NYC’s hottest real estate property is a soon-to-close Harlem prison with spectacular city views
They are spectacular views that only crime could pay for.
For 43 years, inmates inside the caged rooftop recreation yard of Harlem’s Lincoln Correctional Facility could stretch their legs while luxuriating in the unobstructed sights of Central Park and the city’s sprawling skyline to the south.
Now the facility is poised to close — and the jailhouse is suddenly Manhattan’s hottest piece of high-priced real estate. The W. 110th St. property, opened as a prison in 1976, will be shut down and sold off in the next 90 days.
Realtors are already salivating over the potential cash cow with its unmatched urban vista.
“That view doesn’t exist anywhere,” said Mae Bagai, a global real estate adviser at Sotheby’s International Realty. “Only the Met has something comparable, that’s how desirable it is. It’s prime, trophy real estate, and it’s exactly what everyone wants.”
The eight-story, 72,000 square-foot minimum-security men’s facility at 31-33 W. 110th St, home to 133 inmates comprised of work-release drug offenders and white collar criminals, wouldn’t grant the Daily News rooftop access. But the scene from the residential building next door proved equally stunning.
The lush panorama stretches from the idyllic Harlem Meer and quaint Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in the park’s northeast corner all the way down to Midtown’s jutting high-rise skyline. Iconic skyscrapers like the skinny and sleek 432 Park Avenue building, Extell’s brand new Central Park Tower (New York City’s priciest building to date) and the tip of the Empire State Building are visible beyond the park’s vibrant green foliage.
“It’s the perfect set-up for a condo or luxury rental,” said Bagai. “Whether you’re a buyer from New York, China, India, or the Middle East, people want a south-facing apartment in the city because you get sun all day. Developers will even build floor plans with living rooms facing south so they can get sun from the south, east and west.”
Gopi Menon, owner of the six-story residential building directly to the right of the prison, expects the sale will boost his property value.
“It’s definitely a very good thing for me,” said Menon, 75, who bought 35 Central Park North in 1984. “It will bring up the value of my place without a doubt.”
Menon thinks the sale, handled by the government-run Empire State Development, will boost the community, too.
“There was a time when you couldn’t even walk around here," said Menon. "Money speaks, and the changes make people happy and safe.”
The lockup in Harlem and another in upstate New York are being shuttered due to a drop in crime and corresponding dip in incarceration rates, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Because of the Central Park views, the prison block in Harlem and adjacent streets are already a hotbed for luxury apartment rentals and condos for sale.
Just around the corner at 1280 Fifth Ave., a luxury condo building built in 2012 nicknamed One Museum Mile was designed by famed architect Robert A.M. Stern. The average selling price in the building, with its rooftop pool, formal dining hall and 24/7 doorman, is $2.2 million, according to Bagai.
”They have nice views of the park from the penthouses and high floors facing west, and south they have a nice view of the water. But what the correctional facility has is by far the most desirable,” she said. “I could see a similar project happening at the prison.”
Before the prison opened, the building was used as an experimental K-12 school from 1948 to 1971, an army rehabilitation center for local soldiers during World War II, and as a branch of the Young Women’s Hebrew Association from 1914 to 1942. Notable inmates included Malcolm X assassin Thomas Hagan, and former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, who was convicted of receiving millions in unauthorized bonuses.
Down the block from Lincoln at 5 W. 110th St., the currently dilapidated La Hermosa Christian Church submitted a proposal to swap its current congregation for a new 33-story mixed-use tower with 160 residential units, according to real estate blog YIMBY. The deal would require the church occupy roughly one-fifth of the space.
Similarly, at 10 Lenox Ave. on the corner of W. 111th St., the Second Canaan Baptist Church made a deal with Level One Holdings to raze their building to make way for 29 luxury condos as well as a new space for the church.
The high-end apartments hit the market last month starting at $595,000 and peak at $2.4 million for a three-bedroom.
But residents in buildings on either side of the Lincoln lockup detest the facility’s closing — and the rash of ritzy real estate already breaking out around them.
“F--k that! I don’t want it at all,” said Erika Dickstein, 33, a graphic designer and 15-year resident of 21 Central Park North. “I’m sick and tired of these high-rises coming in and ruining the community. I love my neighborhood, and this is going to completely change it.”
Sindia Avila, 39, who lives nearby in NYCHA housing on 112th St., echoed those concerns.
“It’s really sad,” said Avila, a patient care manager. “They could use it to benefit the community, kids and low-income families and the people who have been in the neighborhood for years.”
Another main concern for 110th St. tenants is security. The neighboring Park View Hotel doubles as a city homeless shelter, and a man was stabbed to death two years ago inside its shabby walls.
“That shelter can get pretty dicey,” said Dickstein, who said it’s made her appreciate the extra security of prison guards for neighbors. “I like having 24-hour surveillance right next to my door. It’s the brightest building on the block, and makes me feel safe.”
The potential for an uptick in rental prices also has residents worried they might get squeezed out.
“Jacking up the rent is definitely a big concern,” said Jose Bryson, 52, who was born and raised at 35 Central Park North. “I remember seeing the changes starting to happen around here and thinking, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’ Now it’s hitting even closer to home.”
Bryson not only likes having the prison nearby, he likes the inmates.
“It’s funny, they’re all super-nice and say ‘hello’ when I walk by,” he said. “I’m being serious. They’re great neighbors.”
Some of the building’s oldest residents accept the change in stride.
“I’ve seen it all,” said David Field, 64, a second-generation tenant at 21 Central Park North. “Sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches and let it happen.”