Langston Hughes' Harlem Brownstone Back on the Market
By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — The East Harlem brownstone that poet Langston Hughes called home has been through several brokers and has been put on and pulled off the market more than once over the past few years. But the home's new broker, Michael Pellegrino of Sotheby's International Realty is hoping that the house will sell to a "restoration-minded buyer" now that a tax issue with the city is being resolved.
Pelligrino said the taxes on the landmarked house, now listed at more than $17,000 per year, were too high because the city had the home listed as an income-producing property that brought in at least $100,000 per year. The brownstone, now listed at $1 million, down from $1.2 million, was recently pulled off the market while the owner resolved the issue, Pelligrino said.
"We listed it and then we took it off temporarily because the owner was doing some work to get the taxes reduced," said Pelligrino. "Now we are able to show it."
The four-story brownstone at 20 E. 127th St. between Fifth and Madison avenues went back on the market on September 22, according to StreetEasy. The home has five bedrooms and four bathrooms and is located on a lot with room for expansion, said Pelligrino. Photos show ceiling and wall mouldings.
"It's such a magnificent piece of real estate that has kept its integrity. We are hoping to find someone to restore it back to the original state and possibly enlarge it," Pelligrino said.
Pelligrino said that the brownstone was simply "overpriced for the market," especially since it needs a complete renovation.
"We have a long reach here and a lot of Europeans are interested in the property," said Pelligrino.
Willie Kathryn Suggs, who owns a brokerage of the same name that specializes in Harlem real estate, said that an all-cash deal for the house is probably the best option. Buyer will likely need enough money on hand to deal with issues such as the cost of renovation. Buyers may also need to purchase a certificate of non-harassment, or proof from the city's department of Housing Preservation and Development that confirms that no tenants were harassed over the course of the past three years in order to drive them out and vacate the property.
"Homes like that, even though they have a famous history, if the house is in need of renovation — and that house needs medical attention — you need an all cash buyer. You pray for someone with $1 million laying aroung in China or Russia and then none of those issues matter," Suggs said.
Hughes purchased the house in 1947 with close friends Toy and Emerson Harper, the Village Voice reported. When Hughes died in 1967, the Harpers maintaned Hughes' ownership stake in the house. A physician, Beverly Prince, and her then-husband, purchased the house in 1985. Price was involved in a lawsuit with some renters of the space who wanted to start a nonprofit foundation there.
Today, residents of the block said they hope the house sells and is occupied soon.
"That could become an eyesore," said a man who identified himself as Frankie and said he grew up in the brownstone next door. He said he was amazed at the asking price.
"I wouldn't buy anything for $1 million. If I had $1 million I would quit my job," he said.
Neighbor Woody Granville, 73, a retired factory worker, was sweeping leaves from in front of the three or four brownstones near the Hughes house.
"I read about the house," he said. "This is a nice, quiet block — sometimes."
Suggs said she hopes the price doesn't undergo further cuts because it could affect the overall brownstone and townhouse market in Harlem.
"I hope they hold firm. Once that house is done it's a house for the ages because of the importance of Langston Hughes. It's like visiting Shakespear's house at Stratford-on-Avon," said Suggs.
"Every year it sits empty is not good. A house like that needs to be lived in," she added.