Papaya King’s legal troubles with its Upper East Side landlord may have opened the door for its demolition. Developer Extell has set its construction claws into 171-179 East 86th Street, and its wrecking ball is likely too not far behind.
The city’s hot dog monarch has held its throne since 1932, when the franchise was initially opened in the neighborhood by German American immigrants. In 2020, then-landlord Imperial Sterling Ltd. filed a lawsuit against Papaya King, claiming it was trespassing at 179 East 86th Street by operating a business without the landlord’s consent after the lease was terminated due to unpaid rent.
Papaya King defended its turf on the corner of Third Avenue. In its written response to the lawsuit, it alleged that Imperial did not have the right to sell to begin with, because it only held a 50% ownership stake. Enter Extell.
According to Patch, which first reported the impending demolition, “in April, attorneys for the building’s new owner — apparently Extell, though it was identified under an anonymous LLC — requested to take over as plaintiff in the case, court records show.” Litigation is ongoing, but it does seem that the future of Papaya King is in danger. Its website was down on June 30 and the number was disconnected.
United States Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney joined a swarm of tweeters lamenting the potential closure. “Papaya King is an East Side institution that has served generations of NYers since 1932,” she tweeted on June 30. “The new building owner is trying to kick them out to develop the site. NYC has lost far too many of its historic eateries. Let’s not lose another small business that helped shape this City.”
The first phase of Extell’s plans for the corner are clear, according to The Real Deal. The developer will demolish the one-story, 50 by 100 foot strip based on plans it filed with the city. What it will create from the rubble is unknown, though Patch suggests that a high-rise tower could be accommodated.
Extell is the developer behind midtown’s “Billionaires’ Row,” which is often derided as the eyesore of exorbitantly priced residential buildings that have punctured the once picturesque skyline in the form of characterless, supertall buildings that resemble thin and long Lego pieces.