Empire State Development Announces Progress on Project to Bring the National Urban League Headquarters Back to Harlem and Build New York’s First Civil Rights Museum

July 19, 2019

Project now includes at least 170 units of affordable and supportive housing for low-income New Yorkers

Below-market rate space will be provided to Harlem-based nonprofits

ESD to provide $4.5 million in grants, New York State Homes and Community Renewal expected to support affordable housing

Empire State Development today announced progress on the over $260 million project to bring the National Urban League’s headquarters back to Harlem, the neighborhood where the organization was founded in 1910. As part of the development, the National Urban League will construct New York’s first civil rights museum, designed to tell the story of civil rights advocacy in the North, and a conference center. In addition, the project will now include at least 170 units of affordable housing, below-market rate office space for Harlem-based nonprofits, and Class A office and retail space.

“Equitable economic development means investing in every neighborhood and in organizations like the National Urban League that work every day to uplift others,” Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said. “We are proud to support this project that will keep NUL in New York and continue Harlem’s renaissance.”

RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said: “The National Urban League holds an important place in our history, breaking down barriers and fighting for economic and social justice across the country. HCR is proud to see the organization’s headquarters return to its original home in Harlem, bringing with it quality affordable housing for more than 170 New Yorkers. This will move Governor Cuomo’s $20 billion Housing Plan forward and contribute to Harlem’s rebirth.”

“Harlem is where our work began more than a century ago and is very much our spiritual home,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said. “We are grateful to Governor Cuomo and the local elected officials who helped to make this possible. We are elated to be joining the vibrant Harlem community and moving into the next phase of our ever-expanding mission of advocacy and service.”

“Bringing the National Urban League’s headquarters back to Harlem while maximizing the move to bring a host of amenities and a museum online will embed critical resources in the community,” said NYCEDC President James Patchett. “The epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance, this iconic New York City neighborhood has helped to define black culture in America and is most fitting to be the home of New York’s first civil rights museum.”

On Thursday, Empire State Development’s Board of Directors voted to approve a modified General Project Plan for the development and two grants from the New York City Regional Economic Development Council and the Restore New York Communities Initiative totaling $4.5 million for the project. New York State Homes and Community Renewal is also expected to provide financing to support the creation of affordable housing.

These actions come just days after Governor Cuomo signed legislation authorizing the state’s Office of General Services to support the project by transferring the future National Urban League site to Empire State Development. Sponsored by Senator Brian Benjamin and Assembly Member Inez Dickens, the legislation will ensure the state can create low-income affordable housing at the site and provide below-market rate space for local nonprofit organizations onsite.

Meredith Marshall, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of BRP Companies said: “On behalf of the development team, BRP congratulates the National Urban League on this important step toward realizing a new Harlem headquarters and civil rights museum. We are proud to be part of this project, which will honor Harlem’s history and help secure its future, creating much-needed affordable housing in the community.”

The project is the result of a Request for Proposals (RFP) originally issued by Empire State Development and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The modified General Project Plan achieves the RFP’s goals of revitalizing 125th Street and strengthening Central Harlem’s critical mass of arts, cultural and entertainment institutions by building:

  • More than 170 units of supportive housing and affordable housing targeted to New Yorkers making 30% to 80% of the Area Median Income;
  • A national headquarters for the National Urban League and a conference center;
  • The Urban Civil Rights Experience Museum, New York State’s first civil rights museum, which will explore civil rights advocacy in the North;
  • Approximately 70,000 square feet of Class A office space, addressing an unmet demand in Harlem;
  • Below-market space for two Harlem-based nonprofit organizations, 100 Black Men, Inc. and Jazzmobile; and
  • Approximately 90,000 square feet of rentable retail space.

To make this project a reality, the National Urban League is partnering with BRP Companies, Taconic Investment Partners, L+M Development Partners, Dabar Development Partners and The Prusik Group, as well as 100 Black Men and Jazzmobile.

The Governor’s commitment to providing all New Yorkers with access to safe, affordable housing is reflected in the State’s unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan. The plan makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building and preserving 112,000 units of affordable housing, including 6,000 units of supportive housing. The plan is a comprehensive approach to statewide housing issues and includes multifamily and single-family housing, community development, and rent stabilization.

State Senator Brian Benjamin said: “I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development for moving this project forward, bringing us closer to building a new home for the National Urban League on 125th Street – the central corridor of historic Harlem – so they can continue their work advocating on behalf of African Americans and for economic justice. This headquarters, along with a civil rights museum and low-income affordable housing are important additions to the Harlem community. I am proud to be the Senate sponsor of the legislation that made this possible.”

Assemblymember Inez Dickens said: “Today, I am elated to see the National Urban League project move forward with a new General Project Plan. Along with the return of this important institution, the project will also include 170 units of affordable housing ranging upwards to a maximum of 80% Area Median Income (AMI). This project will also be the new home for Jazzmobile and 100 Black Men Inc., and will see significant funding provided to the 125th Street Improvement Fund. I congratulate the Governor for continuing to support low and middle income families by supporting this project that allows them to remain part of the fabric of our city.”

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York's chief economic development agency (www.esd.ny.gov). The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing Governor Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of "I LOVE NY," the State's iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov.

Jack Sterne | [email protected] | (212) 803-3764
ESD Press Office | [email protected] | (800) 260-7313