Less than a day after NBC New York showed a dilapidated Harlem building falling further into a dangerous state of disrepair, some hopeful movement was finally seen at 465 W. 147th St. Wednesday.
The brownstone had been ignored for years while it was in foreclosure, but on Wednesday afternoon, roaring saws, pounding hammers and happy neighbors could be heard along the street.
Workers with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development were shoring up the burned-out brownstone, boarding up windows and securing the building. And a representative from the Bank of America dropped by to take photos and to "lock it up."
“It’s good to know that they’re on it, and they’re fixing it,” said Carlene Bererton, who lives across the street. She has been tired of looking at the defunct building for so long. "Hopefully we’ll have nice new people living in it soon," she said.
“It’s important to make sure that this -- especially as beautiful as this building is -- that it gets back to its former glory,” said neighbor Tony Anthony.
NBC New York first reported Tuesday the frustration of neighbors, who have seen the building become a haven for squatters, drug dealers and violence.
Since mid-October two fires have broken out in the building, injuring seven firefighters and two people who were forced to jump from upper-floor windows to escape the flames and smoke. FDNY investigators believe both fires were intentionally set.
Police have also been called to the address 19 times in the last year.
A Bank of America spokesman told NBC New York that his company was unable to do anything until Wednesday because it had no legal right to remove the squatters because the three-year-old foreclosure proceedings were still not completed.
“Other than the city stepping in, it’s very difficult for everyone involved,” said real estate attorney Gary Rosenberg.
He said the building remains the responsibility of the mortgage holder (or the city, where applicable) until the foreclosure is complete.
“The bank doesn’t have a right to control the property,” said Rosenberg. “I can assure you, the bank would like to have [the foreclosure] completed because the property is not becoming more valuable.”
Since the foreclosure proceedings began in March 2008, HPD has made emergency repairs to the building and kept essential utilities running. In the last year, HPD has made $13,193 in emergency repairs to the property.
NBC New York has made several attempts to reach to the building owner, Linda Kelley, but she has not returned calls.