Posted on February 1, 2011

A Harlem Cultural Hub Is Threatened by Debt

Kevin Flynn and Felicia R. Lee, New York Times, January 31, 2011

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In 2002 the National Black Theater, a cultural anchor of Harlem, invited the owners of Nubian Heritage, a growing beauty-care company with an African pedigree, to invest in its sprawling building at Fifth Avenue and 125th Street.

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{snip} For the businessmen, two former street vendors from Liberia, the building provided a flagship store in a historic neighborhood.

Nine years later, though, the store is closed; the partnership owes nearly $1.8 million in unpaid property taxes; and the theater is facing foreclosure yet again, a plight it blames on its partners, men it once embraced as kindred spirits and now in court accuses of mismanagement and fraud.

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But Ms. Teer’s [Barbara Ann Teer, the theater’s founder] two children, who have run the theater since their mother died nearly three years ago, accuse their partners of leveraging the value of the theater’s building to secure funds for their other businesses and saddling it with debt.

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