Rising to the Occasion East Harlem's Maple Plaza Thrives at Last

As part of a New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) project, Maple Plaza in East Harlem was constructed in the late 1990s in hopes that the building would help anchor redevelopment efforts in the neighborhood. The eight-story, 155-unit U-shaped building went up on 123rd Street between Madison and Park Avenues, and contained a state-of-the-art laundry room, a community room, and 87 parking spaces. There was also a corporate tenant--the Ralph Lauren Cancer Center--on the building's lower level. The Mortgage Insurance Fund was providing 100 percent insurance on a loan of $17 million, and all seemed to be a go for the much-publicized--and much-needed--co-op.

But all did not go as planned for Maple Plaza--at least not at first. The project's sponsors changed again and again (Chase, Citibank and North General Hospital were all involved at one time or another), poor construction caused a plethora of structural problems, and a laissez-faire board structure in the early days led to a multitude of administrative problems.

Yet despite all the early difficulties, Maple Plaza has begun to overcome its trials and tribulations and has made itself a home that residents can be proud of. Like any building that's home to hundreds of people and dozens of different families, it's certainly not perfect--but it is well on its way to living up to the vision that was planned for the building in the beginning stages.

Beginning Woes

Maple Plaza's troubles started early. The ideals set by those at the beginning stages of the project seemed like pipe dreams when one thing after another started going wrong, beginning with construction of the building itself.

"We had problems with a leaky roof and leaky windows--but the major challenge was to get the developer and Sparrow Construction to respond to our list of items," says board president Sophine Charles. "The problems involved the construction, and the developers not having constructed the building properly."


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