Built from Mercy, Curtis Archer '79 Builds New York

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The greenery surrounding Mercy College’s Dobbs Ferry Campus located in Westchester, New York conjures a clear memory for alumnus Curtis Archer ’79. Accustomed to riding the subway to Stuyvesant High School for Math and Science in New York City alongside the densest crowd in America, Archer experienced what he described as “culture shock” when first seeing Westchester County and the Dobbs Ferry Campus on the Hudson. Growing up in a tenement apartment in the Bronx, Archer’s cityscape upbringing contrasted the verdant train ride views from his local stop to the Ardsley-on-Hudson Metro North station. 

Driving was the conventional way of getting around in Westchester, which was another big change for a city kid used to public transportation. He soon gained insight into what made suburban kids worthy: vehicle ownership. Archer reflects that this was his original motivation for doing well in college. “The popular guys at Mercy College — they had a car. It was a good incentive to work hard and be successful,” he laughed. 

Archer did in fact excel as a sociology and criminal justice major at Mercy, and built a close community playing basketball under Joe Flowers, a time he reflects on lovingly. After graduation he briefly pursued a doctoral program in political science at Columbia University, but in facing the responsibilities that come with starting a family, decided to take a full-time job instead.

Archer’s first job in 1989 for the New York City Office of Business Development, which later became the Department of Business Services, would ignite a thriving career serving four governors and leading him to his current role as President of the Harlem Community Development Corporation. 

Along the way, Archer was recruited to oversee complex economic development projects from one New York City borough to another. In 1992 he accepted a position with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, where he reached the level of senior project manager and was responsible for moving several retail projects ahead in his old South Bronx neighborhood. 

Recognized for his hard work, former Borough President Claire Shulman hired him as the City Business Assistant Program’s Director of Economic Development and African American community liaison. Archer then became Director of Small Business Development for the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone in 1997, but shortly thereafter was hired as the Executive Director of Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, where he was successful in promoting the revitalization of the peninsula's economic base and neighborhoods. 

Since January 2006, Curtis has served as President of the Harlem Community Development Corporation, where he sees his role as essential in enhancing the economic climate for both businesses and residents in the Greater Harlem community.

“I enjoy doing what I do because I enjoy making a difference in the communities we serve. It’s about impacting lives and helping people find their voices. When I aid small business owners, I help them realize their lifelong dreams. When we host career fairs, we help countless New York City residents build themselves up,” Archer said. 

Beyond playing basketball with former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo, Archer has worked, and played, in the company of high-level government officials and business executives whom he deems as mentors. Up there in the ranks also sits Meryl Sufian, then a Mercy professor who taught him to think critically and think twice before swallowing the company line. 

Archer now has his own guidance for students: “Be open to change and always willing to learn and absorb. I’m thankful to have acquired these traits from experiences at Mercy and in the workforce.”

Archer celebrates, and cherishes, his success by frequenting Harlem restaurants that have opened with his assistance in navigating several bureaucratic processes. “I get joy from people saying thank you.” It’s even better than car ownership.