Bronx Albanians - Photo by Marino Belich, 2009

Bronx Albanians - Photo by Marino Belich, 2009

There were several waves of Albanian migration to the USA in the recent times. The first wave, mainly from Montenegro happend in the 1960s, while the second wave came in the late 1980s when Albanians were persecuted by the Serbs in Kosovo.

The Albanians who migrated in New Yourk started out as building caretakers and some of today’s major Albanian landlords took over rental apartments in the 1970s in the dark days of the Bronx when the economy was very weak. Albanian caretakers started to buy buildings from their landlors at very cheap prices from $5,000 to $20,000 more than the mortgage.

In recent decades American Albanians have bought hundreds of properties and many raise money to buy these building from within the community.

Henry Djonbalaj, a broker and property owner whose father arrived in 1970 from Montenegro said: “”In the Bronx, like on Pelham Parkway, most of the buildings, if they come on the market, [the Albanians] are the first to buy it.”

Some of the prominent Albanian owners include Douglas Celaj, Deda Gjonaj and Anthony Gazivoda, many with hundreds of apartment units in their portfolios.

Marco Lala, an investment broker with Marcus & Milli-chap, said that his father, who escaped from communist Albania owned a property in Bronx and felt obliged to help other Albanians to buy buildings.

Lala tells the story how his father heard about an Albanian caretaker who was sent to jail after killing an intruder and once he was released he was jobless.

“My father thought this was preposterous,” Lala said. “He led a group to raise about $40,000 so that this guy could actually buy his own building and give himself a job!”