Harlem Landlords Like Their Buildings Empty, Actually

A boarded apartment building in Harlem (photo from Harlem Bespoke)

While some say Harlem is the city’s new housing hotspot, hundreds of empty residential buildings bespeak serious issues still affecting the community, The New York Times reports. While storefronts in the neighborhood are generally bustling, an unsettling number of residences above are boarded up, and have been for decades. Business may be good on the ground floor, but landlords, often times wealthy real estate firms, have forsaken the residential apartments, leaving blighted buildings dotting the neighborhood.

While rents have been rising in the area recently, most landlords simply don’t want to manage residential tenants, according to The Times.

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.

There is always the hope, of course, that a wealthy developer will come by and offer a substantial sum for the buildings. Many landlords would rather wait for their desired Daddy Warbucks than go to the trouble of restoring the properties themselves.

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.

If only Robert Durst’s new townhouse had been warehoused! Oh, long-suffering Harlem!

eknutsen@observer.com Harlem Landlords Like Their Buildings Empty, Actually