Knuckles Fights for Harlemites

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As the development of the East River Plaza Mall moves closer to becoming a reality, last week the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp. (UMEZ) and Tiago Holdings, LLC co-hosted a conference for over 75 prospective contractors who are seeking contracting opportunities on this monumental project.

Among those in attendance at the conference were Council Member Melissa Mark- Viverito, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell, IV, and representatives of other State and City elected officials and agencies. 

In the fall of 2005, UMEZ approved a $15 million loan and $40 million in triple-tax exempt Empowerment Zone Bonds that will help turn the 6.2 acre site, located on the FDR Drive between 116th and 119th Streets, into a vibrant commercial center in East Harlem, New York.  The project's retailers, including Home Depot and Costco, will offer a shopping environment that is unique from that which is presently available in Manhattan. Preliminary site preparation on the Mall began earlier this month and it is expected that the project will be completed in the fall of 2008.

The developer, Tiago Holdings, LLC, the construction manager, Tishman Construction Corporation and the project’s consultant, The Darman Group, presented an overview and timetable for the development project, as well as their efforts to promote local involvement as they move forward with the development of East River Plaza Mall. One of the primary topics of discussion during the question and answer period centered around the issue of certification  - -  with several conference participants requesting information about the State and City certification processes for contractors.  Additionally, there were questions concerning the use of union and non-union workers for certain parts of the project.   

 â€œToo often projects of this nature are developed in communities without the participation and input of contractors who need and deserve that opportunity, but for many reasons, are unable to get their foot in the door,â€? said Kenneth Knuckles, President and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation.  “The development of the East River Plaza Mall offers numerous contracting opportunities for a variety of contractors.  By co-sponsoring this conference we are working to ensure that there is a level playing field for those qualified companies, especially those that are minority- and women-owned, to compete for contracts related to the creation of this project.â€?

 â€œIt is further hoped that this will have a domino effect in that these businesses - - if and when they are awarded contracts - -  will in turn hire local skilled labor from communities throughout the zone. This is not a new concept.  But, it is one that needs to be practiced more often for the continued economic and social development of our neighborhoods.â€?

Information about the East River Plaza project is available on The Darman Group’s website,, or by contacting Paul Quintero at 212-410-0030 extension 204. 

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