James D. Harmon jr. and his wife Jeanne Harmon sold their five (5) story, seven (7) unit, 6,272 square foot, townhouse (or “Maison” as Harmons’ grandfather would call it) 32 West 76th Street in June of this year for $10,000,000 to a French investment banker. The Harmon family owned the townhouse since 1949.
What’s astonishing about this sale price is that out of the seven units, there are three occupied rent regulated units in the building! The rent regulated units are all one bedroom apartments and located on the second floor rear (2R), third floor front (3F), and fourth floor front (4F). In 2011, The New York Times reported the regulated rents recorded in the lawsuit were $1,298.24, $951.22, and $908.72 respectively. Today, those rents have not changed much. The tenants occupying these rent regulated units lived in the building for over 30 years for a total of, what Mr. Harmon calls “90 tenant years.”
In the Upper West Side, market rates for one bedroom apartments in townhouses range from about $2,500-$3,000 depending on their condition and size. Not all one bedroom units have the same square footage.
Mr. Harmon, an attorney who served as chief counsel to President Reagans’ Commission on organized crime and a former New York Federal Prosecutor, challenged the constitutionality of his family having to subsidize these regulated tenants especially when the tenants can afford to pay market rate rents. Mr. Harmon contended that New York City’s rent regulation laws violated the fifth amendment of his constitutional rights by taking his property without just compensation. Two lower courts ruled in favor of the rent stabilization law stating that the rent stabilization law did not constitute a taking because it did not stop Mr. Harmon from living in or renting the subject property, which prompted Mr. Harmon to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.
The United States Supreme Court decided not to hear the case which is the same as upholding the decision of the lower courts.