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Thread: Columbia University Campus Expansion - Manhattanville

  1. #376
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    They're to blame. It looks exactly like the renders.

  2. #377
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    This is ugly.

  3. #378

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    December 4, 2009
    Court Bars Takeover of Land for Columbia Campus
    By CHARLES V. BAGLI


    An appellate ruling sided with Nicholas Sprayregen, who owns four self-storage buildings the state wanted to condemn.

    A New York appeals court ruled Thursday that the state could not use eminent domain on behalf of Columbia University to obtain parts of a 17-acre site in Upper Manhattan, setting back plans for a satellite campus at a time of discord over government power to acquire property.

    In a 3-to-2 decision, a panel of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Manhattan annulled the state’s 2008 decision to take property for the expansion project, saying that its condemnation procedure was unconstitutional.

    The majority opinion was scathing in its appraisal of how the “scheme was hatched,” using terms like “sophistry” and “idiocy” in describing how the state went about declaring the neighborhood blighted, the main prerequisite for eminent domain.

    The $6.3 billion expansion plan is not dead; an appeal has been promised, and Columbia still controls most of the land. But at a time when the government’s use of eminent domain on behalf of private interests has become increasingly controversial, the ruling was a boon for opponents.

    “I feel unbelievable,” said Nicholas Sprayregen, the owner of several self-storage warehouses in the Manhattanville expansion area and one of two property owners who have refused to sell to the university. “I was always cautiously optimistic. But I was aware we were going against 50 years of unfair cases against property owners.”

    A spokesman for Columbia, David M. Stone, referred all questions to state officials.

    Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, the agency that approved the use of eminent domain, called the decision “wrong and inconsistent with established law, as consistently articulated by the New York State Court of Appeals, most recently with respect to E.S.D.C.’s Atlantic Yards project.” He added, “E.S.D.C. intends to appeal this decision.”

    The ruling comes less than two weeks after the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled 6 to 1 that the state could exercise eminent domain in taking businesses, public property and private homes on behalf of a Brooklyn developer who planned a 22-acre residential development and a basketball arena.

    Proponents of Columbia’s plan expressed optimism that Thursday’s decision would be overturned by the Court of Appeals. But Norman Siegel, a lawyer for the holdout owners, called the ruling a “major victory” in a state that has been deferential to its power to take private property.

    “The decision sets forth a road map for how private property owners in New York and throughout America can fight back when government tries to seize your property in the name of eminent domain,” he said.

    Columbia embarked in 2003 on its first major expansion in 75 years, saying it had outgrown its Morningside Heights campus. It planned to replace the low-scale industrial buildings north of 125th Street, in the Manhattanville area, with school buildings, laboratories, restaurants and tree-lined streets.

    The court’s decision, if it is upheld, is not fatal to the plan. Columbia already owns or controls 61 of 67 buildings in the 17-acre project area. Presumably, it can build around the holdout owners, or come to agreement with them. But the state and the university have sought the entire site.

    Mr. Sprayregen said he never opposed the plan. “The research and education they will perform are very beneficial,” he said. “The fact remains that even if they don’t get the last 5 percent, they can still go ahead and build their campus.”

    Amrik Singh, who manages two gas stations involved in the case, said: “I want to thank God and the judges who gave us the decision. We were scared. We were all worried about our jobs.”

    Mr. Sprayregen and the family that owns the stations challenged the process the state used in finding that the neighborhood was blighted.

    Writing for the majority, Justice James M. Catterson said there was a conflict of interest when the state hired the same real estate consultant, AKRF, that Columbia had hired to make the determination of blight. “We questioned AKRF’s ability to provide ‘objective advice’ to the E.S.D.C., particularly with respect to its preparation of the blight study,” Justice Catterson wrote.

    The blight designation, the court said, was “mere sophistry” about a neighborhood that was already undergoing a renaissance. The state’s development corporation committed to rezoning long before the study, “not for the goal of general economic development or to remediate an area that was blighted before Columbia acquired over 50 percent of the property, but rather solely for the expansion itself.”

    “Even a cursory examination of the study reveals the idiocy of considering things like unpainted block walls or loose awning supports as evidence of a blighted neighborhood,” Justice Catterson wrote.

    A spokesman for the firm said in response to the court’s ruling: “As a firm of planners and analysts, AKRF’s responsibility is the collection and assessment of data in an objective and thorough manner. Our analyses help inform a public decision-making process. They are not advocacy documents.”

    The court’s opinion also drew a distinction between the circumstances in Manhattanville and New London, Conn., the subject of a United States Supreme Court decision in 2005. In that case, the court upheld the taking of land, in part, because the city had devised a wide-ranging downtown revitalization plan.

    In New York, the Appellate Division said the state and city development agencies “were compelled to engineer a public purpose for a quintessentially private development: eradication of blight,” after “having committed to allow Columbia to annex Manhattanville.”

    The court found no civic purpose to this use of eminent domain and criticized state officials for arbitrarily closing the administrative record from further comment by opponents and withholding relevant public documents from the property owners.

    In the dissent, Justice Peter Tom wrote that the expansion of an educational institution qualified as a public purpose. He wrote that the property owners’ arguments over blight constituted merely a “difference of opinion” that requires the court to defer to the state’s decision to use eminent domain. Justice Tom wrote that the Court of Appeals had used similar reasoning in the Atlantic Yards case.

    Despite the recent Atlantic Yards ruling, the decision Thursday gave hope to property owners battling the use of eminent domain in Brooklyn and Queens. “We feel like we just got thrown a lifeline,” said Matthew Brinckerhoff, a lawyer for the property owners at Atlantic Yards.

    A year ago, the City Council authorized the use of eminent domain to take a 62-acre area of mostly salvage yards and auto repair shops known as Willets Point in Queens. “The tide may be turning on the use of eminent domain for private purposes,” said Jake Bono, a spokesman for Willets Point United, a group of property owners opposed to condemnation.

    Lisa W. Foderaro contributed reporting.




    Columbia controls 61 of the 67 buildings in the 17-acre site.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/ny...4columbia.html

  4. #379
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Eminent Defiance

    Columbia expansion opponents score surprising win in court


    A rendering of Renzo Piano's plans for 131st Street, which is currently occupied by Tuck-It-Away self-storage.

    When Columbia University proposed a new $6 billion, 17-acre campus in the Manhattanville section of West Harlem in 2004, the institution considered using eminent domain to acquire land it could not buy. Most owners sold—the university had quietly bought up half the neighborhood starting in 2002, and more followed suit after the announcement—but two local businesses, Tuck-It-Away Self Storage and a pair of gas stations, did not. Instead, they sued the state last year over its use of eminent domain, and today a state court handed down a surprising decision in their favor.

    In a stern 3–2 ruling, the First Department of New York’s apellate court determined that the project lacked any true public purpose, with the state exercising eminent domain wholly to the benefit of a private entity, Columbia University. Furthermore, the decision admonishes the state on two counts related to its finding of blight in Manhattanville, which became the pretext for condemning the area. First the blight study was done belatedly—two years after the state had gotten involved on the project—and the study was prepared by the same firm, AKRF, employed by Columbia, creating a blatant conflict of interest.


    An aerial photo of Manhattanville. One of Sprayregen's storage facilities is plainly visible for its orange paint.
    A gas station is nestled on the triangular log at the corner of 125th Street and Broadway, the other at 125th Street and 12th Avenue, next to the viaduct.


    “This ultimately became the defining moment for the end game of blight,” Judge James Catterson wrote in his majority opinion. “Having committed to allow Columbia to annex Manhattanville, the EDC and ESDC were compelled to engineer a public purpose for a quintessentially private development: eradication of blight.” Catterson is referring to the city’s Economic Development Corportation and the Empire State Development Corporation, and his writing may have wider impacts on both: “The time has come to categorically reject eminent domain takings solely based on underutilization.”

    The move is all the more surprising because this same panel of judges found in favor of the state’s use of eminent domain at Atlantic Yards, a ruling that was affirmed last week and touted by the state in its promise to appeal this decision: “ESDC believes the decision of the Appellate Division, First Department in the matter of the Columbia University Manhattanville Campus to be wrong and inconsistent with established law, as consistently articulated by the New York State Court of Appeals, most recently with respect to ESDC's Atlantic Yards project.”


    A sketch by Renzo Piano shows the service roads that run beneath the project.
    The university says it must control the entire 17-acre site to accomodate these facilities.


    How Columbia will proceed remains to be seen. Should an appeal fail, the school would have to negotiate with the two holdouts. This could mean a buyout, though both parties have expressed their interest to remain in the neighborhood, suggesting Columbia build around them."It's a good and valuable business and they'd like to keep doing it," said David Smith, attorney for the gas station owners.

    The school has called such a scenario impossible, because its new campus, designed by Renzo Piano with planning by SOM, entails a below-grade service core stretching across much of the site. The school argues that this would eliminate truck traffic in the neighborhood, providing for a better pedestrian experience, which could not be achieved without controlling all of the land, of which it currently has 91 percent. A Columbia spokesperson declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

    Nick Sprayregen, the owner of Tuck-It-Away, called the decision a victory not only for him but for all New Yorkers who fear for their property rights. “Although I’ve always been cautiously optimistic, I knew the weight of prior eminent domain rulings had been against us,” he said. “It’s nice to see the courts, when given actual proof of collusion, will rule in the right way and support the people.”

    Matt Chaban

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=4107

  5. #380

    Post Columbia University Campus Expansion

    Thats News! After reading those recent articles, I am left wondering what is different about this project; as opposed to such projects as Atlantic Yards, NY Times building - both of which I believe were granted the right to use eminent domain.

  6. #381
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kris View Post
    Columbia controls 61 of the 67 buildings in the 17-acre site.
    Why can't they just build what they need to build on the 61 lots that they now own? Why do they need those additional 6 lots?

    Why does their campus have to be completely contiguous?

    It is all right to have a couple of non-Columbia school buildings here and there. Just build around them.

    That is what the "real world" is like, thus exposing their students to it might actually be helpful to them.

  7. #382

    Default Columbia University Campus Expansion

    Quote Originally Posted by antinimby View Post
    Why can't they just build what they need to build on the 61 lots that they now own? Why do they need those additional 6 lots?
    I think it has something to do with "privilege". (LOL)

    http://gothamist.com/2009/11/10/cops...d_woman_in.php
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/p...aAt8uG6uUySGTN
    http://www.columbiaspectator.com/200...oyee-local-bar

  8. #383

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    Quote Originally Posted by antinimby View Post
    Why can't they just build what they need to build on the 61 lots that they now own? Why do they need those additional 6 lots?

    Why does their campus have to be completely contiguous?

    It is all right to have a couple of non-Columbia school buildings here and there. Just build around them.

    That is what the "real world" is like, thus exposing their students to it might actually be helpful to them.
    Just look at Piano's sketch. You think that has anything to do with the real world? Columbia's claims to need to control the entire contiguous site are spurious.

  9. #384

    Post Columbia University Campus Expansion

    Quote Originally Posted by Wrightfan View Post
    Columbia's claims to need to control the entire contiguous site are spurious.
    Is that claim based on the desire to avoid doing to this uptown area what NYU has done downtown: that is having their campus buildings 'sprawl' all over the place without having any semblance of distinct boundries.

    Other than that, I can do not know what reasonable 'claim' can be made for wanting to take ownership of the entire Manhattanville neighborhood.
    Last edited by infoshare; December 9th, 2009 at 05:36 PM.

  10. #385

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    Quote Originally Posted by infoshare View Post
    Thats News! After reading those recent articles, I am left wondering what is different about this project; as opposed to such projects as Atlantic Yards, NY Times building - both of which I believe were granted the right to use eminent domain.
    Politics maybe?

    Bruce Ratner and George Pataki were college classmates. Some sources state that they were roomies, but I'm not sure if that's true. They did know each other.

    Ironically, it was Columbia Law School, class of 1970.

  11. #386
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Manhattanville Building That Has Nothing To Do With Columbia

    December 9, 2009, by Joey



    Not all is doom and gloom in the industrial patch of West Harlem known as Manhattanville, where the looming Columbia University expansion threatens—minus a hiccup—to level much of the neighborhood and replace it with shiny monuments to academia. Would you believe there's new construction going on right now? Blog Harlem Bespoke brings word of a small and unique commercial space right under the tracks on West 125th Street, a "modernist cube which has been constructed with various surface textures that incorporate glass, stainless steel panels and retro, 60's fireplace-looking staggered brick (constructed from wood blocks)." So what is it?

    Good question! Harlem Bespoke has a theory and one recommended use for the space:
    We are assuming this is city owned property since there aren't any building permits in sight and the work has been in progress for over a year now. The interior is completely unfinished dry walls at this point. In our opinion, a river view coffee house would look great here since the west windows face the West Harlem Piers and the the Hudson River.
    Check out some close-up shots. Interesting!





    Introducing: Manhattanville's Newest Building [Harlem Bespoke]

    http://curbed.com/archives/2009/12/0...umbia.php#more

  12. #387

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    Supposedly, the Appellate Division's ruling contradicts recent precedents of the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. I hope that Columbia wins on appeal. Their project will spur gentrification in this potentially beautiful area.

  13. #388

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    Quote Originally Posted by londonlawyer View Post
    Supposedly, the Appellate Division's ruling contradicts recent precedents of the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. I hope that Columbia wins on appeal.
    It was only after reading about other various projects here on Wiredny that the decision seemed inconsistent with what has been done on many other similar projects: go figure.

  14. #389

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    The Court of Appeals ruled specifically on the use of Eminent domain at AY; there are some differences with the Columbia case that went before the Appellate Court, and may or may not make a difference in the appeal.

    1. No evidence presented that the Columbia site was blighted before the university initiated the project. At least half the AY site (Vanderbilt Yards) was part of the long existing Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, and considered blighted before the AY project. The plaintiffs are outside the ATURA area.

    2. Denial of requests to the ESDC by the Columbia plaintiffs under the Freedom of Information Act may involve issues of bad faith.

    3. The Columbia plaintiffs produced their own Blight Study; the AY plaintiffs didn't.

    4. The court found evidence (although contested) of public benefit at AY. Since Colombia already owns most of the project site, the court found no public benefit in using Eminent Domain to take the remaining property. In effect, Ratner can't build his arena without taking the property, but Columbia can build around the remaining property.

    This may shape up into quite a court case, with the legislature possibly getting involved.
    http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot....uation-on.html

  15. #390

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    The ruling is a pleasure to read, as the cynical maneuvering by Columbia is presented with disdain and judged accordingly.

    In this case, the record overwhelmingly establishes that the true beneficiary of the scheme to redevelop Manhattanville is not the community that is supposedly blighted, but rather Columbia University, a private elite education institution.

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