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NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development
Press Room


August 19, 2002

Press Contacts:
Ethan Geto
Jonathan Trichter
Geto & de Milly, Inc. (212) 686-4551


-Community event celebrates the rehabilitation of first three of seven high-quality buildings, bringing new, affordable housing to Central Harlem-

Laura B. Thomas Houses, a major housing revitalization project for Harlem, is a joint effort of the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC), the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to provide high quality, affordable rental housing for residents of Central Harlem. Laura B. Thomas Houses consists of seven buildings within a three-block radius. Four buildings are located on 138th Street, two others on 136th Street, and one on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard between 134th and 135th Streets. Developed in two phases, phase one has just been completed. Elected officials and community leaders joined the Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, Pastor, Abyssinian Baptist Church, for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening.

"Our long-standing goal has been to reclaim Harlem and its housing stock. The reconstruction of the Laura B. Thomas Houses stands as a shining example of what we can achieve when government works in close cooperation with communities. This project will provide Harlem families with affordable, high-quality residences, and today it is gratifying to welcome these 52 families to their new homes," said Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III.

The Reverend Calvin Butts and congregation members from Harlem's world-renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church founded ADC in 1987 as an instrument to foster community development. ADC quickly established a successful track record in preserving and reclaiming a large segment of Upper Manhattan's housing infrastructure, which had badly deteriorated during New York City's fiscal crisis of the 1970's. Today, ADC is one of the most successful community development corporations in the country, having rehabilitated nearly 1000 housing units and several local parks that helped stabilize Harlem neighborhoods and encouraged other building owners to restore their properties. ADC's leadership triggered a resurgence in Harlem homeownership.

"Laura B. Thomas was an active member of Abyssinian Baptist Church in the 1930's, and was appointed as the church's first social worker by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. To honor her spirit and her tireless work tending to Harlem residents in need, the Abyssinian Development Corporation dedicated this project in her memory," said Larry Dais, Chair of the Abyssinian Development Corporation.

Abyssinian Development Corporation President & CEO Sheena Wright said, "With the completion of phase one of this rehabilitation project, dozens of community residents will be able to move into their newly renovated homes. For some of us, the Laura B. Thomas Houses is simply one part of Harlem's beautiful landscape. But for 52 families, this is the day they get to experience Harlem's second Renaissance for themselves."

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is the nation's leading community development support organization. LISC assists not-for-profit development organizations revive communities by providing capital for affordable housing and commercial facilities that improve the quality of life in neighborhoods.

Said New York City LISC Managing Director, Denise Scott, "LISC is honored to have been a part of the rehabilitation of the Laura B. Thomas Houses. In New York City, LISC has helped nonprofit developers create over 16,000 new homes and apartments and 1,000,000 square feet of commercial, industrial and retail space, and we look forward to maintaining our presence in Harlem."

The Laura B. Thomas Houses project was initiated under the Neighborhood Redevelopment Program (NRP) of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and is consistent with HPD's mission to help promote quality and viable neighborhoods for all New Yorkers. HPD is the nation's largest municipal housing development agency. "Since 1987, HPD has invested $1 billion in Harlem and produced more than 40,000 homeownership units and apartments through new construction and rehabilitation initiatives," said HPD Commissioner Jerilyn Perine. "This NRP development is another example of the quality, affordable rental opportunities that have been created through community partnerships with organizations like ADC and LISC."

Phase two of the Laura B. Thomas Houses rehabilitation is already underway and is scheduled to be completed in August 2003, at which time the remaining four buildings and the full 82 housing units will be opened to Central Harlem residents.

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