Harry De Rienzo is trying to rehabilitate some of the city's worst buildings to provide more housing for a troubled neighborhood.
"In the feverish real estate speculation of the past decade, buildings like these were passed back and forth among landlords and banks. But since the bubble burst, the properties have fallen into financial limbo; many owners cannot keep up on mortgage payments, much less repairs.
'This is a real big problem,' said Mr. De Rienzo, 57, a plain-spoken, streetwise New Yorker who is now chief executive of Banana Kelly. 'They thought they could always cash out their equity and flip the property. But when the recession hit, that kind of predatory investing stopped - and the tenants got stuck.'"