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A Lifelong Queens Resident Finds High Ground In The Bronx

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The parlor floor entry opens right into the living area. Haynes says he regrets ripping out the entry vestibule, but with a townhouse that's only 16.5 feet wide, it made the space feel too cramped.
The parlor floor entry opens right into the living area. Haynes says he regrets ripping out the entry vestibule, but with a townhouse that's only 16.5 feet wide, it made the space feel too cramped.

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[David Haynes and his daughter, Kayla, pose in front of one of the house's original bronze fireplaces. All photos by Max Touhey.]

"Howard Beach just got destroyed by the storm," David Haynes says from the open living room of his 125-year-old Mott Haven townhouse. He's recalling the late October days, three years ago now, that would unmoor him from the Queens neighborhood he grew up in, and in which he'd started to raise his own family. The storm brought trouble, and lots of it, to the Hayneses. Their basement flooded; water seeped into the high hats. When things dried out, Haynes brought the house's utilities back up to speed, but that was about it. "Mentally, we just checked out after Sandy," he says. That someone came along last year and bought the storm-battered house without seeking a home inspection remains a miracle, and the catalyst for the Haynes family's fresh start—in the Bronx.


[A look inside the townhouse mid-renovation. Images courtesy of David Haynes.]

As a home flipper, Haynes primarily looks for properties that are cheap. But he found that and more in the Mott Haven townhouse he and his family now reside in. Haynes initially purchased the 1889-built townhouse for $185,000 with plans to renovate it into a multi-family property. But after visiting the house a few times and chatting with the neighbors, Haynes decided that the townhouse was presenting an opportunity that was too good to pass up. So he gathered the crew he contracts and stuck them on the house, and in July, the Hayneses left Queens and moved into the gut-renovated South Bronx digs.

The house had undergone years of neglect before Haynes purchased it. At that, not a whole lot was salvageable but for the parlor floor's two bronze fireplaces—stamped with the year of the house's construction—and the house's original doorbell, still operable by twisting a small knob on the door's exterior. That the Hayneses would leave one wreck of a house for the next may seem odd, but the Mott Haven house presented an amenity the family hadn't had before: accessibility to Manhattan. "We're city people," both Haynes and his daughter repeat time and time again. Haynes says he can be in Central Park in just nine minutes by bike, in Astoria in 10 minutes by car, and back in Howard Beach in 40. "This is way more convenient for our lifestyle."

Beyond the convenience, Haynes fell in love with the street. "The marathon went right by here," he says pointing through one of the house's front windows, "It was like a big party." Haynes says the area has a genuine sense of community. Despite, he's not sure how long the family will stay put. It doesn't come as a surprise that Haynes, who tackles a handful of projects a year, might be the restless type. But for now, he says, the Bronx is good. Really good.


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· House Calls archive [Curbed]