary Barnett’s Extell Development filed demolition plans for 171-179 East 86th Street, Patch reported. The site is home to the flagship Papaya King, which has been serving up hot dogs at the location for nearly a century.

Or, at least, it was home to the flagship: The previous landlord alleged in 2020 that the original proprietor’s lease was terminated, after which former Papaya King management company Grab & Go broke in, reopened the shop and continued to operate it without authorization. Litigation is ongoing.

The developer’s plans for the site are unknown, as it didn’t respond to requests for comments from the publication. The low-rise corner site was purchased in the fall for $21 million; the buyer was masked behind an anonymous LLC at the time.

The future of Papaya King also isn’t clear, but it’s not looking good. The phone number was not functioning on Wednesday and the eatery’s website appeared to be down.

The one-story commercial site has several other businesses, but most of them have closed down in recent years. The lot is only 50 feet by 100 feet and there are no indications that Extell has acquired any of the adjacent parcels.

Papaya King has been in trouble on the Upper East Side for some time. The store has been involved in a lease dispute since the onset of the pandemic as losses mounted. Extell has taken over in the dispute, claiming Grab & Go Convenience has refused to depart the building, despite “monetary incentives” to do so.

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The Papaya King at 179 East 86th Street (Google Maps)
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Gary Barnett along with renderings of 1637 First Avenue (Extell Development, iStock)
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Extell Development chairman Gary Barnett and the empty lot between 79th and 80th on First Avenue (Google Maps)
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An attorney for Grab & Go claims former landlord Imperial Sterling didn’t even have the right to sell the building, since it only had a 50 percent stake in the property.

The demolition site is a mere two avenues away from another Extell development site at 1637 First Avenue. Extell has plans for a 22-story, L-shaped building at the site to work around a pair of tenant holdouts. The building will be 215 feet tall and include 543 apartments, as well as commercial space.

The developer recently landed a $125 million debt package from German commercial lender Helaba to refinance the First Avenue project.

Extell is also developing a 30-story medical building on the Upper East Side on a vacant lot between 79th and 80th streets on First Avenue. The 400,000-square-foot development is already partially pre-leased to the Hospital for Special Surgery.

This article has been updated with information about a 2020 lawsuit.

[Patch] — Holden Walter-Warner