Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation

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The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp., also referred to as UMEZ, is a non-profit organization that seeks to revitalize economically deprived communities by using public funds and tax incentives as catalysts for private investment. UMEZ’s mission is to sustain the economic revitalization of all communities of Upper Manhattan through job creation, corporate alliances, strategic investments and small business assistance.


The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone is one of nine empowerment zones established by the Clinton Administration in 1994 to revitalize distressed communities by using public funds and tax incentives as catalysts for private investment. The initial 10-year designation was accompanied by a federal grant of $100 million. Unique among the empowerment zones, the governor of New York State and the mayor of the City of New York each matched the federal funding commitment, creating a total investment pool of $300 million. Of that pool, $50 million was designated for the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, leaving $250 million for investment in Upper Manhattan.

The Empowerment Zone began operations on February 14, 1995, and made its first round of grants and loans in October 1996. In the years since, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone has invested $159 million in the neighborhoods north of 96th Street, catalyzing one of the most impressive reinvestment initiatives in urban America and revitalizing Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. Of the $159 million invested, $70 million has gone towards loans to small businesses and $89 million in grants have been directed to non-profit organizations. The efforts of the Empowerment Zone have created approximately 8,000 jobs for the Upper Manhattan communities.

Legislation enacted in 2000 extended the Empowerment Zone’s operations through December 2009.

So proudly brought into existence through legislation sponsored by Congressman Charles B. Rangel, signed into law by former President Clinton and supported by the City and State of New York, the Empowerment Zone’s legacy will live on in the substantial investment that it has made in projects across Upper Manhattan. Today Harlem is a community on the rise with a dramatic change to the drug-plagued landscapes of decades ago. In recent years major corporations and residents with higher-levels of disposable incomes have flocked to Harlem. "The zone has awesome potential," says Lloyd Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, but revolutions don't happen overnight. The zone is a tool. We have to make sure it's not the only tool that we have".


Kenneth J. Knuckles is the President and CEO of UMEZ. Hope Knight is the Chief Operating Officer.

UMEZ Board of Directors Mr. Mario L. Baeza (Chairman), Ms. Elisabeth Mason, Mr. Henry Comas, Mr. Clarence Mitchell, Mr. Francisco Diaz, Jr., Mr. Richard Thaler Jr., Mr. Joseph J. Johnson, Mrs. Judith Harrison, Ms. Patricia A. Jones, Mr. Anthony S. Kendall, Mr. Luis A. Miranda, Jr. (Treasurer), Ms. Pamela Palanque North,(Vice Chair) Mr. G. William Hunter, Ms. Nancy Devine, Mr. Antonio Rivera Jr., Ms. Linda E. Scott, Ms. Yrthya Dinzey, Mr. Tracey R. Thomas, Ms. Carole N. Griffin, Ms. Beatrice O. Sibblies, Mr. Willie E. Woods,

Community Partners: New York Women's Chamber of Commerce; East Harlem Business Capital Corporation; Audubon Partnership for Economic Development and Harlem Business Alliance

External links[edit]

Smith, Eric L. "Harlem Renaissance - Takes Two: After Years of Neglect, Will Empowerment Zones Allow Harlem to Thrive Once Again?" Black Enterprise February 1997