EHP Testimony at Public Scoping Session for “Uptown NY”

img_2492_jpgDiscussions about the project have varied depending on the setting, as has the description. With titles ranging from “Uptown NY” to the “Latino Entertainment Center,” it appears that different segments of East Harlem have been met with dissimilar approaches. Any sort of subterfuge will only increase fears that the project may destroy the very fabric of our community.

We question (again) why, up until today, there has been no information outlining the project made available over the Internet (including electronic copies of the Environmental Assessment Statement). It becomes rather difficult to discuss the plan when we have not been provided with specific details – aside from what’s been publicly presented (which amounts to super-intricate “flash cards” on easels). If you want to gain public support for your project, I propose full transparency on the part of the developers and related city agencies. If you are truly seeking constructive (and creative) input into your design, then provide us the means with which to have a meaningful dialogue.

From what I’ve heard thus far, I am also quite concerned about:

img_2418_jpgThe rationale behind the city’s plan to condemn local businesses such as the newly establish Dry Cleaners’ Academy on Third Avenue, while other buildings (and city operations) are to be left intact;

The thought behind the expansion of the project onto the southeast corner of 125th Street and Third Avenue with yet another tall building just because there happens to be a vacant lot on that spot. NY Uptown will forever change the look of the East Harlem Triangle and the developers should respect the continuity of the surrounding areas;

The health and environmental impact of a 1,000 car parking lot and underground bus shelter that will be situated under and around 700,000 square feet of retail shops and 1,500 units of housing;

The lack of information about (and planning for) adequate public transportation, sanitation and other environmental impact issues to be expected during both the construction and post-construction phases of the project;

The lack of specifics regarding the formula (and agency) that will be used to determine what is affordable housing – which may not adequately reflect local income averages;

img_2410_jpgThe failure to secure community support in the form of Memorandums of Understanding, which are generally brought to fruition beforehand;

The lack of clarity with respect to the proposed “cultural” and/or “community” aspects of the project, which has been described as a “Latino Cultural Center” at some meetings and as a “Community Center” during others. Artifice does not go over very well in East Harlem.

“Uptown NY” has the potential to establish a dynamic bond amongst struggling community agencies, local arts organizations and residents – either for or against the proposed project. As such, tangible agreements and partnerships should first be established with local board members, community development and arts agencies, neighborhood associations, and homeowners, if you truly hope to ensure that the project compliments (and serves) the vision of those who already live and work in East Harlem.

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