NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE LOOKS AHEAD TO ITS RETURN HOME TO HARLEM WITH A CONSTRUCTION KICKOFF AND COMMUNITY CELEBRATION
NEW YORK (June 17, 2021) – The National Urban League today gathered with community groups, city and state elected officials and economic development partners for a construction kickoff and community celebration in anticipation of its upcoming return to Harlem.
“As the beating heart of Black culture in America and the community that gave birth to the National Urban League, Harlem is our rightful and natural home,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said. “As an early champion and supporter of Harlem’s emerging artists and intellectuals, the National Urban League, in turn, helped give birth to the Harlem Renaissance.
“With this homecoming, we look forward to resuming a cherished role as for Black culture and activism, and a catalyst for enterprise, creativity, activism and advocacy,” Morial said.
The $242 million, 414,000-square-foot Urban League Empowerment Center is one of the most significant economic development projects in Harlem’s recent history. Located Center on Harlem’s “Main Street,” 125th Street, near legendary cultural institutions like the Apollo Theater and the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Empowerment Center will include the National Urban League’s headquarters, the Urban Civil Rights Museum Experience, the National Urban League Institute for Race, Equity and Justice, along with 170 units of affordable housing, below-market office space for non-profits and community groups including One Hundred Black Men of New York, United Negro College Fund New York, and the Harlem-based Jazzmobile, and retail space featuring Target and Trader Joe’s.
“This project has been a labor of love that allows the National Urban League to ‘practice what we preach’ in terms of revitalizing urban neighborhoods through collaborative partnerships among the public, private and community sectors,” National Urban League Board of Trustees Chair Timothy Murphy.
One of the nation’s preeminent civil rights and social justice organizations, and the only one dedicated to the economic empowerment of historically underserved urban communities, the National Urban League was founded in Harlem in 1910 in response to the Great Migrations that brought millions of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was instrumental in aligning state agencies and private sector partners to move the project forward, said, “The National Urban League was born in New York more than a century ago, and we are proud to finally bring this historic institution back to Harlem where it first started. The new Urban League Empowerment Center is not just a headquarters, it’s going to be the largest mixed-use development in Harlem to meet the needs of the community and revitalize the neighborhood. It is going to be another significant chapter in the rebirth and the future of the new Harlem, and this does not happen without Marc Morial’s leadership and vision.”
With construction on the Empowerment Center underway, yesterday’s event was dedicated to thanking and celebrating the many partners and stewards that have made the project possible.
Goldman Sachs was the lead private capital provider for the project and was instrumental in structuring this public-private partnership. Global Head of Sustainability and Impact for Goldman Sachs Asset Management Margaret Anadu said, “There are few things more urgent today than the need to work together to create opportunity and advance civil rights in our city and in underserved communities across the country. Today’s milestone is an important step towards those goals as we come together to advance civil rights, affordable housing for families, neighborhood amenities, cultural space, and job creation all in one historic development in a dynamic and vibrant neighborhood. None of this would have been possible without the deep commitment and collaboration amongst city, state, National Urban League, BRP Companies, Dabar Development Partners, L+M Development Partners and Taconic Partners.”
Empire Acting Commissioner, and President and CEO-delegate Eric Gertler said, “Breaking ground on the Urban League Empowerment Center is the result of an incredibly collaborative effort among various State agencies, elected officials, local agencies and stakeholders, the National Urban League, and the private sector to not only welcome the League back home, but also contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of the Harlem community and beyond. The Center is more than just a building – it is a physical manifestation of New York’s commitment to the National Urban League’s century-old mission: economic empowerment, equality and civil rights for all.”
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “The Urban League Empowerment Center will honor the history of the Black American experience and renew our commitment to reversing the effects of systemic racism. We are proud that the state’s $242 million investment will allow this highly energy-efficient development to feature 170 affordable apartments with 70 supportive homes reserved for youth aging out of foster care. This is part of our ongoing efforts to build more equitable neighborhoods by delivering healthy housing, creating jobs and expanding access to resources and services. Welcome home, National Urban League! We are so glad you are back.”
New York City Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Rachel Loeb said, Today’s construction kickoff is a wonderful milestone for New York City’s continued recovery. New Yorkers will greatly benefit from more affordable housing, retail, additional space for community groups, new jobs, and a permanent new home for the National Urban League. We are proud to have played a key role in delivering this project for the Harlem community.”
BRP Companies Co-Founder & Managing Partner Meredith Marshall said, “We’re thrilled to be celebrating the construction kickoff today alongside the City and State of New York, L+M Development Partners, Taconic Investment Partners, the National Urban League and the greater Harlem community. Creating much-needed affordable housing resources, returning the National Urban League’s headquarters to Harlem, debuting New York’s first civil rights museum and providing office space to community groups and civic organizations will only further bolster the vibrant and already robust Harlem community.”
Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation President and CEO Blair M. Duncan said, “We join in the celebration of the homecoming of the National Urban League’s headquarters to Harlem. This project continues the revitalization of our community, and we are pleased that our subordinated construction financing can help catalyze private sector investment to make the Urban League Empowerment Center a reality.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, said, “For generations, the National Urban League has fought for civil and economic rights of Black people and I’m thrilled to celebrate the homecoming of this great organization to Harlem. This space will not only house the Urban Civil Rights Museum Experience, the National Urban League Institute for Race, Equity and Justice and various non-profits, it will also provide 170 units of affordable housing in the heart of Harlem. This project is exactly what we need as New York City recovers stronger and fairer for all New Yorkers.”
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said, “Congratulations to the National Urban League on today’s Construction Kick-off & Community Celebration. Today marks the return of the National Urban League’s headquarters to Harlem, the original Mecca of black literature, thought and culture in the United States. I am proud to stand side by side with the National Urban League as we work to correct decades of systemic racial, economic, and educational injustices within our society and I look forward to working with them for many more years to come to achieve equal justice and shared prosperity.”
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “I am so pleased that New York will once again be home to the future National Urban League headquarters in the historic and beautiful 125th Street, Harlem. With today’s Construction Kick-off & Community Celebration, we mark the beginning of this exciting project and we celebrate the Harlem community that inspired the creation of this organization and so many other institutions that celebrate Black culture and activism. I am proud to have worked with National Urban League on many important issues and look forward to our work supporting education, arts, and the economic empowerment of underserved communities for years to come.”
Congressmember Adriano Espaillat said, “The National Urban League’s decision to place their forthcoming headquarters in the heart of Harlem is a testament to our borough’s commitment to social justice and affordable housing, and will reinforce Harlem’s legacy as a national hub for cultural appreciation and civil rights. For over a century, the National Urban League has held true to its mission to uplift communities around the country. This comprehensive project is a powerful display of the impact public and private investments can have in our communities. With this new headquarters, National Urban League will continue on their mission in bigger and better ways, and I welcome them as they further expand their roots here in New York City.”
State Senator Brian Benjamin said, “It’s a great day when we are breaking ground for the new National Urban League headquarters right here in the heart of Harlem. This will be an amazing addition to the community, and will be a landmark for generations. I was happy to do my small part with Assemblymember Dickens to help the project move forward. The Urban League has been a force for equality and improving lives for over a century now. We have seen a lot of progress over that time, but there is still a long way to go. This new project will bring the Urban League’s headquarters uptown, and also will bring affordable housing, and cultural and business opportunities right to Harlem’s ‘Main Street.’ I am really looking forward to the day when we can cut the ribbon on the finished project.”
Target Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer Christina Hennington said, “It’s an honor to celebrate the Urban League Empowerment Center and mark Target’s partnership in this project. Target is committed to being a part of Harlem and to continuing to build relationships in the community that will make a positive impact for years to come.”