Uptown New York / East Harlem Media, Entertainment, and Cultural Center

The city is modifying a real estate proposal in East Harlem, a few months after community opposition killed a $1 billion deal to redevelop six acres between 125th and 127th Streets and Third and Second Avenues with 2 million square feet of development and four apartment towers. Complaints from the local community about the size and makeup of the proposal scuttled the original project in May.

On October 23rd, 2006, the city’s Economic Development Corporation reissued a request for proposals to buy and develop the site. The project is expected to include up to 300,000 square feet of national retail space, including 120,000 square feet of specialty retail, restaurants, cinemas, and nightclubs, 50,000 feet of local retail, and at least 12,500 feet of open space.

The proposal further calls for about 300,000 square feet of media space and up to 30,000 square feet of space for not-for-profit performing, visual, and media arts. There is also potential for a hotel. In addition, a percentage of the retail space would be reserved for local businesses, there would be space reserved for local non-profit and cultural organizations, and the local community will also have a say in selecting the developer.

While the supporters of the new project praise the city’s dedication to including the community in the process, critics deride the Bloomberg administration’s preference for large development projects and its lack of regard for “community-based development.” Critics also remain skeptical of the enlargement of the MTA bus parking operations controversial in a neighborhood with the highest nationwide rate of childhood asthma.

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