A proposal to bring a vibrant retail strip to a stretch of East Harlem is gaining momentum. NY1’s Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
The Harlem Community Development Corporation envisions transforming a gritty strip beneath the Metro North tracks on upper Park Avenue into a marketplace, known as La Marqueta Mile.
"The goal is to create approximately 900 kiosks for local small businesses,” said Harlem CDC Director of Planning Thomas Lunke. “There's the opportunity, really, of creating up to 4,000 jobs that way, which we're thinking about in terms of career pathways, not just regular jobs."
The proposal calls for a 22-block open-air market along Park Avenue from 111th to 133rd Streets, where the food and crafts will be made on site. But while the ideas are there, the money is not.
"Now the key thing is funding, because with every great idea, without the real funding behind it, it goes nowhere,” said Curtis Archer, president of the Harlem CDC.
The Harlem CDC says it's looking for help from local elected officials, along with federal and private money. Leaders say the bottom line is the more funding, the lower the rents for the kiosks.
"We're hoping we can keep it below $600,” said Lunke. “As Irwin [Cohen] once said, ‘as close to zero as possible.’”
Irwin Cohen is the man who developed the thriving Chelsea Market and who came up with the idea for La Marqueta Mile.
“The idea was to take advantage of the cultural and ethnic diversity of Harlem,” said Cohen. “I don't think there's another concentrated area in the world that has as many groups of people living in harmony as we have here in Harlem."
Recently, the Center for an Urban Future threw its support behind the proposal.
"These are people who may have terrific skills and a great product to sell to the public, but a majority of them could never afford a traditional brick and mortar storefront and certainly not in this area, which, again, is one of the most expensive in the city,” said David Giles of the Center for an Urban Future.
While the plan is still in its conceptual phase, many East Harlem residents who spoke with NY1 said they're on board.
“I think it would be best for me to shop in my community, rather than going far downtown or anywhere else,” said one local.
"That's what we're looking for – good prices, jobs, anything that helps the community,” agreed another.
The plan needs city and community support to move forward. The Harlem CDC says it's working to make that happen.