It’s a meal fit for a king. Every year for the past 15 years, the owner of a stunning, 10,000-square-foot, four-story townhouse in central Harlem facing Marcus Garvey (and not on the market) has opened his doors for a Thanksgiving feast like no other. Due to COVID-19, his doors are closed. He has packed his bags, shipped his car home and taken his four little golden mixed Pomeranians named Do, Re, Me and Fa, back to his country home until this serial killer has stopped killing.
The owner, who shall remain nameless, bought this beauty over 20 years ago when the Harlem market started to catch on, offering the seller just under $400,000 in cash. The rest is history.
“I felt at the time I purchased this place that I’d over-paid,” he stated on a gorgeous summer day before his departure over tea and crumpets in his well-manicured backyard, while the Harlem sun beamed down on his overly-tanned body and salsa music blared from someone’s car.
He may have been right. Before the Harlem market started to heat up, you could buy a townhouse for as little as $250,000. Unfortunately, that was a lot of money at the time to some minority homeowners.
After going through a complete renovation from top to bottom, his townhouse was appraised to the tune of $12 million. Curious, I ran comps. Lo and behold, if his townhouse was located anywhere further south in Manhattan, the price would be double and then some. 2019 was a rewarding year for my client. Finally, he had decided to invest in building a high-end luxury condominium building on the east side of Harlem. Unfortunately, those plans have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Good Old Days
Unbeknownst to him and his illustrious guests of playwrights, Broadway actors and Hollywood C-list celebrities who attended his 2019 Thanksgiving soiree, that fun-filled gathering would be his last. Champagne flowed, model types wearing glittering holiday couture sashayed around the marble floor, and the oversized Swarovski crystal chandelier sparkled above the formal dining table, adjacent to the media room that seats 10. Waiters carefully made their way through the nipped-and-tucked partygoers from the maid quarters below with trays and a nice array of Beluga caviar. The host announced to his guests that they should raise their glasses of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne to salute the upcoming year: “Here’s to 2020!” Little did we know, 2020 was the monster that was hiding in the wings.
In retrospect, 2020 was the disaster we all thought 2000 was going to be. It flew in nice and easy, and underneath its wings was death. No, the internet didn’t crash, and the aliens didn’t come down from space to eat us. We were simply at a standstill. For some, life as we were accustomed came to a complete halt. We gained weight, drank, binged on television and made online shopping our daily exercise. Unfortunately, people were also losing their lives at an alarming rate. I personally lost so many friends and relatives that I have become immune to the word death. It’s as if we were all starring in our own personal horror movie. Masks became our new must-have accessory.
We Will Survive
We are all looking for 2020 to fade into history. There has been an uptick in — or an exodus of — people selling their homes and moving out of New York. Landlords are giving three months of free rent. Yet in and around Harlem, buildings are still being built, from 125th Street to 116th Street and in between, along the east and west corridor. Through all of this, Harlem is building strong.
Happy New Year
We have no idea what 2021 has in store for us, although we welcome it with open arms, smiles on our faces and the thought of “Thank the heavens, we made it through 2020. ” And, of course, we all wish for the best in liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness.
1500 Broadway, Suite 501
New York, NY 10036