The Flotsam and Jetsam of Harlem’s Condo Market Post-Lehman

“This was a real estate office, but it’s turned into my junk collection,” explained Leonard Heyward, a Harlem native and licensed broker.

Heyward Real Estate (“Your Bridge to Elegance,” says the front window) occupies the walk-in-closet-sized storefront of 115 Edgecombe Avenue. Next door, at 117, the Hamilton Lofts development was hosting a tour of full-floor boutique condominiums through marketer Halstead. At 115, Mr. Heyward was having a quiet Wednesday afternoon with his junk.

He scavenges the belongings left behind in apartments when their residents leave. He finds plenty: His office’s hardwood floors are mostly obscured, his computer and phone adrift in a sea of stuff. There are vases, a heavy crystal bowl, a “Faith” placard, and African mud cloth; giant corroded ice tongs from the days before stainless-steel Viking freezers; wide-eyed ’70s kitsch prints of black children.

Mr. Heyward wore a Yankees cap and a blue short-sleeve shirt partly open.

“One day I’ll have a big enough place,” he said. For one thing, he hopes to get out of Harlem. He prefers Scarsdale.

His favorite item is a large painting of a smiling man with a gray beard holding a hoe on his shoulder. “I call it ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’” he said.

Harlem developers—at Hamilton Lofts and elsewhere—are doing their best to heed that suggestion.

They’d probably balk at the interchangeability of real estate sales and junk collecting, but at this point, it doesn’t seem like such a bad plan. Mr. Heyward has got some nice junk, and all they’ve got are unfinished, unsold condos and a stagnant market.


WEDNESDAY’S WALKING TOUR OF various Halstead-marketed developments offered brokers and buyers the chance to explore Harlem real estate. If they visited all eight of the locations, it also offered them the chance to win a vacation raffle. And, at certain developments, the chance to eat lunch or dessert. Hamilton Lofts, where condos start at $539,000, provided visitors with a cookie of the building; it was bright red with blue frosting windows. 

They were really firing from all sides here: still extolling their finishes, their granite counter tops and Stainless Steel appliances, but also trying to repackage luxury condos as homey bargains.

“I can’t stand the overuse of the word ‘luxury,’” said Hans Futterman, a developer of 2280 FDB, where condos start at $329,000. “It’s like any place where you don’t have to share a bathroom with your neighbor is a luxury apartment.”

The bathrooms of 2280 FDB feature Whirlpool tubs and rolling vanity mirrors.

Community was the priority. Many of the developers and brokers were quick to say that they themselves lived in Harlem, that they loved it, that it felt like a real neighborhood. Mr. Futterman has been in Harlem for five years. He grew up on the Upper West Side in the early 1970s, and says Harlem reminds him of his childhood neighborhood—“but nicer, cleaner, safer.”

Halstead marketers did not limit their nostalgia to the factual past.

The Flotsam and Jetsam of Harlem’s Condo Market Post-Lehman