Mayor Bloomberg, Congressman Rangel and General Motors Chairman Wagoner Celebrate Opening of New Harlem Dealerships
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was joined today by U.S. Congressman Charles B. Rangel and General Motors (GM) Corporation Chairman & CEO Rick Wagoner to celebrate the grand opening of the first auto dealerships in Harlem in more than 40 years. The 300,000-square-foot multi-level complex houses two separate dealerships, which together create one of the largest auto sales and service centers in New York City and the only ones north of 57th Street in Manhattan, bringing 150 new jobs to Harlem to date with expected growth up to 200 jobs. To mark the occasion, GM in partnership with Safe Kids Worldwide and the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it will provide free child safety seats and inspections for Harlem families. Economic Development Corporation (EDC) President Andrew M. Alper and DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall also attended the event at the new facilities, located at 127th Street between Second and Third Avenues.
"Harlem is undergoing an incredible renaissance, and the fact that General Motors decided to open one of the City’s largest auto dealerships here speaks volumes," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The investments by GM and these two dealers, and the new jobs they created, are a tremendous boost for the local economy. I want to commend GM for its decision to do business in Harlem and for its commitment to public safety in Harlem. By teaming with the City and Safe Kids Worldwide to provide free car seat safety inspections for Harlem families, GM is helping ensure we keep our kids safe."
"This project is another example of the ongoing economic revitalization of East Harlem," said Congressman Rangel. "General Motors has joined a chorus of smart companies that have chosen Harlem as their destination of choice for their consumer products. I applaud General Motors for its commitment to minority dealers and for working with the local communities to create economic opportunity. The only thing more important than economic opportunities for our working families is the safety of our children."
General Motors, DOT and the Safe Kids Worldwide coalition will provide free car seat inspections as part of the Safe Kids Buckle Up program. Nationally, Safe Kids Worldwide experts have examined more than 735,000 seats for proper installation and provided more than 300,000 seats to families in need. In New York City last year, 7,898 children ages 13 and younger were injured and 11 died as a result of vehicle crashes. To reduce the number, DOT safety education personnel installed more than 1,500 car seats last year and provide free car seat checks in all five boroughs.
"Statistics show that four out of five car seats are not installed or used correctly," said DOT Commissioner Weinshall. "Car seats can save lives and prevent injuries if they are used correctly, so we’re happy to continue our partnership with GM and bring this important service to more residents of Harlem."
"At General Motors, we are very proud to have a presence in Harlem’s vibrant community and to serve the needs of its important customer base through the Thornton and Potamkin GM dealerships," Wagoner said. "These businesses, and the new jobs they have created, demonstrate GM’s commitment to diverse markets in general, and Harlem in particular, which we believe is a market with tremendous sales potential. We at GM also recognize the critical importance of building safety into every car and truck we sell. That’s why we are thrilled to join with the City, Thornton Chevrolet and Safe Kids Worldwide to promote the proper use of child safety seats in Harlem. Children should be properly secured on every ride. It can literally mean the difference between life and death."
Chevrolet-Saturn of Harlem is owned by Otis Thornton and was developed with GM’s Minority Dealer Development Program, which attracts minority candidates and helps them become successful auto dealers. Adjoining it is Potamkin Cadillac-HUMMER, which was developed in conjunction with Potamkin’s Minority Dealership Program.
"General Motors has a long-standing tradition of commitment to fostering and encouraging minority enterprise development," Thornton said. "Our alliance with General Motors is an example of a large corporation investing in the support and growth of a very important segment of the community. We are proud to bring Chevrolet and Saturn vehicles to Harlem, and we look forward to being a responsible, good neighbor to the Harlem community."
"Harlem is a historically important community to this city, state and nation," said Robert Potamkin, co-chairman of the Potamkin automotive organization. "Our decision to open in Harlem is validation that this is a great place for any business, with unlimited potential."
EDC selected Potamkin to develop the City-owned site after issuing a Request for Proposal. GM received $17 million in tax-exempt Empowerment Zone bonds assistance, made available by the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA). GM leases the land for the Thornton Chevrolet-Saturn dealership from the Potamkin organization.
The opening of the auto dealerships is the latest in a series of public and private investments that are spurring economic development in Harlem. For example, in October, the City broke ground on the West Harlem Piers, a $19 million public open space project that will include a recreational/fishing pier and an excursion pier. In December, the first phase of the $65 million restoration of Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater was completed. The Museum for African Art was selected by the City to develop a site on 110th Street into a new $135 million facility for the museum and a residential tower, which is expected to be completed in 2008.
"Projects like these two dealerships are monumentally important for the people of East Harlem and the surrounding neighborhoods," said EDC President Alper. "The General Motors Minority Dealership Program was the first of its kind in 1972 and GM continues to be at the forefront of creating opportunities for minority workers. We are pleased that General Motors is extending its expertise into Harlem, bringing new jobs along the way."
In addition, the City continues to create affordable housing in Harlem as part of the Mayor’s "New Housing Marketplace Plan" to build and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing Citywide over 10 years. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development has invested $1.5 billion in Harlem since 1987, resulting in 44,774 units of affordable housing. The Department of City Planning and EDC have undertaken a River-to-River study of 125th Street that recommends proposed re-zoning of 125th Street including possible incentives for arts, entertainment, local retail and affordable housing.