By: Yitzhak Graff  | 

A Dorm? A Demolition? The Saga of 2461 Amsterdam Avenue

As the academic year begins and we students return, we are greeted by branding in the forms of banners, flags and posters covering the walls of the YU campuses. An attentive student on the Wilf Campus could notice that the banners covering the fence around parking lot E extend to the fence surrounding the neighboring property, 2461 Amsterdam Avenue. Peeking behind the banner, between the slats of the fence, they would see a pile of rubble covering the vacant lot. A review of Google street view images reveals that as recently as 2021, a six story apartment building once stood there.

Yeshiva University’s involvement with 2461 Amsterdam Avenue dates back to 1984. On September 4, 1984, a Great Neck based real estate developer named Richard Parkoff purchased the apartment building that once stood there. The very next day, Parkoff and YU signed an agreement over this property. Under this agreement, YU would have the right of first refusal to lease or purchase the property. This agreement was extended in 1991 to allow YU take over Parkoff’s mortgage if he would default, though he never did.

In 2001, YU received a $60 million DASNY bond to fund several projects of acquiring and renovating several properties on the school’s campuses. 2461 Amsterdam Avenue was one of the properties listed for purchase. The Commentator noticed this at the time and optimistically declared that the Washington Heights campus would be getting a new dorm in the near future, though they were not able to get confirmation of this from anyone in the administration.

Though YU had the funds to purchase the building in 2001, the transaction did not take place until six years later. On January 22, 2007, the 2461 Amsterdam Avenue I LLC, a corporation owned by YU, purchased the property at 2461 Amsterdam Avenue for $3.2 million. Within the next few years YU vacated the 6-story building. The exact timeline is not completely clear. The last signs of definite habitation of the building are from 2005, when the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) filed its last violation on the property that indicated a tenant was living in the building. The HPD profile of the building records that the first floor windows and basement door to the building were sealed in 2009 and the Google street view from 2011 shows that the entrance to the building was boarded up. Without any tenants, the University appears to have forgone maintenance. In 2012, a Department of Buildings (DOB) inspector fined YU $1000 for having a decaying cornice on the building, which could present a hazard to people walking by. In 2014, another inspector fined YU $500 for pieces of the façade that were pulling away from the building.

The most significant consequence of the building’s neglect came on August 7, 2017 when the building suffered a structural failure. The roof partially collapsed bringing pieces of the top three stories down with it. The debris settled on the third floor.

Someone nearby must have heard what was going on and called the Fire department who issued an immediate vacate order and notified the DOB emergency response team. They arrived an hour later and inspected the damage, fining YU $1000 and ordering it to fix the building and make it code compliant.

In November and December 2017, the DOB issued YU two more fines, $800 each for failing to make the building code compliant. YU filed for a permit to demolish the building in January 2018, though the demolition was only cleared to commence in 2020.

In 2020, the building was ranked as having the second most open HPD violations of any building in Manhattan. The vast majority of the violations dated back to when the building was occupied with tenants before YU owned the building. Since none of the violations had been remedied, they remained open. All the violations were cleared when the building was demolished.

Looking forward, it’s not known what YU will do with this vacant property beyond using its fence as a place to hang YU branded banners. In a press release from 2015, former President Richard Joel announced plans to work with NGKF Capital Markets (since rebranded to Newmark) to redevelop YU’s properties around Parking Lot E, including 2461 Amsterdam Avenue. Time has yet to show any development from this arrangement.

Though we students experience YU as the school that we attend, the flagship Modern Orthodox institution is also a landlord for several properties in Washington Heights. The school's management of this particular property at 2461 Amsterdam Avenue is perplexing. Not only is it a loss of housing stock in the neighborhood, it is likely a financial loss for the university. The property seems to have been bought with borrowed DASNY money that continues to accrue interest as it gets carried over into larger bonds. The deterioration and subsequent demolition of the building have certainly caused the value of the property to drop significantly. Without any concrete plans to rehabilitate the property, the $3.2 million dollars spent on its purchase will continue to accrue interest without producing any income to offset it.

A bibliography of sources can be found here:


Photo Caption: 2461 Amsterdam now

Photo Credit: Elishama Marmon / The Commentator