If you’re the sort of person who believes we’re currently in—or at the very least, teetering on the brink of—a warped, capitalist dystopia, then go ahead and pull up a seat, because do I have a story for you.
Within a matter of weeks, an eight-story minimum security men’s prison will be sold off in Central Harlem—and real estate developers can’t wait to get their hands on the prime property, which boasts “unobstructed sights of Central Park and the city’s sprawling skyline to the south,” according to the New York Daily News.
The prison, opened in 1976, is slated to be shut down and sold in the next 90 days, the paper writes. Currently, it houses 133 inmates who are either work-release drug offenders or white collar criminals, but if real estate developers have their way, its newest residents will be a more international, well-heeled set.
“That view doesn’t exist anywhere,” Mae Bagai, a global real estate adviser at Sotheby’s International Realty told the Daily News. “Only the Met has something comparable, that’s how desirable it is. It’s prime, trophy real estate, and it’s exactly what everyone wants.”
Begai added that the prison is “the perfect set-up for a condo or luxury rental.”
“Whether you’re a buyer from New York, China, India or the Middle East, people want a south-facing apartment in the city because you get sun all day,” he said. “Developers will even build floor plans with living rooms facing south so they can get sun from the south, east and west.”
From incarceration to gentrification—what more quintessentially New York City, more American story could you find?
Of course, some longtime residents were less than thrilled at the news of yet another cluster of luxury condos reshaping the neighborhood, particularly in the face of a years-long affordable housing crisis.
From the Daily News:
“F—k that! I don’t want it at all,” said Erika Dickstein, 33, a graphic designer and 15-year resident of 21 Central Park North. “I’m sick and tired of these high-rises coming in and ruining the community. I love my neighborhood, and this is going to completely change it.”
Sindia Avila, 39, who lives nearby in NYCHA housing on 112th St., echoed those concerns.
“It’s really sad,” said Avila, a patient care manager. “They could use it to benefit the community, kids and low-income families and the people who have been in the neighborhood for years.”
Wait, sunlight for people who aren’t millionaires? Never that!
Another resident, 52-year-old Jose Bryson, who was born and raised in the neighborhood, noted that rich new neighbors would likely bring increased rent prices—an issue that has driven many low-income New Yorkers out of their homes in recent years. According to one recent study coming out of the University of California, Berkeley, city residents who are displaced from their longtime neighborhoods often have limited choices in finding new places to live, “since a majority of the suburbs have gentrified and grown increasingly exclusionary toward low-income residents.”
“Jacking up the rent is definitely a big concern,” Bryson told the Daily News. “I remember seeing the changes starting to happen around here and thinking, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’ Now it’s hitting even closer to home.”
And if you’re assuming these residents would prefer an onslaught of Scrooge McDucks as neighbors as opposed to prison inmates, think again. Bryson says he’ll be sad to see the incarcerated men go.
“It’s funny, they’re all super-nice and say ‘hello’ when I walk by,” he said. “I’m being serious. They’re great neighbors.”