Economic Development

A 197-A Plan for Manhattan Community district 11 (Revised 1999)

Neighborhood business activity has traditionally related to the predominantly residential character of East Harlem. As the population decreased sharply in the past two decades, so did the vitality and potential for local businesses. However, Third Avenue and 116th Street remains a regional attraction for retail activity. The estimated annual consumer purchasing power of the residents of East Harlem represents about $370 million. (12)

Today, activity in the district is dominated by the concentration of health care institutions which currently provides more than 15,000 jobs and draws visitors and patients into the area. This activity produces a demand for numerous support services.

Employment Data
In East Harlem, approximately 1,000 employers provide jobs for over 2 1,000 workers. A review of the New York State Department of Labor's classification of employers in the district (Table 6) shows that while nearly equal numbers of establishments are engaged in wholesale/retail trades (38 percent) and service industries (37 percent), the service firms employ more than six times as many employees (79 percent compared to 12 percent). Among the 365 service firms, 25 percent provide social services, 15 percent provide health, and 10 percent provide education.

Like other communities in New York, jobs are desperately needed for East Harlem's workforce. Over the years, residents have witnessed millions of dollars being spent on capital projects, private and nonprofit developments in East Harlem with very few jobs, construction or permanent, offered to qualified East Harlem residents.

Health Care Industry
The dominant industry in the district is health care service which employs over 15,000 people in the larger institutions alone (see Table 7). Also, there is a multitude of health service workers employed in home health care and the variety of smaller facilities throughout the district such as the Boriken and Union Settlement health care centers.

In New York City, the health care sector as a whole employed over 266,000 people in 1991 making it one of the city's fastest growing employment sectors. According to the 1990 Census, 5,3 00 people (16 percent) of employed workers in East Harlem worked in a health service

(12 The purchasing power was based on MY% of the annual household income reported in the 1990 Census. The figure is prior to the opening of the Pathmark on 125th Street.

Table 6
Classification of Employers in East Harlem

SIC Classification

Number of Employers

Percent of Employers

Number of Employees

Percent of Employees
















Wholesale/Retail (13)





Finance/Insurance/Real Estate




















SOURCE: New York State Department of Labor, 1992.
Table 7
Health Care Industry (15)


Number of Employees

Mt. Sinai Hospital Center


Metropolitan Hospital Center


Cardinal Cook Medical Center


North General Hospital


Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center


Manhattan Psychiatric Center (2)




SOURCE: 1994 Hunter College Planning Department Telephone Survey and 1995 Manhattan Borough President Telephone Survey
15 Additional employees are found in the Settlement Health Care and Northern Manhattan Nursing Home.Wholesale/Retail trades includes: Food Stores with 87 employers and 331 employees, Apparel/Accessory establishments with 53 employers and 172 employees; and Eating/Drinking establishments with 74 employers and 469 employees.

Service Industry includes: Health-Related Industries with 55 employers with an undisclosed number of employees, Social Service Industries with 90 employers and 4,754 employees, and Educational Industries with 37 employers with an undisclosed number of employees.
The fact that four out of five local jobs are currently found not only in health service, but in the overall nonindustrial service sector, indicates the importance of focusing on education and job training for both displaced industrial workers and young people entering the work force.

Most labor projections estimate that growth in new jobs will continue to be heaviest in the service and professional/technical sectors and will continue to decline in manufacturing, and that by 2000 more than 66 percent of all new jobs will require at least some college education.

Neighborhood Retail
The neighborhood commercial corridors characterized by brisk retail activity, infrequent store vacancies and private ownership, are located in within a block of each subway station, and along East 116th Street between Park and Second Avenues, and on Third Avenue from East 102nd to East 124th Streets.

In a wider circle the CIVITAS study found more than 300 vacant storefronts. These reflect the consolidation of retail activity into larger stores (e.g., busy supermarkets replacing the "bodega"), fewer "mom and pop" stores.

The 50,000 square foot Pathmark supermarket on East 125th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues may spur revitalization on the eastern end of 125th Street. Pathmark also falls within the boundaries of the Federal Empowerment Zone and the NYS Economic Development Zone.

Economic Development Projects
There a variety of economic development projects in East Harlem. These include:

Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center: A preexisting, five-story former public school at 1680 Lexington Avenue between East 105th and East 106th Streets was renovated to house a cultural center. A number of Latino cultural groups may occupy space in this building and share administrative facilities in an incubator setting. The center opened in the Fall of 1998.

Pathmark: A 50,000 square foot supermarket opened in April of 1999 on the south side of east 125th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. It includes 5,000 square feet of retail space and underground for 150 cars.

La Marqueta: Frequent suggestions have been offered for the renovation and expansion of an enclosed food market located underneath the elevated Metro North railroad tracks on Park Avenue between East 111th and East 119th Streets. They have included a Spanish style market, a Caribbean market, the creation of a day care center, open-air market, outdoor performance space and movie theater. Alternative uses could include a local crafts market; social uses, as a rentable ballroom and catering establishment; and recreation, as a health club.Vacant or crumbling sites on East 125th St. The Corn Exchange site just west of the Metro North Station at 125th St and Park Avenue and the vacant comer of Third Avenue, both prime locations, are awaiting good and feasible plans for development.

East River Plaza proposal on a former steel mill. The owner's plans including expansion of the original site for a large retail mall is warmly supported by advocates of economic activity, but has aroused extensive neighborhood opposition.

125th Street Theater District, including restaurants, five music and shows, a multiplex movie theater, and sufficient parking on behind on East 126th Street has received much local support. The 24-hour Pathmark would be across the street.

A special auction program (the Neighboring Industrial-Commercial Owners Program) is available in designated commercial and manufacturing zones to facilitate the sale of city owned vacant properties to businesses interested in expanding there.

East Harlem Community Initiatives
Several local initiatives have been promoted by various groups within the East Harlem community. They include:

* Financial services and outreach such as the establishment of an East Harlem small business revolving loan fund, the creation of a fair banking effort for nonprofits and the establishment of an East Harlem credit union;

* small business development for not-for-profit service providers and for-profit businesses with emphasis on financial, technical and managerial assistance;

* monitoring of jobs and services to encourage participation of local residents and locally
owned companies;

* monitoring of banking and reinvestment policies related to the Community Reinvestment Act; and,

* technical advice and seed money for franchise development.

El Barrio Theatrical District using the available theaters at the Julio de Burgos Center, the East Harlem Multi-Service Center at 120th St, the Red Carpet Theater in Taino Towers, and the Hecscher Theater at El Museo, del Barrio on Fifth Avenue.

* Site for a Latin Music Museum

* A hotel Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program (ICIP)

This program encourages building or renovation of commercial and industrial facilities to retain and create jobs. Location determines the amount of tax benefit for each commercial property. Regular exemption for tax purposes would mean a project could receive up to 100% tax exemption for the first 8 years with a phased out toward payment of full taxes the following for 4 years. Special exemption areas, including Manhattan north of 96th Street, provide for 100% exemption for the first 13 years phased over the following 9 years.

Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone
In December 1994, New York City was designated as one of the six urban Empowerment Zones. Businesses located within the zone are eligible for a number of benefits such as employee wage credits, accelerated depreciation and bond financing. Block grants are also available for community developments projects. The New York City Empowerment Zone encompasses portions of Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx. A significant portion of East Harlem is located with the Zone (see Map).

$3 00,000 million was designated for the Empowerment from over the 10 year period (1994-2004).

The vacant property within the East Harlem's Portion of the Empowerment Zone has the potential to produce thousands of jobs. The vacant storefronts could be converted into professional technology offices, with residence in the rear.

New York State Economic Development Zone
In 1988, the New York State Department of Economic Development designated sections of East Harlem as an Economic Development Zone (EDZ). The EDZ map (see Map) shows the existing and proposed EDZ boundaries.

Upon State certification, businesses are eligible for wage, utility and investment tax credits and sales tax relief They are also eligible for real property tax exemptions and land tax abatements from New York City, as well as reductions from local gas, electric and telephone companies.

Significant progress has been made by the City's EDC to fill that zone with local expanding businesses.
The Local Development Corporation Del Barrio is the administrator of the East Harlem EDZ; its broader goal to monitor and develop the area's economic opportunities. So far, inappropriate zoning designations and the amount of the required financial commitment has inhibited participation in this program. For example, the Metro North viaduct imposes a number of disadvantages. Federal law prohibits the expenditure of federal funds for subsidized housing within 100 feet of elevated tract.
According to 1991 employment figures, establishments in the East Harlem manufacturing zones bounded by East 126th Street, Park Avenue, East 132nd Street and First Avenue contained 482 jobs: 300 industrial (62 percent) and 182 nonindustrial (38 percent). Among the industrial jobs, 120 in manufacturing (40 percent); 74 were in construction (25 percent); 39 in transportation, communications & public utilities (13 percent); and 40 in wholesale trade (13 percent).

I. Economic Development

1. The largest employer in East Harlem is the health care industry. Priority must be the expansion of the health care industry especially regarding future employment and economic development opportunities. The City, State and federal government must assist the area's medical institutions in the development of health care services and products and promote them as primary markets regionally and nationally. The State and federal government must protect against the impact on employment opportunities that pending cuts to Medicaid will have on the area's health care industry.

2. All projects that require City approval should hire at least 25% of their employees from the East Harlem community. East Harlem's Employment and Economic Development Committee would be responsible for monitoring the compliance of this employment requirement.

3. Promote street-level retail space in new and existing housing structures along the commercial corridors.

4. The City must provide small businesses with comprehensive business development technical assistance.

5. The State should modify the criteria of the New York State EDZ to include light manufacturing, retail, business, commercial and social purpose development.

6. The EDZ boundaries should be coterminous with the boundaries of East Harlem so that all businesses in the district could benefit from the EDZ technical business assistance and state tax initiatives. The EDZ should also include East Harlem in the "In Place Industrial Parks Program" as found in all other New York City EDZs.

Other Sections of the 197-A Plan

History of East Harlem
Demographic and Socio-Economic Profile
Land Use and Zoning
City-Owned Vacant Property
Housing and Urban Renewal
Economic Development
The Waterfront
Tranportation and Infrastructure
Institutional and Historical Resources
Non-Profits At Work In East Harlem
For Profits At Work In East Harlem

Maps (all pertain to Community Board # 11)
The maps are in Gif format. File sizes are big, but you can better see the details in the maps.

Community Board District # 11 (162K)
Population of Race and Ethnicity by Census Track (679K
Land Use (Color 579K)
Zoning Map (244K)
Major Housing Developments (329K)
Urban Renewal Areas (328K)
Empowerment Zone (630K)
Economic Developement (628K)
Public Transportation (672K)
Historic District and Landmarks (610K)
Crossroads (589K)


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