Photo: eggrole via flickr
We were in Harlem, looking for an apartment, when we ran headlong into evidence of the New York City drug game.The broker met up with us outside an apartment complex. He had a trainee with him. The trainee was rather soft spoken, clean cut and nondescript, but the broker was this jumpy, excitable character, a Queens-born Italian, and the type of guy who shakes your hand with two hands, and says stuff about Harlem like, “This area is really … you know … conducive,” (emphasis on the ‘D’).
Inside the building the first available elevator was packed. Showing his lack of experience, the trainee squeezed in and then looked back at us. The three of us didn’t even make a move.
“It’s alright, we’ll meet you up there,” says the broker. Then as the doors shut completely, he continued, “Hey, and make sure the door is open! Call me if it’s not open!”
We caught the next elevator and headed up.
Once inside the apartment it didn’t take a detective to figure out someone left in a hurry. The whole place seemed as if it was left as is. Stereo equipment was not only left in place, it was still on. Hip-Hop music played at elevator levels through an obviously very expensive surround sound system.
On the far wall there was an HD-digital projector, mounted above two used and abused leather couches. There was a half-eaten meal sitting in styrofoam on the table; beside it sat an unused razor blade.
“You turn on the music?” I asked the trainee.
Back near the bedrooms was the big reveal. The smell lingered right beyond the rust-coloured sheet that hung from the hallway ceiling—the smell of a formerly gigantic pot operation.
Inside the biggest “bedroom” was about a dozen large plant pots, big stems cut, but soil left in place. The window was jerry-rigged with two-by-fours and duck tape so that no light would enter. The ceiling had multiple screws in it, for the lights and hydroponics equipment left lying piled on the floor. The guy even left five pairs of brand new shoes in the closet.
The light switch in other bedroom didn’t work and the room also had a non-window. It did have some sort of ventilation system attached to the wall.
Back out in the living room we just sat, somewhat in disbelief. One sofa faced the projector screen while the other faced a Godfather poster that hung over the kitchen table.
“I can’t take pictures of this,” the broker said. “We’d need the landlord to get all the stuff out of here.”
We concluded the former occupant probably left in a hurry. That’s when we really started to look around. Most of what was in the black plastic garbage bags in the closet was electronic hydroponic equipment.
“Efficient watering system for extra huge harvests!” Exclaimed one unopened box.
We didn’t rent the place. We didn’t take any photos either.
We’re kicking ourselves now (about the photos), but at the time it all just seemed too bizarre. Even the fast-talking broker, born and raised in Queens, was at a loss for words.
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