West Harlem Development Corp. Looking to Build on NYCHA’s Grant Houses

HARLEM — The West Harlem Development Corporation wants to build 100 units of affordable housing in NYCHA’s Grant Houses.Kofi Boateng, executive director of the West Harlem Development Corporation, announced a plan to build 100 units of affordable h
The nonprofit tasked with distributing $150 million as part of their community benefits agreement for Columbia University’s expansion into West Harlem, sent a letter of interest to NYCHA on Sept. 18.
“We write to officially express our desire to be considered as a beneficiary of available underutilized land at the General Grant NYCHA housing in West Harlem, NYC, for the purpose of developing affordable housing units,” director Kofi Boateng wrote NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye.
The letter is not part of an official application to develop, just a letter of interest. The organization is also looking for land in other parts of the neighborhood, Boateng said.
He announced the development, part of a larger plan to leave a lasting legacy in West Harlem, during a Community Board 9 meeting in September while asking for their support.

The Housing Authority rolled out their “Infill Neighborhood” plan earlier this summer. Under the program developers would be able to build housing in order to bring more revenue to the cash-strapped agency.

So far only two developments — Wyckoff Gardens in Brooklyn and Holmes Towers in the Upper West Side — have been selected for new developments.

Boateng said he had been working with tenant associations in both Grant and Manhattanville houses.

NYCHA confirmed they received the letter but have not issued a response and did not answer questions about their plans for Grant Houses. The Community Board did not respond to questions about the letter of interest.

By Gustavo Solis | September 30, 2015
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Is Columbia really destroying Harlem’s authenticity?

Because of ignorant people like me, Columbia’s selfish and corporate interests are destroying the authenticity of nearby communities. This was the accusation I faced from a group of activists after I asserted that I undoubtedly supported Columbia’s expansion into Harlem. I was being accused of being an accomplice to the latest social sin: gentrification.

The controversy began in 2003 when the University announced a plan to construct a new campus in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattanville. The Manhattanville campus, a 17-acre site located just north of the Morningside Heights campus, will consist of more than seven million square feet dedicated to teaching and cutting-edge research. It will also feature facilities for cultural, recreational, and commercial activities.

And yet, there are people—some of whom are Columbia students—who are vehemently opposed to this plan. Their arguments are based on an urban social phenomenon called gentrification. The term was defined by the British sociologist Ruth Glass as the “arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, and a related increase in rents and property values.” The activists stress that this socioeconomic shift will inevitably produce a cultural change in the area. This immoral and artificial process would, in turn, strip Harlem of its authentic character and cultural heritage.

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By Christian Zaharia | February 19, 2015

Riverbank State Park and Esplanade Gardens in Harlem among city’s worst water deadbeats

Riverbank State Park tops the list of water deadbeats with a $7.6 million bill dating back to 2000. Esplanade Gardens, an apartment complex at W. 147th St., owes $1.1 million.

Riverbank State Park in Harlem owes the city a lot of green.

Riverbank State Park in Harlem owes the city a lot of green.

A West Harlem state park owes the city a lot of green.

Riverbank State Park tops the list of water deadbeats with a $7.6 million bill dating back to 2000, records obtained by The News via a Freedom of Information Law request show.

The state has made costly improvements at the 28-acre public park since it opened in 1993, including $5.2 million for a new artificial turf field, boiler and gymnasium floor in 2012.

The site above the Hudson, meanwhile, boasts an ice rink, Olympic-size pool, 800-seat cultural theater, 2,500-seat athletic complex and a 15-seat restaurant — nearly all of which require water for maintenance or use, officials said.

“To have let this go 14 years without a resolution is irresponsible,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union, a government watchdog group. “The fact that the city and state can’t resolve this impasse is shameful.”

State parks officials have been fighting with City Hall for more than a decade over who should cover the bill for the park, which sits atop a sewage treatment plant near Riverside Drive.

Meanwhile, it continues to be the worst water scofflaw in the city, outpacing the Big Apple’s second-place offender, Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, which owes $5.9 million.

“We are working with the state to take a fresh look at several issues in order to resolve past differences,” said a city Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.

It remains unclear why the state believes the city should be picking up the tab for the popular Harlem park, given its location above a massive state wastewater treatment plant.

“We are working with DEP to resolve old differences and move forward in a strong and productive partnership,” said state Parks spokesman Dan Keefe, who declined to elaborate.

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Harlem Tops List of Neighborhoods With Streets in Bad Shape

HARLEM — The roadways of Harlem are in the worst condition among all of New York City’s streets, according to a newly released report from the Center for an Urban Future about the city’s crumbling infrastructure, which would take an estimated more than $47 billion to fix.

largerRoughly 66 percent of the streets in West Harlem’s Community Board 9 are in fair or poor condition. East Harlem’s Community Board 11 ranks second with 53 percent of its streets in fair to poor condition.

“There are a lot of bad roads throughout New York City but Community Board 9 takes the cake,” said  Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future. “Not enough attention has been paid to resurfacing the streets in Harlem.”

In fact, Manhattan has the highest share of substandard streets with almost 43 percent being rated as in fair or poor condition. Six of the 10 community boards with the worst road conditions are in the borough.

The problem is particularly acute in Northern Manhattan, said Bowles who attributed the problem to neglect, likely due to a lack of money for repairs.

The streets of Harlem are not the only pieces of the city’s infrastructure in need of repair. Overall, New York City’s infrastructure would need $47.3 billion to repair or replace existing infrastructure throughout the city.

More than 1,000 miles of the city’s water mains are 100 years old or older. There were 403 water main breaks last year.

Of the 728 miles of subway signals, 269 miles are past their 50-year useful life and 26 percent are more than 70 years old. The city’s water system also delivers 24 percent less water than it takes in, due to leaks. This is almost double the standard industry loss of 10 to 15 percent.

“A lot of the agencies that oversee infrastructure in New York City are making tough decisions about where to put the limited money they have,” Bowles said.

That includes the Department of Transportation, which has focused on repairing the city’s bridge infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the number of lane miles of completely reconstructed, not just repaved, roads dropped to 80 in fiscal year 2012-2013 from 136 in the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

In 2000 the city set a goal of resurfacing 1,000 miles of lane per year but has reached that goal only three time since then, coming in at less than 800 last year, according to the report.

Many of the streets in Harlem are beyond the point of simple paving and need to be reconstructed, Bowles said.

DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said the agency disagrees with some of the statistics in the center’s report. The DOT resurfaced nearly 16 miles of road in CB 9 last year.

In terms of resurfacing 1,000 miles of lanes per year, Mosquera said the agency sets lane resurfacing goals each year based on its budget and has met those goals for the last few years. DOT plans to resurface 1,000 miles of road this year and has already repaired over 200,000 potholes.

CB 11 Chairman Matthew Washington says the board hasn’t received many complaints about potholes or rough road conditions, but they are working with DOT to improve traffic flow along Park Avenue where there was a fatal accident at 102nd Street last year.

“In terms of the road conditions the safety of individuals is our main concern,” Washington said.

The DOT recently unveiled a plan to make traffic improvements along Park Avenue, and Washington said he was happy about other recent road changes such as protected bike lanes along Second Avenue.

Among the recommendations to address the city’s infrastructure needs are improving the capital planning process, completing an accurate survey of the city’s infrastructure needs and identifying new revenue sources to pay for improvements.

With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s focus on inequality in the city, improving its infrastructure may also be a way to create middle income jobs and stimulate the economy, according to the report.

“I’m hopeful that the De Blasio administration and the Cuomo Administration will make this a priority and invest in infrastructure,” said Bowles.

Historic West Harlem RKO Hamilton Theater Could Become Luxury Condos

Balcony view of the RKO Hamilton Theater.

Balcony view of the RKO Hamilton Theater.

HARLEM — The historic RKO Hamilton Theater may become luxury condos in exchange for the preservation and restoration of the interior theater as a community performance space.

The possible deal comes as the owner of the landmarked theater, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, led by real estate mogul Ben Ashkenazy, sought support from Community Board 9 for its application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to build a connector between the two buildings that make up the Hamilton Heights theater at Broadway and 146th Street.

At first, Ashkenazy, who purchased the building along with another building in Washington Heights for $19 million in 2012, considered creating retail space for a company such as Burlington Coat Factory in the former theater, which showed its last movie in 1958.

But the board and Harlem historian Michael Henry Adams proposed that the developer build condominiums on top of the theater instead, as a way of financing the preservation of the historic interior.

“Since the luxury towers are going to come anyway, we might as well get something back for having to suffer these banal glass boxes,” said Adams, author of “Harlem, Lost and Found.”

Recent zoning changes to West Harlem make the construction of a tower there more feasible. The interior of the building was never landmarked.

“What we want to see happen with this theater is to see it redeveloped and become a community resource,” said Arnold Boatner, chairman of CB 9’s Landmarks and Parks Committee. “There are a large number of performance artists in our community who don’t have space.”

The Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, chairwoman of CB9, said the board would even support luxury housing at the site— often a contentious issue at Harlem community boards concerned about rapid gentrification.

The community board voted to support the new connector between the theater buildings, but with an unusually high number of abstentions.

“If they say they will restore the theater, we will have to bend if they do all market-rate housing,” said Morgan-Thomas. “This is about creating something that could be here 20 to 30 years from now.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated the exterior of the building as a historic landmark in 2000, approved an application last Tuesday to add an addition between the two buildings that will be set back from the street and clad in brick to match the rear building. That addition is necessary to make the building usable, whether it ultimately becomes a retail or residential building.

One of the factors in the commission’s approval was that the building once had a passageway connecting the two structures.

Jeffrey A. Chester, an attorney with Gonzalez Saggio Harlan-LLP who represents Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, called the residential plan an ambitious one that might be difficult to pull off for a few reasons.

Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation is primarily a commercial real estate company. The company has extensive commercial holdings with multiple buildings on Madison Avenue as well as Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston.

The company’s initial proposal was to renovate the interior of the building for retail and leave the landmarked exterior alone. If the company decides to pursue residential development, it would likely have to partner with another firm.

Secondly, restoring the damaged theater would be quite expensive. The entire bottom floor of seats is missing and the building has peeling paint and graffiti after suffering years of water leaks and neglect.

“The owner is looking at it but what they have proposed is extraordinarily ambitious and would require variances and approval from landmarks beyond what what we initially considered,” Chester said.

“The question remains: Is there a viable market to keep that theater busy enough to pay for itself? I don’t know if a nonprofit theater group will pay the freight to make this work.”

Yuien Chin, of the Hamilton Heights-West Harlem Community Preservation Organization, said she envisions a dynamic organization running the space who would be able to create the high-level programming and financial partnerships necessary to make it self-sufficient.

“I don’t think it’s a situation of ‘build it and they will come,'” said Chin. “The demand for a performance and visual arts space, not to mention a banquet hall for dances and receptions, is already here.”

The now-decrepit building and theater is worth saving because of its history, said Adams. Commissioned by vaudeville operator Benjamin S. Moss and theater developer Solomon Brill, the neo-Renaissance Revival-style structure was designed by Thomas Lamb, a prolific theater and cinema designer, and was completed in 1913.

Vaudeville acts performed at the theater, using the space between the two buildings to bring in sets. In 1928, the theater was sold and became one of New York City’s first movie houses.

Movies ceased to be shown at the 1,800-seat theater in 1958 and the space was then used as a disco, church and arena. The lobby of the theater was last used as a retail space for the El Mundo department store, which left a year and a half ago. The structure has been vacant since.

Matt Lambros, a Brooklyn photographer who gained access to the theater to take pictures in 2011 for his website After the Final Curtain, said he was pleasantly surprised to hear discussion about restoring the theater.

“I assumed that one was going to go down,” said Lambros, who has traveled the country photographing shuttered theaters. “It’s still grand and in pretty good shape, so it should be easier to save than most old theaters.”

Adams said there used to be several Lamb-built theaters on Harlem’s west side but most have not survived.

“These places survived close to 100 years and one by one they have all been wiped out,” said Adams. “The Hamilton is one of the most beautiful Thomas Lamb theaters ever built and it should not be allowed to be swept away.”

By Jeff Mays on February 24, 2014 9:24am |

West Harlem waterfront trash site won’t go to waste

The 135th St. Marine Transfer Station could be redeveloped into a waterfront environmental center, a hydroponics and aquaculture center, a boathouse, a recreational facility or a trade show and exhibition space. West Harlem Environmental Action Inc. –Known as WE ACT will release a report detailing the station’s future.

A long-shuttered West Harlem garbage depot on the Hudson River could be as popular in its next incarnation as it was infamous in its pollution-stained past life.

The 135th St. Marine Transfer Station could be redeveloped into a waterfront environmental center, a hydroponics and aquaculture center, a boathouse, a recreational facility or a trade show and exhibition space.

The long-abandoned 135th Street Marine Transfer Station.

The long-abandoned 135th Street Marine Transfer Station.

Details are still being ironed out by community groups. West Harlem Environmental Action Inc. — known as WE ACT — plans to release a report next month detailing the future of the deteriorated, 20,000-square-foot facility, which served as Manhattan’s only round-the-clock garbage depot before it was shuttered in 1999.

“We have transferred a polluting facility that had hundreds of garbage trucks riding through the community and we’re making it into a valuable asset,” said Peggy Shepard, the WE ACT executive director. “This is the West Harlem Piers. It was a facility for this community.”

After the groups finalize a plan and submit it to the city, it will be up to government and economic development officials to find the resources to support the project.

It’s unclear how much it will cost to transform the dirty site for community use, and the timeline is still as murky as the river.

 WE ACT will soon commission a feasibility study that will take at least a year to complete, said Charles Callaway, a community organizer with the group.

Transforming the trash depot will complete the redevelopment of the waterfront site, where the West Harlem Piers Park was opened in 2009 on what used to be the plant’s parking lot.

“It’s a community benefit and an economic benefit,” said Maritta Dunn, president of the Harlem Valley Heights Community Development Corp., noting that increased waterfront access would bring more visitors to the area.

The facility is no longer a part of the city’s solid waste management plan and the Department of Sanitation does not have plans for it, said spokeswoman Belinda Mager.

From 1954 until it was shut down in 1999, the ratty, E-shaped building processed 1,000 tons of waste each day and was the only round-the-clock facility in Manhattan.

West Harlem Environmental Action — known as WE ACT — and other community groups led a lengthy battle to get it closed, successfully arguing that the depot was polluting the water and air, and causing health problems for residents.

The American Institute of Achitects sponsored an international contest two years back, challenging hundreds of designers from around the world to envision the site as a food and nutrition complex that could double as a transportation hub.

The whimsical proposals featured farms built on top of the river, floating community gardens and barges that deliver the fresh produce.

Many of those concepts are being considered, Callaway said.

It’s unclear how long it will be until the plans being floated are literally afloat, but the community leaders say they can finally envision the former trash heap turned into a treasure.

“West Harlem has been cut off from its waterfront for too long,” said Roland Lewis, president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, part of the coalition of working groups. “We’re trying to put community minds, maritime minds together to repurpose this thing.“

jransom@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/trash-treasure-article-1.1615167#ixzz2tQDGc6A5

Two Beloved Harlem Coffee Shops Spawn Offspring

HARLEM — What would happen if two beloved Harlem coffee shops fell in love, got married and had kids — actually, twins?

Karen Cantor, co-owner of the Chipped Cup in Hamilton Heights and Aaron Baird, co-owner of Lenox Coffee in Central Harlem, have named their new offspring Mess Hall, a comfy bar that will serve craft beers, and Bearded Lady Espresso, a funky coffee shop.

The happy family will live side-by-side on Frederick Douglass Boulevard’s restaurant row between 118th and 119th streets.

“Opening a new business is a great endeavor, like giving birth and watching your kid grow up,” Cantor said.

“It’ll be like Chipped Cup and Lenox Coffee had a baby,” added Baird. “You’ll know that both shops come from the two of us.”

That means both will inherit the easy-going, laid-back vibe of their parent establishments. The Chipped Cup, on Broadway between 148th and 149th streets, is nestled in a below street level space and is credited with helping to spark a retail revival in an area of Hamilton Heights that’s not far from City College.

Lenox Coffee, at 129th Street and Lenox Avenue, is succeeding in an area where two previous cafes failed. The often packed cafe has exposed brick walls and a tin ceiling with Edison filament bulbs hanging from them.

The pair said the chance to open a joint restaurant serendipitously landed in their laps. The landlord of the building at 2194 Frederick Douglass Boulevard called Baird to tell him about the available space.

Baird said he was immediately excited because Frederick Douglass Boulevard from 110th Street up to 125th Street is hot and finding a spot is difficult. His partner at Lenox Coffee wasn’t interested in opening another space so he and Cantor decided to put together a plan.

The Mess Hall will be housed in a 700-square-foot space that is long and narrow with high ceilings. It will seat 30 people inside and 12 to 18 people in the back which the pair are planning to cover. The decor will include exposed brick.

Baird and Cantor are hoping for a spring 2014 opening if all goes well with their liquor license application. A beer on tap will cost around $6.50 and cocktails and food such as a hamburger will cost about $10.

“It’ll be a bar with food but more upscale with higher end finishes,” Baird told Community Board 10’s Economic Development Committee where they went to gain an endorsement for their liquor license Thursday night.

“It will be a friendly neighborhood bar, like a cozy, cozy sweater,” Cantor said.

Bearded Lady Espresso, at 2194 Frederick Douglass Blvd., is named in honor of Clémentine Delait, a bearded lady who lived in France in the late 19th century. She saw a bearded lady at a carnival and bet her husband, with whom she owned a cafe, that she could grow a better beard.

She won the bet and gained a lot of attention in the process. Her husband renamed the cafe Le Café de La Femme a Barbe or “the cafe of the bearded woman.”

“It’s a fun name but it has that bit of history,” said Cantor who added that the shop is set to open in mid-January and carry high-quality Counter Culture coffee like its mom, the Chipped Cup, while maintaining a focus on espresso.

The pair said being business owners in Harlem has been very rewarding because of the local support their respective establishments have received.

“Harlem is totally worth investing in,” Baird said.

And other investors are following suit.

Jose Morales, owner of Apt. 78, a cafe and lounge in Washington Heights, also plans to open Made En Harlem Taqueria/Galeria at 304 West 115th St. at Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

Unlike Apt. 78 which features a lot of events hosted by artists like Q-Tip, Made En Harlem will serve up Mexican food but also feature art that customers can purchase.

“The same way we try to sell you a taco, we try to sell you an art piece,” Morales said. “It’s a new trend to show art in a restaurant but I’ve actually been doing this for a long time.”

The 2,900-square-foot space will feature freshly made tacos and what Morales called affordable artwork, much of it by local artists, that ranges in cost from $100 to $3,000.

“We are trying to bring that art aspect to Harlem,” he said of the establishment that is slated to open in March.

Over at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 124th Street, a father and son team plans on opening Sabroso at the Ennis Frances Houses that will serve nuevo Latino cuisine.

The restaurant will feature room for 72 people seated inside and 40 at a planned outdoor cafe.

“Seventh Avenue hasn’t had the same level of development as other areas of Harlem so it would be nice to help develop that area,” said co-owner Bernard Rubie, who also owns a bed and breakfast on 147th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.

The restaurant is also looking to hire 30 people, including some Ennis Francis residents, and work with students at Wadleigh Secondary School’s culinary program.

“We will add value to central Harlem with a concept that hasn’t been done yet,” co-owner Osei Rubie said.

The community board’s economic development committee gave unanimous preliminary approval to all three restaurants’ applications for liquor licenses, pending minor issues such as letters of support from neighbors. The full board will vote on the applications next month.

By Jeff Mays on November 15, 2013 10:06am | Updated on November 15, 2013 10:06am

Nonprofit founded by alum expands local STEM programs

THE GREAT PUMPKIN   |  Students Justo Rodriguez, Thomas Anderson, and Louis Enamorado install wiring into a jack-o’-lantern during ELiTE’s Halloween Hardware Hackathon earlier this year.

THE GREAT PUMPKIN | Students Justo Rodriguez, Thomas Anderson, and Louis Enamorado install wiring into a jack-o’-lantern during ELiTE’s Halloween Hardware Hackathon earlier this year.

Although Columbia alumnus Chelsey Roebuck founded the local nonprofit Emerging Leaders in Technology and Engineering just four years ago, the organization has been recognized for its work with a grant to expand and improve its programs in the West Harlem community.

The $33,440 grant from the West Harlem Development Corporation enabled ELiTE to scale up science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programming to serve 250 students from four local schools.

Roebuck, SEAS ’10 and ELiTE president, said the grant will support the group’s efforts to deepen its impact in Harlem by running a variety of after-school STEM programs.

Created as an undergraduate student project in 2009, ELiTE runs a hands-on science and engineering summer camp in rural Ghana in partnership with Engineers Without Borders.

Over the past five years, the summer camp has grown from the classrooms of a rural village in Ghana to a primary school in Tanzania and university campuses in Ghana, Jamaica, and Mexico, offering workshops and trainings in everything from software engineering and robotics to ecology and astronomy.

Now, Roebuck co-teaches computer science and mechatronics classes as part of the regular school schedule for sixth-grade and 11th-grade students.

Earlier this year, ELiTE held a Halloween Hardware Hack­a­thon event at the Frederick Douglass Academy, where 23 advanced mechatronics students were given basic electronic circuit components and pumpkins and were instructed to hack their own jack-o’-lanterns.

Columbia mechanical engineering professor Robert Stark was one of the judges at the event. He has volunteered his time working with the high school’s Robotics team and is now offering shadowing opportunities to students interested in the Columbia engineering labs.

“That’s a big part of ELiTE—not just teaching, but saying, ‘Here’s someone that can give you opportunities, if you really are interested, to do something with it,’” Roebuck said.

The event served as a culminating project for the first unit in the mechatronics class. The requirements were fairly broad, which allowed students to pursue their creativity by adding lights and sound to their pumpkins.

“That’s the spirit behind innovation, anyway. Use your environment, use what’s around you,” Stark said.

Roebuck said ELiTE plans on making a big push for recruitment on Columbia’s campus in December so that the organization can get more volunteer instructors to help students during these workshops.

“We’ve had different undergrads and grad students volunteering with us in schools, and I’d love to be able to get more,” he said.

Columbia’s National Society of Black Engineers recently visited FDA to speak to multiple classrooms and distribute college-oriented information as part of its annual A Walk for Education event.

NSBE Technical Outreach Community Help Chair Tolu Akinade, SEAS ’15, said the chapter was able to visit seven classrooms during its visit, including Roebuck’s mechatronics class.

“We loved speaking to the students and are definitely looking to go back to the school,” Akinade said. FDA Principal Joseph Gates and Vice Principal Pasquale Cusanelli were both present at the Hack­a­thon event.

“The best way to learn is what we’re doing in these classes,” Cusanelli said. “What Chelsey’s foundation is providing, as well as Columbia University and the increased support from Columbia, is helping these students.”

“For me, a lot of the opportunities that come as a result of being recognized for these awards are almost just as valuable as, if not more valuable than, the money,” Roebuck said.

“With awards and recognition, it’s never really about the money,” he said. “More than anything, getting the support networks and the communities that really help the students grow is what I’m most interested in.”

This story is part of a series of profiles of organizations that receive grants from the West Harlem Development Corporation.

news@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ColumbiaSpec

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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Lehman’s Dunbar Manor Residential Portfolio Sells for $139 M.

Massey Knakal Realty Services has arranged the $139 million sale of a portfolio that includes the Dunbar Manor apartment complex in West Harlem, The Commercial Observer has learned.

The Dunbar Manor apartment complex, marketed by Massey Knakal

The Dunbar Manor apartment complex, marketed by Massey Knakal

The monster residential portfolio, which consists of 1,084 units across 15 properties located throughout Northern Manhattan and the Upper West Side, generated what brokers called a “storm of interest.”

Bankruptcies and subsequent foreclosures on the properties led to much anticipation in the market, making the rare offering a “seamless” sell.

“We got a tremendous response,” said Massey Knakal’s Karl Brumback, who arranged the sale with Robert Shapiro and a team of associates that included Hall OsterJosh Lipton andLev Kimyagarov. “I don’t want to say it was easy to sell, but it was a pleasure. I wish every transaction ran this smoothly.”

“It generated a storm of interest,” he added.

Documents reviewed by The Commercial Observer show that the portfolio was sold on behalf of Lehman Brothers, though Mr. Brumback was unable to confirm.

Mr. Brumback, Mr. Shapiro, and co. broke the properties into six tranches, finding six separate buyers – but not before 99 Inspections and 275 signed confidentiality agreements were conducted over just 14 weeks.

“It made a lot of sense geographically and from a size perspective to break them into nice $25 million chunks,” Mr. Brumback said.

But, he added, “We never precluded buyers from buying any combination of these chunks.”

The Dunbar Manor apartment complex consists of six walk-up apartment buildings containing 536 residential units and 11 commercial units, encompassing an entire city block between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and 149th and West 150th Street in West Harlem.

The Dunbar Manor complex is “one of the largest pieces of residential real estate in Northern Manhattan,” Mr. Brumback said, calling it an “iconic property with a rich history and tremendous potential.”

The remaining 14 properties, which contain a total of 537 residential units, comprising both walk-up and elevator buildings, are spread out in clusters throughout the Manhattan Valley, West Harlem, and Central Harlem neighborhoods.

“The market has been eagerly awaiting a large, high quality residential portfolio in Harlem,” Mr. Shapiro said. “The timing of this sale is optimal, as rent stabilized multifamily properties remain extremely desirable in today’s marketplace.

“It was seamless… almost flawless.”

By Al Barbarino 7:30am