Umez awards a grant to manhattan neighborhood network

 New York, NYKenneth J. Knuckles, President & CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp. (UMEZ), announced that his organization had awarded Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) a $500,000 Cultural Industry Investment Fund grant.  The grant will assist MNN with its renovation of a historic East Harlem-based firehouse on East 104th Street, into a Media Arts and Broadcast Center.   UMEZ funding will be used to purchase broadcast and editing equipment for the new facility. The project will create approximately 85 temporary jobs during the construction phase and a total of 16 permanent full-time jobs once the facility opens.

 The 104th Street firehouse, owned by El Museo del Barrio since 1980, was purchased by MNN in 2007 for the creation of its Upper Manhattan media hub. MNN however has long been supportive of bringing direct media services closer to Upper Manhattan residents. Since 2004, the organization has operated a small media training center on East 106th Street, enabling East Harlem residents to have immediate access to its resources.  Additionally, MNN has awarded 1,954 media-based grants to non-profit organizations in the Upper Manhattan community since 1992. MNN’s restoration of the 104th Street firehouse will not only provide the vibrant East-Harlem community permanent access to training in new media but return the building to a community use.

 “For nearly twenty years, MNN has been at the forefront of providing the residents of Manhattan with a much-needed electronic forum by which they can bring attention to those matters with which they are most concerned, while learning how to use broadcast equipment,” said Mr. Knuckles. “Moreover, MNN’s renovation and usage of this historic firehouse demonstrates how a building which was essential in the past, can find a new and important function in the present.”

MNN was founded in 1992 by the Manhattan Borough President's Office. Its mission is to provide Manhattan residents with opportunities to use the medium of cable television to address issues of concern to them.  MNN also provides free training and resources to individuals for producing public access cable shows. Over the past 16 years, MNN has grown from a small start-up to a multi-million dollar organizatino with an outstanding track record of community service accomplishments.

Dan Coughlin, MNN’s Executive Director, said, “We are excited about this project, as we feel the development this new state-of-the-art community media and broadcast center will give us the means to address the community’s needs and address the digital divide issue that is too often prevalent in underserved communities. It’s fantastic when the Federal, State and City governments can work together for the betterment of the community.”

Mr. Coughlin hopes to have the new building open in early Spring 2009.


 UMEZ was one of nine federally designated urban zones in 1994, and 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.


UMEZ’s CIIF celebrates Upper Manhattan’s rich past while creating new legacies.  The work of the CIIF is two-fold:  community building through a cultural and economic lens; and, a marketing of place that repositions Upper Manhattan as one of New York City’s primary cultural districts.  The goals of the CIIF are sustaining the local economy by promoting development, revitalization and tourism; making strategic cultural investments; and, strengthening the cultural ecosystem.

 The CIIF provides support to cultural organizations that use the arts as a tool for economic development, job creation and growth of cultural tourism, within the five communities of Upper Manhattan.  Primary means of support include funding and provision of technical assistance.


MNN network currently broadcasts more than 1200 active shows in 20 languages, 24 hours a day. Its programming which ranges from local to international in scope, reflects the diverse communities that make up New York City, and, the social, cultural, political and artistic diversity of Manhattan. Its programs include news, talk shows, debates, documentaries, travelogues, live music and sketch comedy. With 600,000 subscribers on the Time Warner and RCN cable systems, the network’s programs are viewed by over three million people. 



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