Urban League moving to Harlem, businesses ousted

Josh Einiger reports from Harlem.
November 6, 2013 8:40:22 PM PST
An organization whose mission is to help protect the rights of minorities is giving several minority businesses the boot.

The Urban League is moving its national headquarters to a spot in Harlem.

But the problem is that several longstanding businesses are getting kicked out in the process.

Tounkara Massamakam started his African importing business two decades ago.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with my life, I just need help," Massamakam said.

A few years later, Ron Walton gambled on a Caribbean restaurant franchise.

"When I came down here, people thought I was crazy coming to Harlem," Walton said.

And it's been six years since Joseph Benbow took over his family's fish restaurant.

"You're trying to build a future, you're finding out your future is no longer there," Benbow said.

This time next year, none of them will be there. They're among five mom and pop business owners getting the boot from the city. The city owns their building and plans a mixed use development including retail and apartments on this now booming stretch of 125th Street.

"The tourists don't come here for Starbucks. They come here for Golden Krust," said State Sen. Bill Perkins, (D) Harlem.

But when it comes to gentrification, State Senator Bill Perkins says he can't get over the irony.

At the root of the development will sit the National Urban League, which plans to open a civil rights museum at the site, down the block from the iconic Apollo Theater.

"The National Urban League is coming back home to Harlem and clearly we welcome them back home! But no in a way that violates entrepreneurs that didn't leave, in fact stayed to create a better day," State Sen. Perkins said.

"These people pulled themselves up from their bootstraps," said Terell Tripp, a neighborhood resident, "And now they're telling them they can't do business here or there's bigger business than they're able to provide, and I think that's unfair."