East Harlem business owners await eminent domain decision

Area will no longer be "black capital of the world" if city has its way, plaintiffs' attorney argues

New York /
Mar.March 31, 2015 04:54 PM

Small business owners in East Harlem are anxiously awaiting a New York State Supreme Court decision on their fate, after they sued the city for attempting to seize the land where they operate through eminent domain. An attorney for the plaintiffs describes the city’s actions as racist.

At a hearing earlier this month, real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, who is representing the businesses, argued that taking the land, stretching from 125th to 126th streets and Second Avenue to Third Avenue, would further imperil Manhattan’s already endangered minority-owned business community. Bailey went so far as to claim the city is unfairly targeting them while ignoring 282 already vacant lots in Manhattan.

“The only reason they are taking this is because — this may be out of order, but you don’t Take 38th Street to 41st [on] First Avenue because that’s really where the white people reside,” he said in the hearing. “You are going after the last black area. It is disgusting, to be blunt.”

The businesses affected include the New Light Baptist Church, Fancy Cleaners, a hair-braiding salon, a recycling center, an auto repair shop and others.

Counsel for the city, Michael Chestnov, responded by saying that even if the results of a land seizure are discriminatory, the businesses cannot claim racial discrimination unless they show that the discrimination was intentional.

In 2009, the area in question was condemned by the city as blighted. The determination was challenged, and the New York First Appellate Division denied the challenge in October 2010. The Court of Appeals then determined that it did not have jurisdiction on the matter in February 2011.

While the Bloomberg Administration had a plan to erect an East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center on the site, the de Blasio administration has not announced plans for the site, and is instead moving forward with the land seizure without defining a clear purpose for it.

One reason for the rush appears to be a statute of limitations issue.

The city did not move forward with its current attempt to acquire the land until February 2014. The law is that the city must commence its eminent domain proceedings within three years after the “entry of the final order or judgment on judicial review.”

The businesses argue that the city missed its deadline, and that the clock started in October 2010, while the city argues that the Court of Appeals dismissal determining that it lacked jurisdiction in February 2011 counts as the final order, keeping its action within the allowed timeframe.

The city did not respond immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It is a funeral for Harlem if they win,” Bailey told The Real Deal this week. [De Blasio] is doing this to gentrify Harlem and kick out the last black businesses. Harlem will no longer be the black capital of the world.”

A decision is expected by July, though the losing side is likely to appeal.

Another owner in the area, Heron Real Estate, filed a parallel suit seeking to stop the condemnation last year.


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
Miles Kwok with 781 Fifth Avenue (
Trustee alleges “shell game” over Chinese exile’s UES penthouse
Trustee alleges “shell game” over Chinese exile’s UES penthouse
A photo illustration of Adam Leitman Bailey (far left) and Miki Naftali (right) (Getty Images, Naftali Group, Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.)
Naftali tenant suffers blow in holdout battle
Naftali tenant suffers blow in holdout battle
From left: Adam Leitman Bailey P.C.'s Steven Wagner; Belkin Burden Goldman's Sherwin Belkin; Adam Leitman Bailey P.C.'s Adam Leitman Bailey; and Naftali Group’s Miki Naftali (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty Images, Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C., Belkin Burden Goldman)
Pay up or lawyer up: What does a holdout cost a developer?
Pay up or lawyer up: What does a holdout cost a developer?
Adam Leitman Bailey, Y. David Scharf, and Miki Naftali with 215 West 84th Street (Adam Leitman Bailey, Morrison Cohen, Getty)
Naftali lays out project as holdout tenant plays new card
Naftali lays out project as holdout tenant plays new card
 Miki Naftali and Adam Leitman Bailey (Getty, Adam Leitman Bailey; Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
Heavyweight lawyers at war in Naftali holdout drama
Heavyweight lawyers at war in Naftali holdout drama
Steven Wagner, Bonnie Reid Berkow and Adam Leitman Bailey (Wagner, Berkow & Brandt, Adam Leitman Bailey)
Prominent real estate lawyer leaves firm he started to join Adam Leitman Bailey
Prominent real estate lawyer leaves firm he started to join Adam Leitman Bailey
 Adam Leitman Bailey with 6 Turtle Knoll in Monroe (Adam Leitman Bailey Law Firm, Trulia)
NY foreclosure ban does not apply to shell companies, judge rules
NY foreclosure ban does not apply to shell companies, judge rules
A condo building couldn’t collapse in NYC. Or could it?
A condo building couldn’t collapse in NYC. Or could it?
A condo building couldn’t collapse in NYC. Or could it?
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...