Three years ago Mike Hananel (green scarf), Chief Operating Officer of LA based Horizon Realty, purchased a substantial WNY real estate portfolio. One of the properties that Mike acquired happened to be The Lyndhaven – an apartment building built around the time of the Pan Am Expo. At the time, Mike was unaware that the occupants of the building consisted mainly of drug addicts and dealers. It was only a week after he first saw the complex that he found himself tagging along on a SWAT Team raid, which busted and cleared out a good number of the tenants. It was at that point that Mike made a vow to bring credibility back to the Johnson Park landmark.
Unfortunately it only took another week for one of the former tenants to break into the building, host a crack session, and torch an apartment. For three years that apartment has been a thorn in Mike’s side. While he began to refurbish the rest of the apartments, the thought of the burned out unit continued to haunt him. He knew that one day, when all of the rest of the units had been fixed up and rented, he would be faced with the most problematic task.
When Mike called me last week and asked if I wanted to come see something spectacular, I knew that that day had finally come. Mike told me that while he had been back in LA, his employees had come together to restore the burnt out apartment… on their own time. Led by Horizon’s chief maintenance man, Gurkan Nediceyuva (front and center), a Turkish born immigrant, the painstaking task was completed without Mike ever seeing any of the work.
Last night the Horizon employees threw a party to celebrate the completion of the renovation. It was a celebration that also marked the 100% occupancy of The Lyndhaven. At 6pm the team met in the building’s vestibule and led Mike up to see the transformation. Over the years I’ve become great friends with Mike and consider him an honorary Buffalonian. He knows more about this city (both good and bad) than most Buffalonians who have spent their entire lives here. I can’t imagine a better Thank You gift than what his employees gave him last night. Although Mike will ultimately pay for the work, he will recoup the investment in a relatively short period of time. The Lyndhaven is now home to a Buffalo police officer, college students and young professionals – a feat that Mike was told would be virtually impossible. He was warned that if he invested in the building he would never be able to rent it out to anybody who would want to pay more than a couple hundred bucks a month. That didn’t stop him from investing $150,000 into the building.
Mike is now prepared to invest another $187,000 into The Lyndhaven. Thanks to the NYSERDA energy program, the building will be getting a new roof, an updated boiler system and 200 energy efficient windows. Out of the original 33 unit occupants, only one resident stayed on board… the rest of the residents are new to the building. The Lyndhaven has become a huge success story in the Johnson Park neighborhood. It just goes to show that if you believe in the city (instead of the hype), the city can be kind in return. If Mike had listened to the naysayers, The Lyndhaven might still be a crack building to this day. Instead, Mike has found dedicated employees who appreciate his devotion to the city. Sometimes doing the right thing can be contagious.