Harlem has seen an uptick of new developments stretching from 110th Street, making its way to boogie down from the Bronx. The question is what’s going to happen with all of these luxury planned apartments now that we are faced with this pandemic: the big, the bad, invisible monster called the coronavirus, a. k.a. COVID-19, better known as the No. 1 killer of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And New York City is being hit the hardest.
This invisible, big, bad monster as we know it, the one many of us were afraid of when we were kids, is now real and no myth. This monster has not only taken lives and destroyed families, but also has also put a financial strain on many New Yorkers.
I was shocked the other day when I finally decided to adorn myself in my mask and gloves to venture out for some much-needed fresh air. As I strolled along Madison Avenue, I felt as though I was not ready for my close-up, just like the leading lady starring in my version of “Madison Avenue Boulevard.” There was no Norma Desmond and Cecil B. DeMille, no lights, camera or action. I was all alone on one of the most prestigious streets in the world.
The streets were absent of hundreds of people just milling around and window shopping. It was like being in a horror movie. What was so astounding and surprising was the sight of the many high-end retail shops that have closed their doors permanently. The big storefront windows no longer displayed beautiful, fashionable clothing, expensive shoes and handbags. Instead, they were replaced by big, bulky signs screaming, “Retail space for rent.”
I decided to venture further north to Harlem’s 125th Street, and the streets were alive with the sound of music. African incense filled the air, and there were kiosks located about 20 feet apart, where you could purchase the most fashionable face masks for only $10, as well as Lysol, hand sanitizer, wipes and gloves. The vendors on 125th Street were ready with whatever your heart desired or needed. There were what seemed like a million people of all shapes and sizes dressed in the most fashionable attire, standing in line following all the rules of social distancing, waiting to stock up on groceries at Whole Foods. I was quite happy to see entrepreneurship at its best.
It put a smile on my face to see so many people milling around, although I wondered to myself, “How many of these people will purchase the multitude of luxury apartments that are being constructed in the many areas of Harlem?” Harlem will always survive, although methinks that after this pandemic is over, you will see many high-end condominiums reverting into high-end rentals.
However, in the world of building from the ground up, developers always have a Plan “B.” Rethinking the price per square foot would be one possible way to reevaluate a space. You also have a Plan “C:” proposing a deal with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).
In February, NYCHA reached a deal to bring thousands of apartments around New York under private management. New developments were not mentioned, but for developers that would be a sure-fire way to offset some of their financial woes. Although we will overcome this pandemic, there will be changes in everyone’s financial structure.
Many people from all over the world will still migrate to Harlem for the luxury rental market. And the prices will still be relatively lower than in Soho, East Village, the Upper West and East Side of Manhattan. The renters will still obtain more square footage and closet space. The beat will continue to go on in Harlem.