NEW FACE FOR A BATTERED COMMUNITY. Luring blacks home to a rehabbed Harlem
Blacks who have been leading the flight out of Harlem must support its revival, if the area is to come back as the world's ``black capital,'' community leaders and activists say. A Harlem renaissance can succeed only with their help. ``This new Harlem is already rising,'' says Donald J. Coggsville, president and chief officer of Harlem Urban Development Corporation, the state agency that is planning, supervising, and helping to finance Harlem's renewal.
The corporation has 12 housing programs at various stages, ranging from single rooms to mass housing developments. It includes apartment complexes, condominiums, and cooperatives.
On paper the corporation's programs look good, but concerned Harlemites wonder who will live in the new Harlem. They also say there should be even more housing.
``The city owns 65 percent of Harlem, and we wonder who will control the development of this property,'' says Eugene Webb, head of Webb & Brooker, one of the community's pioneer development and real estate firms. ``Blacks are needed to develop these city properties, but can they get financing?''
``Our needs are so great that we can't afford to lose our people with potential. We have had massive abandonment here. Many of our more-affluent blacks have moved elsewhere.''
David Dinkins, president of the Manhattan Borough, also advocates investing in real estate in Harlem. New York's top black elected public official has taken a special interest in housing for the homeless and the sale of city-owned property to blacks. He has appointed an 18-member task force on housing for homeless families that has devised a plan for providing both transitional and permanent housing for low-income families.
Through his office in City Hall, Mr. Dinkins takes a microscopic view of every program Mayor Edward Koch proposes for Harlem. Dinkin questions each plan to sell city-controlled property in Harlem. He checks every effort championed by the Uptown Chamber of Commerce. He reviews each transaction by the development corporation.
``We can't sit idly by and let gentrification creep into Harlem,'' he says. ``Whites already have invested here, and more will continue to buy. Black people have a stake ... they must retain.''
``Harlem is alive again,'' Lloyd Williams, president of the Uptown Chamber of Commerce, says. The chamber advocates more black investment in the community.
``Buy black,'' Mr. Williams urges Harlemites. ``Support each other. Pool our resources. Harlem is the only land and development frontier on the island of Manhattan. If we don't act to hold on to what we have and maintain control, we lose, and so does New York. We act, or Manhattan becomes a conclave for the wealthy and well-to-do.''
``Successful blacks may be Harlem's most dangerous products, if they don't change their ways [and stop moving out],'' says Denise Crawford, a rising young middle-management executive at WNET-TV, the city's public broadcasting channel.
A suburbanite who commutes to work daily from Teaneck, N.J., Ms. Crawford grew up in Harlem but decided to quit a decaying neighborhood to live in a community ``safe'' from muggers, drugs, neglect, and fear, she says.
``I want to move back to Harlem,'' she says. ``My parents still live there. So do most of my relatives. And I recently joined a church there, too. Maybe I've found it too easy to follow the buppies' [young black professionals] trail out of Harlem and forget my soul heritage. My folks are working on helping me to return home.''
Crawford is proud that her church, the Abyssinian Baptist Church, has development plans for the new Harlem. It is involved in federally subsidized cooperative units for mixed-income people. It is also involved in a senior-citizens apartment building.
Two other churches have been pioneers in housing in Harlem. One, Canaan Baptist has its Canaan House and the Second Canaan Plaza. The second, St. Phillips Episcopal, has built five nonprofit developments and is undertaking two new ones. All were financed by the Carver Federal Savings Bank in Harlem, New York's only black-run savings bank.
According to the Harlem Urban Development Corporation's Mr. Coggsville, here is what is building around Harlem:
Already occupied: 412 rehabilitated units and 3,392 newly constructed rental units, valued at $189.7 million. All of these are subsidized, supported by federal funds, including such highly publicized developments as Lionel Hampton Houses, Schomburg Plaza, Riverview Houses, and Fifth Avenue-Lakeview.
Under construction: 350 rehabs, $20.7 million. These are a mixture of privately developed, state subsidized, and mixed-income units.
Approved projects: 553 rehabs and 599 new units, worth $107.1 million. The most controversial, and possibly the most spectacular, is the private 599-unit Towers on the Park complex, financed with private, federal, and state funds. Many Harlemites are unhappy that 75 percent of the units are likely to be market price with 25 percent reserved for families with incomes of $34,000 or less.
Third of four articles. Next: Watchers over Harlem's revival. Other articles ran March 9 and 10.