A Harlem Cultural Hub Is Threatened by Debt

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Theirs was a partnership built on vision and pride and rooted in a building at the very heart of black America.

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.

The theater, created in the turmoil of the civil rights movement, had owned the building for 19 years. But now it faced foreclosure, as large construction loans remained unpaid.

For the theater, its new partners held the promise of revenue and revival. 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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