New York Times: “In East Harlem, ‘Keep Out’ Signs Apply to Renters”

The New York Times reported Sunday on East Harlem’s “haunted houses,” apartments that have literally been abandoned for decades by landlords.  What landlords are planning, we can only guess, but most likely they are waiting to sell the properties for high prices and gentrify the neighborhood when the time is ripe.

East Harlem has been undergoing a resurgence for two decades, yet the neighborhood is still pockmarked with four- or five-story walk-ups where the ground-floor stores are bustling and the apartments above are devoid of life. Their windows are boarded up, blocked up or just drearily empty, torn curtains testifying to no one’s having lived there for years.

Although the vacancy rate in Manhattan hovers at 1 percent, at least some of the landlords of these sealed-up buildings are deliberately keeping their buildings mostly vacant, content to earn income from first-floor commercial tenants rather than deal with the trouble of residents.
In some cases, city housing officials say, landlords are waiting for a revived economy to raise rents so that it makes financial sense to repair plumbing and electrical wiring. In other cases, landlords are “warehousing” apartments for the moment that a deep-pocketed developer comes along, as has happened in the blocks just north of 96th Street, East Harlem’s southern boundary. In still other cases, it is simply mystifying that apartments would be left vacant for decades, particularly since East Harlem has been a magnet for Mexican and other Latino immigrants, as well as young strivers looking for cheap space. More
As New York City continues to lose affordable housing at an alarming rate as a result of deregulation and predatory equity, it is a true shame to watch regulated units sit unoccupied and in disrepair. East Harlem deserves the affordable housing it has been provided with, and we hope it will generate new life soon; in a non-zombie way, of course.

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