Waterbridge Capital Pays $37 M. for East Harlem Development Site

Waterbridge Capital is in contract to purchase three contiguous properties located at the southeast corner of 125th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem for $36.8 million – across the street from Bruce Eichner’s planned 80/20 residential project at 1800 Park Avenue.

125The properties, at 1815 Park Avenue, 1801 Park Avenue, and 110 East 125th Street, combine for a gross buildable area of approximately 210,220 square feet, and development plans call for a mega retail center with a high-rise residential condominium.

“We were very successful in assembling a five parcel mega site with measurements that are not comparable to any other site along the 125thStreet corridor, aside from Vornado’s recent sale across the street at 1800 Park Avenue,” said Lenny Sporn, who represented both sides of the transaction with Ariel Tavivian and Yair Tavivian, who make up the Tavivian Sporn Team at Douglas Elliman.

Mr. Eichner’s site, purchased for $65 million plus conditional brownfield credits, will include 70,000 square feet of retail space.

“We’re expecting a complete change in the climate along 125th Street,” Mr. Sporn said, noting the need in the area for a mega retailer in the vein of Macy’s – which is rumored to be looking along 125th Street.

“This could be an amazing space for something like that,” he added, though the site might incorporate everything from retail to office space, affordable housing to condominiums.

The portfolio is centrally located just by the 125th Street subway station for the 4, 5 and 6 trains as well as the 2 and 3 trains, providing both east and west side access. Also nearby are new neighborhood additions Red Rooster and Sylvia’s Soul Food, along with Raymour & Flanigan and The Apollo Theater.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.

By Al Barbarino 12/19 7:30am

Harlem business owners say National Urban League will put them on the street

Civil rights group plans big building for housing, headquarters and a museum  about The Struggle. But locals are worried about their own struggle.

Massamakam Tounkara, owner of Kaarta Imports, fears he may lose the space he has rented for 20 years if the National Urban League moves forward with its development project.

Massamakam Tounkara, owner of Kaarta Imports, fears he may lose the space he has rented for 20 years if the National Urban League moves forward with its development project.

A world renowned civil rights group’s plan to turn a row of small businesses  in Harlem into a lustrous new headquarters and black history museum would  trample on the very small business owners whose life stories could themselves be  in the museum, foes say.

The plan by the National Urban League – backed by Gov. Cuomo and Mayor  Bloomberg – would replace an underutilized parking lot and a string of  businesses on 125th St. between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Malcolm X boulevards  with a 400,000-square-foot, $225 million complex comprising a new HQ for the  progressive group, housing, the city’s first civil rights museum, and retail  space for national chain stores.

But it’s all built on the backs of some longtime businessmen and women who staked their lives on the once-seedy strip.

The National Urban League has its own vision for a new headquarters at 121 W. 125th St.

The National Urban League has its own vision for a new headquarters at 121 W. 125th St.

“These are decent hard-working entrepreneurs who have invested in this  neighborhood when no one else would … and now they’re going to be treated like  used Dixie cups?” said state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem).

The business owners say they were offered help to relocate and were invited to apply for a $250,000 loan, but they don’t want to leave.

“It was a blessing for us thinking we made it to 125th St., our mecca,” said  Joseph “Joe Fish” Benbow, manager of the family-owned restaurant Fishers of Men  II, which opened on the Main Street of Black America six years ago. “My dream  was to be here and finish the race with my family.”

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By      / NEW YORK DAILY  NEWS

It’s Official: Harlem Needs More Hotel Rooms

victoriatheatreharlemAfter years of red tape, a new development at the site of Harlem’s old Victoria Theater on 125th Street finally got the go-ahead earlier this year. Danforth Development Partners and Exact Capital have enlisted  Aufgang & Subotovsky architects to design a major mixed-use project that will include a cultural arts center, retail space, 229 apartment units, and a 210-room Cambria Suites hotel.

Construction was said to be starting around now, but when we stopped by the other day it was difficult to gauge what, if anything, was going on behind that facade. The complex certainly will see a lot of work before it rises to its slated 26 stories — completion date is penciled in for June 2016.

In timely news, at the Harlem Hospitality and Culinary Conference last week, DNAinfo reports, Curtis Archer, president of the Harlem Community Development Corporation, said a study his group paid for showed that Harlem was short by 1,500 hotel rooms, and that even future growth in the hotel industry doesn’t match demand. We’d certainly agree; Harlem is a great area but, besides the Aloft Harlem a couple of blocks from the Victoria, there’s nothing for visitors who might want to spend the night here — after an evening at, say, The Apollo Theater.

While we’re certainly pleased to hear that the new Cambria Suites will absorb a fraction of that unmet hotel room need, we would love it if we could get a few of the hipper brands uptown too. With all of the culture and history on offer in Harlem, how about a funky boutique chain that would honor the location? A Kimpton Hotel, perhaps, even a reasonably priced Hotel Indigo; or how about Ace Hotels bringing their live music series up to Harlem?

We may be dreaming, but are seriously in agreement about the need for more Harlem hotel options. The area deserves more than just a passing visit.

Midweek November rates at the Aloft Harlem start at $239.

October 30, 2013 at 8:47 AM | by

Faster bus service coming to Harlem after all

Just three months after New York City’s transportation department nixed a plan to bring faster buses to Harlem’s 125th Street corridor, the plan has been resurrected.

In a press release to reporters sent late Friday afternoon, the D.O.T. announced that the new service will launch in April 2014, “speeding the commutes of more than 30,000 bus passengers who travel on 125th Street routes daily.”

125th Street Joseph A via Flickr

125th Street Joseph A via Flickr

“Using dedicated bus lanes, consolidated stops and allowing passengers to pay before boarding the bus, the streamlined service will improve one of the borough’s most-used local bus routes, reducing congestion and providing faster, more reliable connections throughout Harlem and with LaGuardia Airport,” says the release.

Earlier this month, I reported that local leaders were hoping the plan would be resurrected before the end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure.

“We still have until late December, right?” State Senator Adriano Espaillat told me at the time. “This is just one more item. And starting it now is probably not a bad thing, particularly before the holiday season, when you have a lot of shoppers who want to buy on what is a very busy commercial artery.”

Here’s the full release:

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast and State Sen. Bill Perkins today announced that M60 Select Bus Service (SBS) will launch in April 2014, speeding the commutes of more than 30,000 bus passengers who travel on 125th Street routes daily. Using dedicated bus lanes, consolidated stops and allowing passengers to pay before boarding the bus, the streamlined service will improve one of the borough’s most-used local bus routes, reducing congestion and providing faster, more reliable connections throughout Harlem and with LaGuardia Airport. DOT and MTA conducted more than 50 meetings with the community and elected officials over the last year, and following extensive outreach to address specific concerns with the community this summer, the project is now proceeding with support from local elected officials, including Sen. Perkins, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. DOT also announced streetscape improvements planned for 125th Street, including the planned installation of the city’s first City Lights—62 attractive and energy-efficient new LED street lights from Morningside Avenue to Fifth Avenue using $500,000 in funding from Assembly Member Keith Wright. The project will also bring the City’s new pedestrian way finding system to 125th Street, with maps at all 12 SBS stations, and equipped with real-time bus arrival information and new parking spaces will be established along parts of 124th and 126th streets. DOT and MTA will continue to advise the community and inform them of details as the project moves forward.

“With new businesses and historic destinations drawing record numbers of visitors to the heart of Harlem, 125th Street has never been more dynamic, yet congestion has kept buses at a standstill,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “By bringing dedicated bus lanes and speeding up boarding times, SBS will provide a lifeline to thousands of residents and visitors and bring world-class streetscapes to one of the world’s most famous streets.”

“The 125th Street corridor is a vital thoroughfare for Harlem residents and businesses alike,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “I’m glad we will be able to improve service for our customers while still maintaining commercial loading zones for businesses in the area.  Select Bus Service will speed up bus service by as much as 20 percent on the M60 where half of the route’s  boardings and alightings happen right on 125th Street.”

“I am happy to announce Select Bus Service will come to the 125th Street corridor after a thorough community task force vetting which included the residents, businesses, disabled communities and the local community boards,” said Senator Perkins. “I am satisfied that this a service that will be of benefit to the community and look forward to its successful use by my constituents and the community at large. However, the task force and I will continue to monitor its progress and share input with DOT as this service moves forward.”

“I’m very pleased that the DOT has been able to bring a home a project we’ve long awaited,” said Assembly Member Wright. “The new lighting, the first of its kind in New York City, will bring much added value to the commerce along our busy corridor. The 125th Street BID, led by Barbara Askins, deserves to be commended for its perseverance.”

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It’s Harlem of the future — Bloomberg style

Mayor envisions destinations for tourists, tech geeks and science nerds.  Residents and some pols fear more gentrification.

Is this a scene from the Meatpacking District? No, it’s how the intersection Amsterdam Ave. near W. 125th St. will look within the next decade, according to developer Janus Property Company.

Is this a scene from the Meatpacking District? No, it’s how the intersection Amsterdam Ave. near W. 125th St. will look within the next decade, according to developer Janus Property Company.

A new “Grand Central Station” for Harlem. A biotech center. A jazz museum. A  new home for a national civil rights organization. A massive brewery and  pub.

It’s all part of Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for 125th St. — circa 2025.

The Bloomberg administration hand-picked developers to move into empty  city-owned eyesores in hopes of turning the Main Street of Black America into a  cross between Silicon Valley and Manhattan’s chic Meatpacking District.
The National Urban League has its own vision for a new headquarters at 121 W. 125th St.

The National Urban League has its own vision for a new headquarters at 121 W. 125th St.

Mega-developer Scott Metzner, head of Janus Property Company, beat out 16  competitors in the bidding war for one of the biggest projects — converting the  dilapidated 280,000-square-foot former Taystee Bakery factory into a new-age  home for startups, eateries and shops.

“It’s Harlem’s turn to move into the 21st century,” said Metzner.

Janus is spending around $500 million on 11 buildings between Amsterdam Ave.  and Morningside Ave. — part of an effort to turn west Harlem’s so-called  “Factory District” into a mini-Dumbo.

“For the first time in 100 years this will be an active neighborhood again,”  Metzner said.

The Metro-North station on 125th St. is a mess. The city envisions a “Grand Central Station” for uptown.

The Metro-North station on 125th St. is a mess. The city envisions a “Grand Central Station” for uptown.

The “Factory District” idea came from a 2008 rezoning of the 125th St.  allowing the construction of towering condo and office buildings in lieu of  low-rise mom-and-pop shops.

Then the city’s Economic Development Corporation decided which abandoned  properties could serve as upper Manhattan’s startup meccas.

“Harlem’s growth and evolution will ensure it becomes one of New York City’s  premier destinations for generations to come,” said Economic Development  Corporation President Kyle Kimball. “The arts, culture, science and industrial  sectors of Harlem will continue to thrive.”

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East Harlem Merchants to Pay Homeless to Tackle 125th St. Trash Problem

New East Harlem Merchants Association Trash Plan

New East Harlem Merchants Association Trash Plan

HARLEM — For more than a decade, neighbors have complained about the hundreds of homeless people who gather at a bus stop at Lexington Avenue and 125th Street to commute to shelters on Ward’s Island, blaming them for contributing to the garbage overflowing from the trash cans.

Now a Harlem business improvement district is hoping to employ some of the 700 to 900 homeless people who ride the M35 bus to help clean up the mess, recruiting local property owners to contribute to a fund to pay them to keep the area clean.

Kwanza Smith, executive director of the New East Harlem Merchants Association, has reached out to the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless to develop a program to hire homeless men to clean the area. When she brought the executive director of ACE New York to the corner he said it was one of the filthiest he had ever seen, Smith said.

“We are sensitive to the fact that these men are homeless. We want a plan for them,” Smith said.

The goal is to raise $75,000 to employ eight people to clean the area between Fifth and Second avenues, between 124th and 126th streets, five days a week.

So far, the association has raised almost $16,000 with an online fundraiser and by reaching out to local businesses, asking them to donate $3,000 a piece.

Property owners such as Artimus, 125th Street Gateway Ventures —  for whom Smith works — Wild Olive Market, Blumenfeld Development Group and the Northern Manhattan Nursing Home have contributed to the fund.

Despite tremendous development in the area, including a Pathmark and co-ops, cleanliness has not kept pace with the improvements. A recent cleanup effort by 60 volunteers collected 50 bags of garbage filled with food containers, paper and cigarette butts.

“This has been going on for years. People who walk up this street feel like the neighborhood is one big trash can,” Smith as she stood next to one of the overflowing trash cans. “We’ve had all this development over the past 10 years so this area shouldn’t look like this.”

Kwanza Smith, executive director of the New East Harlem Merchants Association, knows that by the time sanitation trucks ...

Kwanza Smith, executive director of the New East Harlem Merchants Association, knows that by the time sanitation trucks …

At 3:30 p.m. on a recent afternoon the four trash cans at the corners of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street were all filled to the brim. Smith warned that by the time sanitation trucks arrived the next day, the trash would be blowing around the streets.

“Today isn’t even that bad,” Smith said.

The merchants association is also trying to get more frequent trash pick-ups and larger trash cans.

The neighboring BID, the 125th Street Business Improvement District, has street cleaners, but its boundary ends at Fifth Avenue. The group is in the planning phases of  a river-to-river expansion, said President and CEO Barbara Askins.

Askins said having a cleaning crew has made a big difference further west on 125th Street.

“This is a step in the right direction because businesses want to see an organized effort to address the problem,” Askins said. “People are not willing to invest in an area that is dirty.”

When a pizzeria at the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street closed recently, Smith said a conversation with the owner revealed that the trash and general environment of the area contributed to their departure.

“It’s hard to maintain a business on this end of 125th Street,” she said.

By Jeff Mays on September 23, 2013 6:48am | Updated on September 23, 2013 6:48am

Joe’s Crab Shack to open first city location in Harlem on July 30

Joe’s Crab Shack, a Texas-based chain, is coming to Harlem. What’s next, Red Lobster? Actually, that’s not a joke. Red Lobster is coming next.

Harlem is about to go on a seafood diet.

jcspolesignlogoJoe’s Crab Shack will open July 30 on W. 125th and Frederick Douglass Blvd., the first city location for the Texas-based, national seafood chain known for its buckets of southern-style crab and lobster bakes.

The first 100 piscivores through the door at the opening will get free crabs for a year. And one lucky diner will get the biggest catch: free crabs for life.

 The grand opening will double as a fundraiser. Joe’s patrons who donate to Autism Speaks will get coupons for key lime pie, crab nachos or the Classic Steampot redeemable on a future visit.

Joe’s is the most recent big chain to drop anchor uptown, following Designer Shoe Warehouse, Blink Fitness, and Whole Foods.

And Red Lobster plans to open next to the Apollo Theater, though its opening date remains unannounced.

For now, Joe’s is the only big fish plying Harlem’s waters — and the restaurant’s president is looking forward to taking the uptown plunge.

“Harlem is such a vibrant neighborhood,” said Jim Mazany. “We can’t wait to bring Joe’s brand of excitement — along with great southern seafood — to the area.”

Joe’s Crab Shack, 2349 Frederick Douglass Blvd. and 125th St. in Harlem, (212) 222-0445, opening July 30, 11 a.m.-midnight. For info, visit http://www.joescrabshack.com.

By / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/joe-crab-shack-open-harlem-article-1.1406735#ixzz2a1AaGZsb

‘Emergency’ meeting set for May 23 to brief Harlem on proposed DOT plans for 125th St. bus routes

Plans call for addition of bus lanes, subtraction of some stops, signals set to speed buses and parking restrictions to be altered

M60 buses are stopped along 125th St. more than 60% of the time, according to city statistics; at times, they crawl along as slowly as 2.7 mph. That’s slower than the average pedestrian. Proposed changes would make the route 10-15% faster from end-to-end, the city Department of Transportation says.

M60 buses are stopped along 125th St. more than 60% of the time, according to city statistics; at times, they crawl along as slowly as 2.7 mph. That’s slower than the average pedestrian. Proposed changes would make the route 10-15% faster from end-to-end, the city Department of Transportation says.

SOME BUS stops could be eliminated along 125th St. in Harlem. Dedicated bus lanes could be added, commercial loading could be restricted and signals could be set to help buses spend less time idling at red lights.

Those are just some of the changes being proposed by the city Department of Transportation to ease congestion along Harlem’s busiest corridor as the strip braces for the large scale redevelopment that’s in the works from river to river.

Residents and business owners are being asked to attend an “emergency town hall meeting” next Thursday, where they will be briefed on the proposed changes by DOT Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione.

“We are having this meeting to make sure the community fully knows what’s at stake,” said state Sen. Bill Perkins, whose office is holding the meeting along with Community Boards 9, 10, 11 and 12 and the 125th St. Business Improvement District.

“We want to make sure this is properly vetted by the constituents,” Perkins added. “ . . . decisions are being made, and your input is needed. Your daily life will be better or worse.”

Among the proposed changes are modifications to the M60 line, the area’s busiest route.

The M60 bus line would be “upgraded” to Select Bus Service, which would add off-board fare payment and dedicated bus lanes, limit the number of stops and introduce transit signal priority to reduce the time buses stop at a red light.

More than 9,700 of the 32,000 daily riders along 125th St. use the M60, making it the busiest route along Harlem’s main east-west thoroughfare.

Ridership statistics provided by the city also show the M60 buses are stopped more than 60% of the time; at times, the bus crawls along as slowly as 2.7 mph. That’s slower than the average pedestrian.

The changes would be make the route 10-15% faster from end-to-end, and 15-20% faster from 125th St. and Lexington Ave. to LaGuardia Airport.

Residents queried by the Daily News said they’d more than welcome any change that improved the speed of their commute.

Ruth Rayford, 82, who was waiting for a bus Thursday on W. 125th St. near Lenox Ave., agreed that Harlem’s most traveled strip can be a headache.

“It is congested,” said the Washington Heights resident. “I remember years ago, it wasn’t congested like this. There could be some improvements made.”

Shawnette Scott, 39, who was also waiting for the bus, questioned whether the proposed changes to the bus service would completely alleviate the congestion.

“That’s not going to stop the traffic,” the Harlem resident said. “I don’t think the bus stops are the problem. . . The buses stop where they are supposed to, and keep it moving.”

She said the congestion is just the result of 125th St. being heavily traveled and booming with businesses, comparing it to 34th and 42nd Sts. in midtown Manhattan.

Other proposed changes include cameras to capture vehicles illegally traveling or standing in a bus lane; changes to parking in the area; and limits on commercial loading.

The meeting will be held at the United House of Prayer for All People, located at 2320 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (between 124th and 125th Sts.) at 6:30 p.m. People are asked to RSVP by calling (212) 222-7315.

mfeeney@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/emergency-town-hall-meeting-set-unspool-bus-125th-st-article-1.1346567#ixzz2Tg3ZrnUi

LGBTQ youth center relocates to Harlem

The famed Ali Forney Center (AFC) now calls Harlem home. The center, which serves homeless LGBTQ youth, moved to its current location on 125th Street near St. Nicolas Avenue in December after its Chelsea drop-in center was ruined by Hurricane Sandy.

The center is named after the late Ali Forney, a Black gay and transgender youth who was murdered in 1997 in Harlem at age 22. His murder remains unsolved. Forney was an advocate for homeless gay youth, having been homeless himself at one time. His murder was one of several that remained unsolved among transgender people in Harlem.

The nonprofit AFC was started in 2002 by Carl Siciliano in the basement of a church. The center previously operated branches in Chelsea and Brooklyn. The Brooklyn location was closed to free up funds to build the current location on 125th Street.

LGBTQ youth come to the center for food, counseling, employment and housing assistance during the day. The center is also widely known for its health services, especially HIV/AIDS and STI services.

The director of drop-in programs, Jack Bethke, said that many of the young people who come in are living on the street after being thrown out of their homes due to their sexuality. A majority of youth who come to AFC are Black and Latino.

“Intolerance and bigotry are terrible things,” he said. “As there has been more mainstream acceptance of homosexuality, there are still pockets in our community where it is not accepted. When they end up on the street, young people are at risk for HIV and other STDs and are easy prey for sexual predators.”

AFC helps LGBTQ youth age 16 to 24. Upon arrival to the center, they are interviewed to assess their needs. AFC operates housing units across the five boroughs for nearly 90 people, for which there is a waitlist. Clients can stay in the housing until age 25.

“Many of the people who come to the center are trying to get the lives that were stolen from them back,” Bethke said. “Some people who come here are sex workers, and they are participating in ‘survival sex’ and some are doing ‘survival stealing’ just to have money. They can come here and we can help.”

Getting major support from the Department of Health, federal government and the city, AFC also relies on private donations. Major donors include the Calais Foundation and the MacFarlane Foundation. Time Warner is currently building a computer lab for those in need of GED and employment help.

In the near future, Bethke said that the center will operate 24 hours. For more information, visit www.aliforneycenter.org.

By CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff New York Amsterdam News 

Dreams of a Harlem Jazz Rebirth

31JAZZ4_SPAN-articleLargeAs another evening falls, the Lenox Lounge sits dim and lonely. Commuters pour out of the 125th Street subway station and onto Lenox Avenue, past its padlocked door. At Ginny’s Supper Club across the street, a mostly black crowd of men in suits and women in heels sips and sways as a band turns out a haunting rendition of John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things.”

It is said that Coltrane once blew his sax at the Lenox Lounge, which kept regulars, downtowners and tourists coming back for 70 years, even through the neighborhood’s bleak times. Now, with Harlem resurgent, only its remains are on display: its Art Deco finishes, familiar red paneling and famous sign have all been stripped away. Continue reading