Wednesday, October 08, 2008

East Harlem on Our Mind

The East Harlem development planned for 125th-127th Streets on Second Avenue got the green light yesterday down at the City Council. It is, however, no means certain that the project will get built-given the state of the over all economy, and the slipping fortunes of the chosen developer. As the Real Estate blog of the Observer points out: "Developer General Growth--which is a leader on a team that includes Archstone-Smith, the Richman Group, Monadnock Construction, the Carey Group, Hope Community and El Barrio's Operation Fightback--faces financial troubles nationally. Federal regulators named General Growth as one of nearly 1,000 stocks banned from short selling last month, as the company has investors concerned about its outstanding debt."

The developer, however, remains optimistic. As the NY Times tells us: "Al Neely, the managing partner of the development team, said that the group saw a great opportunity in East Harlem. “The phased project, with a coordinated mix of uses, is planned to build off of the strength of the area,” he said. “We have a lot of hard work before us, and at the time the project is ready to move into construction we are confident economic conditions will be optimal.”

Let's not forget, and both the Observer and the Times don't, that the city still has to buy out or evict the property owners who are reluctant to go along with its scheme: "The project is to be built on mostly city-owned lots (the city says it controls 82 percent of the site), though the Bloomberg administration is attempting to acquire the remaining parcels." Keep in mind, that years after the Kelo case was decided in Connecticut, the property seized by the city of New London remains vacant.

Given the economic situation, and the eminent domain battle, this is far from a done deal. Which brings us to the potential for placing a supermarket on the site. Keep in mind that the thought never crossed EDC's mind, until it was brought up by the UFCW's Local 1500. The space for a market is there. As the Observer reminds us: "The numbers released by the city did not address a signature element of the site, the retail and entertainment space. Before the last-minute public selection of General Growth, the city called for about 470,000 square feet of entertainment and retail space in the project, according to figures in a report from the Manhattan Borough President's Office."

All that remains to be seen, is if the city has the will to insure that East Harlem gets the additional supermarket that it needs. More prodding is definitely needed if the local council member's optimism is to be realized: "This is really an exciting moment for East Harlem in particular and also for the city of New York," said Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, who represents the district. "We're talking about living-wage jobs for the neighborhood with benefits and possibly union jobs as well."