DNAinfo.com After Deed Was Lifted for Builder Who Paid $875K, Community Wants Change by Dartunorro Clark

After Deed Was Lifted for Builder Who Paid $875K, Community Wants Change
Dartunorro Clark

 A plot of land at 152nd and St. Nicholas Ave. in Harlem, which had its deed restrictions lifted by a city agency after a developer paid $875,000, according to the New York Times.

HARLEM — After an apartment developer paid the city to lift a deed restricting a patch of Harlem land to be used only by cultural institutions, a local community board plans to make it harder for that to happen again.

Community Board 9, which covers West Harlem, plans to vote on Thursday to call on the City Council to change the way deeds can be changed.

The resolution comes after the Department of Citywide Administrative Services accepted $875,000  in exchange for lifting the restrictions on a patch of land at 152nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.

The lot, owned by the Dance Theater of Harlem, had the stipulation that it be reserved for cultural use in place since 1976, according to The New York Times, which first reported the story.

Developer BRP Companies, which did not respond to a request for comment, bought the lot last month for $3.1 million, according to city property records.

"Manhattan Community Board 9 is deeply concerned about the potential for property owners to remove deed restrictions that require property in the district be used for purposes which benefit the community," read the board's resolution. 

Barry Weinberg, a member of the board who introduced the resolution, told DNAinfo New York he wants a similar process as for someone submitting an application for rezoning or through the Landmark Preservation Commission.

“What that does is it forces someone to effectively present to the community board so that the community board has the opportunity to present a comment or recommendation,” Weinberg said.

A previous deed switch — the Rivington House on the Lower East Side — is currently under multiple investigations, including by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the city's Department of Investigation and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“We do not know the outcome of the investigations,” said Weinberg.

“Should they find that the deed was lifted or modified improperly we would be happy to sit down with the developer and the city to come to an arrangement.”

There is no indication that the Harlem property deed flip is under investigation. 

Weinberg said the intent of the resolution is to have as much community input as possible. 

“They don’t know ...the impact this will have on the community, only the people who live on that block know that…. Local communities have real knowledge, context and history.”

During a budget hearing this past Friday, the City Council grilled the agency's commissioner, Lisette Camilo, on the process by which deed restrictions are lifted and how the agency plans to look into the process.

The agency, which has a budget of about $1.7 billion, manages the city's fleet of vehicles, civil service exams and manages its many properties. 

Camilo declined to go into specifics on the Lower East Side property to “protect the integrity” of the investigation and she would not discuss “what may have gone wrong and how exactly we will be able to fix it.”

City Councilman Benjamin Kallos asked about the "windfall" developers received from the way in which properties were valued.

He cited that the Harlem property's deed was lifted for $875,000 and the plot was sold for $3.1 million. The Lower East Side deed was lifted for $16 million and the land was later sold for $116 million. 

Camilo told council members the agency is not moving forward on any new deed restrictions until its internal review and the investigations are complete. She said about 13 applications, many of them made years before, are currently on hold.


Land Use