Vol. 17, No. 10 May 6 - 19, 2004


Large Grand Ave. Lot Sold to Developer


A large vacant lot on Grand Avenue in University Heights --  which has been home to nothing but vegetation for decades --  was sold to a developer earlier this month. Tibor and Judy Weiss accepted an offer from Bimod Realty two months ago for their own house and the adjacent four-lot property.

"It's going to be a big change," said Judy Weiss, 67, who is moving with her husband to Jersey City. "[We] took someone with a certain amount of vision, and the price was right." Though located in Manhattan, Bimod Realty has not developed properties in the city before, according to Department of Finance (DOF) records. Bimod also bought the house across from the Weiss' (2550 Grand Ave.), and a house down the street, which was damaged by a fire (2529 Grand Ave.), according to Weiss. While the owners couldn't be reached, residents looked like they were moving out of both properties. A large dumpster was filled with furniture next to 2550 Grand, and all the vegetation had been chopped down in front of 2529 Grand.

Though Weiss did not say when construction will begin, progress has already been made on the vacant lot --  which sits on a picturesque block of homes almost a century old, south of 192nd Street in the shadow of the Kingsbridge Armory. Earlier this month, the forest- like collection of trees was cut down and the grass mowed. "One day I came home and it was already like that," said Ruth Ginsberg, a resident of 190th Street, while looking at the tree trunks.

The property became overgrown over the years. "We had a holly tree as tall as the house," said Weiss, who wanted to preserve the plot for "ecological" reasons.

Not everyone admired its beauty. "It didn't really look like a nature preserve," said John Reilly, executive director of the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation, a nonprofit landlord. While it wasn't a dump, people used to throw stuff in the lot, Reilly said.

The Weisses first moved to 2549 Grand Ave. in 1969, and raised two children in the spacious 11-room house. They acquired the adjacent lots when the city put them up for auction in 1983, according to the DOF. While lot sizes vary extensively, the property is around 10,000 square feet according to set lot standards. "We got it for peanuts," Weiss said.

While the city was forced to give away Bronx property in the 1980s --  usually because the landlord failed to pay taxes --  space became a precious commodity beginning in the 1990s. "Every piece of property that once seemed marginal is now hot," Reilly said.

The expansive property first came to Reilly's attention when Fordham Bedford was taking inventory of local spaces where schools could be built. "There wasn't much [open space] then, and there's even less now," he said. But Weiss never put the property on the market, nor did she answer the hundreds of inquiries she got for it over the years.

Bimod Realty could not be reached for comment, and Weiss did not know what they planned to build on the lot, though she thought a community center would be a good idea. But the likelihood of a developer using the lot for public space is slim, according to Reilly.

While the immediate area is a slice of suburban charm, six-story buildings surround it in every direction. The lot is consequently zoned for mid-density residential use, like much of the northwest Bronx, and a developer could conceivably build a large apartment complex on it.

Monju Sarker of 190th Street didn't seem too thrilled about that idea. "It's a quiet and nice street," said Sarker, 37. "Putting a private house there would be good."

But given the market's demand, there's certainly a chance that a big building might end up there, according to Reilly. "We get calls on our apartment buildings constantly from brokers who are trying to get our land," he said. "We tell them to not call, but they just keep calling."

A developer recently bought, and cleared, a Grand Avenue lot that's been vacant for decades.

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