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

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