From the NY Times:
Damon Bae’s commercial laundry on Third Avenue in East Harlem may never be mistaken for the kind of glamorous businesses found near Wall Street, Times Square or Madison Avenue, but it is a thriving concern in this neighborhood of three- and four-story buildings and vacant lots.
The laundry, Fancy Cleaners, serves the five dry cleaning stores Mr. Bae owns in Manhattan, and the small retail dry-cleaning operation he opened inside the laundry has attracted customers from Harlem and beyond in the five years since he moved here from Murray Hill.
But Mr. Bae, and more than a half-dozen other small-business owners in this neighborhood bound by Second and Third Avenues, from 125th to 127th Streets, are waging an uphill fight to hold onto their property. The Bloomberg administration has so far moved successfully in the courts to condemn six acres on behalf of a big developer for a $700 million East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center.
“I think that the city is going to take away our properties and businesses so they can make another developer with deeper pockets a lot of money,” Mr. Bae said.
Many of the business owners knew that a large stretch of the area was included in a 150-block urban renewal effort that was approved in 1968 but never quite materialized. But property owned by at least three of the businessmen was not included in the renewal zone, at least not until 2008, when the Bloomberg administration added those parcels to the mix.
At the time, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hailed the creation of jobs and housing, and the city justified taking the private property by declaring the area “blighted” — a description that Mr. Bae and the other business owners found galling.
The city owned most of the land, allowing it to sit fallow for decades while turning down Mr. Bae and other business owners who wanted to buy parcels to expand their operations.
“It’s artificially manufactured blight,” Mr. Bae said.