Sustaining the economic revitalization of all communities in Upper Manhattan.

Photo: Rosemary Santos

Photo: Rosemary Santos

Our Mission

Our mission is to sustain the economic revitalization of all communities in Upper Manhattan through job creation, corporate alliances, strategic investments, and small business assistance.

UMEZ facilitates economic development in the neighborhoods of Central, West, and East Harlem; Washington Heights; and Inwood.


Our Impact

UMEZ focuses on workforce development programs aligned directly with employment opportunities, support for cultural programs and organizational development. By the close of 2018, UMEZ provided a total of almost $242 million of investments:


$87 million

in loans to mixed-use real estate development projects, commercial businesses, and small business enterprises


$57 million

in tax-exempt bonds for real estate development projects


$98 million

in grants focused on arts and culture and workforce development

UMEZ investments have leveraged over $1.1 billion of private capital invested in Upper Manhattan, and this commitment has created nearly 10,000 direct jobs thus far.


Our History


Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone was designated as an urban empowerment zone under federal legislation authored by Congressman Charles B. Rangel and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. The borders of the empowerment zone were created to assist the residents that had the highest concentration of poverty as indicated by the 1990 Census.

Our initial designation was accompanied by a federal grant of $100 million. In a collaborative effort unique in the nation, 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.

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UMEZ, an independent not-for-profit corporation, began operations on February 14, 1995, and made its first round of grants and loans in October 1996. UMEZ’s ongoing operations are not dependent on the extension of the federal empowerment zone legislation.

In 2017, UMEZ became a recognized Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). UMEZ is proud to be certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund as a part of a national network promoting economic growth by financing businesses, creating jobs, and rebuilding neighborhoods.