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Frederick Douglass Boulevard Undergoes Transformation

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The southern part of Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem is being overhauled, much to the delight of merchants, residents and visitors. NY1’s Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.

There's renewed energy on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 110th and 124th Streets.

Businesses and residents are working together to make the once-decrepit strip a destination for all the neighborhood's shopping needs.

"A number of years ago, this community went through a re-zoning that encouraged small businesses and residential development, and what you're now seeing is Frederick Douglass Boulevard is really becoming the gateway to Harlem," says Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

The Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance, or FDBA, was launched in August.

Its many partners include the borough president, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center and the Harlem Community Development Corporation.

So far, the FDBA has 50 dues-paying members.

"There have been other organizations in the neighborhood so people are members of other things, so you want to get people to understand they can be members of more than one organization at the same time," says Lia Sanfilippo, FDBA co-president.

Some merchants say the FDBA has already come up with some plans that should increase foot traffic.

"We do get together with other businesses and try to think of new ideas, maybe a street festival, maybe a block party," says Selene Martinez, co-owner of 5 and Diamond Restaurant.

"That will create more people to come by, see what we have and will give us the opportunity to advertise to the rest of the city," says Marcelo Orbe, owner of MCMB Cleaners.

The FDBA says its aim is to incorporate both old and new residents and merchants in the hopes of creating a thriving residential and commercial corridor.

"We have everything that you would need to spend a day, spend a week, live here," says Louis Gagliano, owner of Harlem Flo.

Others say the camaraderie that comes with the FDBA is priceless.

"Regardless of the product, we're all going through the same challenges and issues and needing access to the same services," says Jai Jai Greenfield of Harlem Vintage.

It’s all done with an eye toward improving life along the boulevard.

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