Vacant Lot in The South Bronx Sells For Over $15 Million—Is The Area No Longer Affordable?

4 out of 5 major sales have occurred on just one block in Port Morris. / Map Via PropertyShark
4 out of 5 major sales have occurred on just one block in Port Morris. / Map Via PropertyShark CLICK TO ENLARGE

Let’s face it: We already knew that developers were going to set their eyes on The Bronx, often called “The Last Frontier” by real estate developers and moguls due to The South Bronx’s proximity to Manhattan and excellent transportation network but as speculative purchases are made on properties far more than their actual worth, is it over for those trying to make a quick buck on our back?

198 E 135th Street, which was owned by storage company CubeSmart, was sold on May 12, 2015 for $15,470,000 to Deegan 135 Realty LLC. CubeSmart owns the adjacent property at 200 E 135th Street which is a massive lot at 276,538 square feet with a 214,560 square foot storage facility. In August of 2012, CubeSmart purchased the properties at a price of $68,234,000.

The vacant lot is 48,976 square feet in size and according to public records can be developed to accommodate a 352,627 mixed-use residential building, however no plans have been filed as of yet with NYC Department of Buildings.

198 E 135th Street sold last month for almost $16 million.
198 E 135th Street sold last month for almost $16 million.

These properties sit right within the Special Harlem River Waterfront District in the Lower Concourse Rezoning Area and are proximate and/or adjacent to the properties purchased by the Chetrit Group and Somerset Partners—developers who want to rename the area the Piano District, as reported by Curbed, which gives homage to the area’s distinction of once being the epicenter of piano manufacturing in America.

The name may sound cute but it is rather audacious that developers want to rename OUR neighborhoods where we have lived and have been here for decades, generations of families having lived here when no one wanted to only to have developers come traipsing in to make things cute and nice for outsiders and not for those who currently reside in the area.

It should also be noted that CubeSmart is sitting on a lot that can be developed up to almost 2 million square feet (1,991,074 square feet to be exact) of residential properties so if a developer offers the right price for this waterfront property, they probably wouldn’t hesitate in selling it.

In just a matter of 5 months, just slightly over $104 million in 4 properties have been sold—3 on one block and the other across the street from the others.

Most of the Lower Concourse Area is filled with empty or semi-vacant warehouses along with fully occupied industrial buildings and now that these properties are selling for such astronomical numbers that even two years ago no one would have thought would be possible, many of these owners stand to make a fortune should they sell to speculators looking to develop the area.

Rents are already spiraling upwards at market rate buildings and even some affordable housing in the area so what is going to happen to existing residents? Will gentrification push them out? Can we work with the powers that be to make sure we get truly affordable housing and solve our homeless crisis in the process before we begin to catering to others that aren’t even living in The Bronx yet?

All properties are located on High Risk FEMA Flood Zones (Post Sandy Update) / Map Via PropertyShark
All properties are located on High Risk FEMA Flood Zones (Post Sandy Update) / Map Via PropertyShark

One of the good things about these properties is that they are located in high risk FEMA flood zones so development is going to be quite costly and perhaps give us time to delay anything detrimental to our communities.

Already 2401 Third Avenue will require a Fish and Wildlife Impact Analysis as stipulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in emails obtained by Welcome2TheBronx during investigation performed on these properties. Initially, NYSDEC indicated that one was not necessary, however, environmental activists in the area familiar with the Brownfields on these lots raised a red flag to which NYSDEC quickly acknowledged that indeed a Fish and Wildlife Impact Analysis will have to be performed.


All properties discussed here are also located in NYC Tidal Wetland areas which makes costlier for developers to construct what they want due to the extra paperwork and approval process enacted in 2009 to protect NYC’s waterfront.

Now it’s just a game of wait and see what will happen to The South Bronx: Will speculators continue over-inflating prices in the neighborhoods or will they realize that prices are already high for them to make any decent return on investment in the near future?

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.