Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good Fences, Part 1: The Building Next Door

Everyone who owns real estate sometimes has to deal with bad neighbors, and there’s not much you can do about it, because you don’t own their house.  In the past, we’d had some iffy neighbors, but this one was the worst.

I was looking longingly at the Building Next Door (BND) to another building that we owned. It wasn’t just megalomania, although I’m sure that entered into it, somewhat.  The BND had a gangway that went from the sidewalk, through the backyard, and into the parking alley.  The tenants in our building couldn't throw out their garbage without either using that neighbor’s gangway or walking around the block.  So the BND started looking mighty attractive, despite it being a crack house.  Well, actually, because it was a crack house, and we wanted to control the problem. 

However, two years earlier, when we were renovating our building, the owner of the BND came to us.  He had recently inherited it, and would sell for $8000.  It was a four family in need of some work, but The Man and our partner must have been having brain farts, because they decided to "talk him down" to $7500.   When he held firm to $8000, we "walked". He sold the BND to someone else, and we all lived to kick ourselves & each other firmly in our collective butt.

It was the ‘80s, a time of insanity in Hudson.  Crack had come to town with a vengeance.  People who were previously sober, dependable residents went crazy.  And, under new ownership, the BND, its yard, and the alley behind it became so infiltrated with crackheads that it was locally dubbed “Crack Alley”.  This naturally caused us a lot of problems.  It was hard to get or keep good tenants at our building because of all the adjacent drama.  And, in keeping with the fine old tradition of other retail districts (i.e., the Diamond district, the Flower district, Wall Street) we were now developing a following in the Crack district. So, a lot of applicants for our apartments were crackheads.  (It’s too bad the Section 8 program didn’t allow landlords to charge for applications.  We would’ve made more money rejecting applicants than we did renting apartments during that blitz.) Crackheads were taking shortcuts from the street to the alley through the gangway.  The BND became a thoroughfare, and, adding to the problem, the building on the other side of it was vacant and unsecured, and became a shooting & smoking gallery. 

I mentioned to the new owner of the BND that the police would get tired of coming to his building with all the fights, drugs, etc., and that he should clean out those tenants.  And one day the city did come and close his building for violations. At the same time, the police took the landlord into custody for questioning.  He was so unnerved by that experience he asked if we would buy it.  It was 2 years after we’d rejected it, and he now wanted $24,000 for a building in worse shape than when we could’ve bought it for $8000.

We bought it.

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