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EPA, Boro Prez, and Local Organization Celebrate Harlem's Environmental Renaissance; Neighborhood Projects Win National Award for Smart Growth

Release Date: 12/21/2007
Contact Information: Jennifer May (646) 369-0039, or Elias Rodriguez (212) 637-3664,

(New York, N.Y.) Harlem’s cultural and economic renaissance also includes environmentally sensitive development as evidenced by the borough of Manhattan’s acceptance today of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2007 award for Smart Growth Achievement in the category of equitable development. The prestigious national award was presented at the Thurgood Marshall Academy by EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg to Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and Sheena Wright, President and CEO of Abyssinian Development Corporation for their efforts on an environmentally focused community development that increased affordable housing options, revitalized business areas, and expanded job training opportunities.

“Harlem is the birthplace of ideas that have not only transformed our culture and economy, but have also displayed environmental leadership,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. "Well-planned developments such as this development in Harlem are good for our environment, good for our economy and good for our quality of life. And together with our vital community partners - Abyssinian Neighborhood Project - we are helping America responsibly build toward a healthier, brighter future."

Harlem has become a national example of equitable and sustainable development. The borough of Manhattan developed a cooperative strategy to expand the housing and commercial options for central Harlem. The Abyssinian Neighborhood Project area was once marked by vacant lots and abandoned buildings. With help from public and private partners, including the Abyssinian Baptist Church and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President, the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC) launched a community development initiative. Using a comprehensive program that linked education, job training, and cultural enhancement, 200 affordable housing units were built, with an additional 200 planned, and 15,000 square feet of commercial space was created for five local businesses. The project also increased access to public transit, created new green space, and minimized stormwater runoff by reusing paved surfaces.

A key element of the project was to address the social and economic needs of the community. ADC established an award-winning Head Start educational institution, constructed a state-of-the-art educational facility, and helped to create and support five block associations and a neighborhood leadership group. Additionally, ADC has implemented Youthbuild, a workforce development program that has provided on-the-job construction trade training for 40 teens and young adults.

Neighborhood revitalization achieved multiple positive environmental outcomes by building near available infrastructure; cleaning up abandoned buildings and vacant lots; and creating new green space. Developing in areas that were previously developed and not in currently undeveloped areas, minimizes the impact of stormwater runoff by reusing existing paved surfaces when compared to greenfield development. Residents now have better access to biking and walking routes and public transit, which improves air quality when compared to places that rely solely on automobiles for daily travel. Benefits derived from improving economic opportunities, environmental quality, and the physical character of the community create a model of community-based planning that can be duplicated by other communities.

These Upper Manhattan efforts help protect the environment, preserve community identity and expand economic opportunity. The other winners of the 2007 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement went to the Housing Authority of Portland, Ore.; the Seattle Housing Authority; the state of Vermont; and the town of Barnstable, Mass.

For more details about the Abyssinian Neighborhood Project and the other Smart Growth winners, visit: