HARLEM — The city's economic development corporation is looking for ideas to redevelop what it is calling one of the last underutilized parcels of land along Central Park — but a Harlem councilwoman says she's opposed to the project.
The 13,500 square foot space on the northwest corner of Central Park North at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 110th Street is currently a BP gas station. But the city thinks the land can be used to develop 85,000 square feet of residential, community and retail space.
“The redevelopment of this site could offer a unique opportunity to enhance the surrounding community while also increasing economic activity throughout the entire area,” said NYEDC President Seth Pinsky.
The city does not currently own the space, but maintained the right to reacquire the property as part of the 1996 deed of sale to the current owner.
The city wants the space to become home to affordable housing and a not-for-profit community space of 8,000 square feet, with room for retail space for the current owner to rent out at an affordable price.
“By allowing us to explore what type of development is feasible at this site, this RFEI will provide us with the insights we need to determine what steps we may take going forward at this critical location," Pinsky added.
Harlem Councilwoman Inez Dickens is not in favor of the plan, said her spokeswoman Lynette Velasco.
Velasco said the gas station, "It is clearly needed."
"We don't want to see the owner lose everything because he has put his life savings into it," said Velasco. "This man has been a long-standing member of the community. The city should try to work with him and form an effective partnership."
EDC officials said the RFEI is only an exploration of the possibilities for redeveloping the space and that no final decision has been made.
They also pointed out that any new development would involve an affordable retail space being preserved for the current owner as well as affordable housing and retail space.
Carmie Elmore Jr., vice president of 110th Street Service Station, Inc., was not available for comment. Even in the rain, the station was filled with taxis and passenger cars.
Sanusi Bah, a cab driver for three years, said he would be sad to see the station close.
"I always put gas in here because the service and the workers are good," Bah said, adding that he drove from further downtown just to fill up at the station.
"They speak to us nicely. Other gas stations, they don't respect taxi drivers," he said.