The report found that the phenomenon of two or more smaller apartments being combined to make one bigger living space has cost the city over 100,000 housing units since the 1950s. The overall number of apartments in the city has grown since then, but it has not kept up with the pace of population growth and housing demand in the city, according to the report.
The trend is among the many reasons New York has a severe lack of housing supply, and why some neighborhoods, such as the wealthy Upper West Side, contribute less new housing stock to the city than others.
According to the research cited in the article, while 3,000 units of new housing were added in the community district which includes the Upper East Side between 2010 and 2021, about 2,000 units were lost through the consolidation of apartments. Another 1,000 or so were lost to demolition.
Among the examples cited in the article is the Greenwich Village townhouse where the actress Brooke Shields lives. While it was originally built as a single-family home, it was later converted to an 8-unit apartment building, until Shields purchased it and repurposed it back to a single-family home.
The report also cited 12 East 72nd Street on the Upper East Side, which at one point contained 23 different apartments. In 2002, the building was purchased for $5.5 million by Steve Croman, a landlord infamous for his aggressive treatment of tenants.
Over the course of four years, Croman evicted some tenants and persuaded others to leave until the building had been emptied out and Croman turned it into a single-family dwelling for himself and his family.
Croman landed in prison in 2017 for grand larceny and other felony charges.
Adam Brodheim, a preservationist who conducted the research cited in the Times article, said he wasn’t opposed to people growing their apartments to accommodate their families, and that it wouldn’t be an issue if the city did a better job of adding more housing stock.
“It’s not a problem if you were building a lot of new housing,” he said.