Houses of Worship Grappling with Harlem’s Development Boom
Like dozens of church leaders across Upper Manhattan, The Rev. Darnell Harper is wrestling with an earthly dilemma: As Harlem real estate values skyrocket, shrinking congregations and crumbling buildings are putting tremendous financial pressure on local churches. Do they stay, sell or look for some middle path to cash in on their newly valuable property while preserving their missions of faith and community service?
“Churches need to find ways to persist without having the income they used to have,” says Jason Labate, a lawyer with Goldstein Hall, which specializes in low- income housing development and has worked with a number of Harlem churches. “They are asset-rich and cash-poor, and they are frequently trying to leverage that asset into some space that’s not falling down around them.”
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