A handful of crumbling buildings on Kelly Street in the South Bronx are once again in need of rehabilitation. For Harry De Rienzo, the broken windows, moldy rooms and halls filled with garbage are reminiscent of what the buildings looked like close to 35 years ago when he organized the Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, which renovated three buildings on the street and started his career in providing housing for poor and working people. Now, De Rienzo is back again, trying to save 920 Kelly Street and four neighboring buildings, which are considered among the city’s worst, with more than 2,000 housing code violations between them, according to the New York Times.
De Rienzo and others worry that the buildings’ state of disrepair may be a sign of trouble for the South Bronx and beyond. These buildings were once passed back and forth among landlords and banks. However, since the housing bust, the properties have fallen into financial limbo, with many owners unable to pay for the mortgage or repairs. While city records identify John Abraham as the owner of the buildings, no deed can be found in his name. Ridgewood Savings Bank holds a $5 million mortgage on the buildings and has started foreclosure proceedings. De Rienzo said he would try to force the bank to either repair the buildings or assign ownership to his community group. The city, which continues to make repairs, is now in discussion with Banana Kelly to see if the group can take over the buildings and coordinate the loan and repair programs. [NYT]