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Eviction drama poses thorny issue for ‘progressive’ de Blasio

By: Steve Cuozzo

May 5th, 2014

A condemnation drama unfolding in East Harlem is presumably not what community residents expected of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “progressive” agenda.

The city is trying to evict a handful of holdout landowners on the block between Second and Third avenues and 125th and 126th streets to make room for an “East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center.”

The vaguely defined project was trumpeted in 2008 by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is now Council speaker.

At stake are not merely the property owners’ holdings but the fate of a dozen-odd minority-owned stores and services at the site and their 100-plus employees, who are mostly black and Hispanic.

In the cross hairs are a gas station, an auto repair shop, a hair-braiding salon, a dry cleaner, a tire repair stand and a small but very active church. Some of the landlords and tenants have formed an “East Harlem Small Business Association” and hired lawyer 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 said.

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