East Harlem businesses launch countersuit against evictions

Suit alleges city's timeline to exercise eminent domain has run out

East Harlem Media Entertainment Cultural Center and real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey (inset)
East Harlem Media Entertainment Cultural Center and real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey (inset)

Several East Harlem business owners are ramping up efforts to fight condemnation proceedings that would ultimately lead to their eviction.

The East Harlem Small Business Association, which represents a group of mostly African American and Hispanic landlords and tenants, say the city’s Economic Development Corp. is displacing them to make way for an East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center. The association’s lawsuit says those who will ultimately benefit from the project are “investors principally of Caucasian heritage.”

According to the New York Post, the suit also alleges that evictions along the Harlem block spanning 125th to 127th streets between Second and Third avenues were slated to take place within a three-year period starting Oct. 12, 2010, Per A State Appeals Court ruling favoring the city’s right to buy out property owners. And yet, according to the suit, the city did not file its eviction order until Feb. 12, 2014.

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The East Harlem Small Business Association hired real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey to fight eviction.

“For government to destroy some of the last businesses in East Harlem will probably put the final nail in the coffin of Harlem as the center of black- and Latino-owned businesses,” Bailey told the Post.

The city planning commission approved the property’s acquisition in 2008, on which the $700 million, 1.7 million-square-foot project would rise. Due to a blight designation that revoked the owners’ right to sell, the city launched negotiations with the block’s landlords in an effort to buy them out.

The city is now trying to exercise eminent domain to evict the area’s holdout landlords. [New York Post] – Kerry Barger