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Thread: Columbia University Campus Expansion - Manhattanville

  1. #46


    Re: DinosaurBBQ

    That is distressing. My girlfriend is quite the fan of the BBQ (owing to her Syracuse upbringing, and the fact that it is damn tasty) I have little hope that it will be untouched since the plot that it sits on is large and comprises a jumble of buildings. Best hope is that it moves to another location, although it that is sad since the community seams to have embraced the place (forget getting a table after church on Sunday )

  2. #47


    Quote Originally Posted by BPC
    Columbia should do it WITHOUT eminent domain.
    Certainly, if it can.

    Quote Originally Posted by BPC
    It is morally repugnant for a public institution like Columbia to evict small businesses and residents.
    If they've bought the property there's not much morally repugnant about evicting a tenant. You'd want to do that if you'd bought the property. The fact that it's a "public" (really, private?) institution hasn't much to do with it, does it?

    Quote Originally Posted by BPC
    They should build around the plots they don't own. If Renzo's plan has to be skilled back, so be it.
    Potentially disruptive to orderly growth. Potential for extortionist holdouts.

    Mixed feelings about this. You can easily imagine a scenario where there's so much "community" left in place that the redevelopment doesn't work. Possible outcome: nobody benefits.

  3. #48


    BTW, one criticism that I find totally bogus is that this new campus will be "between" the community and the new riverfront park. So what? The current Manhattanville is also "between" the two. Unless Columbia will be closing streets (which I sincerely hope not to be the case), the community will still be the same distance for the park. Only the walk will be nicer.

  4. #49
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    History Lesson
    Three decades after the drama of '68, will Harlem make room for Columbia?

    by Jarrett Murphy
    May 23rd, 2006

    Chances are that walking down 131st Street 30 years from now, you will not miss Pedro y José Auto Body, nor, on 130th, mourn the absence of Boiler Repair Maintenance Company. It is unlikely that you ever planned to live in a walk-up like 3289 Broadway or enjoy a "100% brushless car wash" three blocks away. And even if you have patronized the nearby paint store, pharmacy, architect, personal trainer, building-supply store, moving companies, construction firms, U-Haul yard, drug treatment facility, Gérard Duré's salon, or any of the storage facilities, gas stations, or Pentecostal churches in the area, you'll probably learn to live without. You may even appreciate the sprucing up of the tired-looking factory buildings and an end to the stench that rises from the Twelfth Avenue sidewalk after a delivery of meat or poultry to a wholesaler there.

    What's more, you could end up working or studying in what will take their place in Manhattanville: nearly 7 million square feet of offices, research space, and housing for Columbia University. With scant wiggle room at its main Morningside Heights campus or uptown medical center, Columbia wants to move onto 18 acres roughly north of 125th Street and just east of Twelfth Avenue. To do it, the state's oldest college is asking the city for a special rezoning, scooping up parcels of land, and preparing to ask the state to invoke eminent domain if necessary.

    Needless to say, not everyone in the area is thrilled with the idea. Residents, business owners, and some Columbia students have banded together to oppose the plan. The local community board is pushing an alternative development scheme. Civil liberties lawyer Norman Siegel has signed on to resist eminent domain. A sign on a door in the area reads, "Dear Columbia: Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself."

    In the constant evolution of New York neighborhoods, this sort of fight isn't anything new. And for Columbia especially, this is not a first. Thirty-eight years ago, the university's bid to expand into Morningside Park—coupled with outrage over the school's military contracts—touched off days off unrest on campus in which students occupied five buildings and, in some cases, clashed violently with cops. After the bloodshed, that expansion plan died. Columbia has pursued projects in the years since, but none were as ambitious as the vision for Manhattanville.

    Some opponents of the plan claim the resistance to the new proposal is the stiffest Columbia has faced since the student uprising. Folks caught in the middle think the university is applying lessons learned. "Columbia sees shadows of 1968," says Steve Stollman, a local businessman who says he's been offered a very attractive relocation deal. "They have to be very careful how they treat people when it's conspicuous like this."

    But the parallel only goes so far. Last time the battle was over race and war. Now, the debate is about what makes a 21st-century city tick.


    Columbia is the quintessential great urban university and the most constrained for space," the school president, Lee Bollinger, said when he took the job in 2002. The school has developed more than 2 million square feet of new space since 1994, but Columbia still has only "one-half the square foot per student as peer institutions such as Yale, Harvard, and Princeton," according to planning documents. "The absence of space really had started to affect the university's intellectual agenda. Faculty didn't have space for facilities to pursue research," says Robert Kasdin, Columbia's senior executive vice president. For instance, the neurology department, which is working on autism and Alzheimer's, was feeling squeezed.

    That's why Columbia now wants to rezone 35 acres in Manhattanville for an 18-acre campus to include academic buildings, labs, support services, graduate and faculty housing, and perhaps even a hotel and convention center "to support Columbia's educational activities." The development over the next 25 to 30 years, with a projected $7.4 billion in spending, is supposed to create 2,000 construction jobs during the build-out and some 9,000 positions after that. What's more, Columbia's planning documents say, it'll clean up a bleak part of town.

    "Once a thriving manufacturing area, today Manhattanville is characterized by automotive uses, storage facilities, and other low job-generating activities," one document reads. "The area's manufacturing zoning has not stimulated the development of lively retail and office uses that are now characteristic of 125th Street east of Broadway."

    That's where some local activists differ. "There's this theory of university and institutions being growth machines of the city," says Nellie Bailey, a member of the Coalition to Preserve Community. "We don't believe that. We believe the real growth of the city lies in bringing back its manufacturing base."

    This difference characterizes the competing development plan drafted by Community Board 9, which preserves space for the manufacturing firms and other businesses that right now employ about 1,600 people. It could also retain the apartments that an estimated 400 people—the vast majority of them low- to moderate-income—call home.

    Faced with competing plans for the same blocks, the City Planning Commission told the community board and university to try to work out a compromise. Columbia had already organized a series of forums on the plan. Now, says Kasdin, the school and community board are talking. But he won't say whether parts of Columbia's proposal have evolved. The chairman of Community Board 9, Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, tells the Voice, "[Columbia's] plans have changed very little so far."

    Community activists have several beefs. One is the school's plan for a biological- research lab, which could gain a biosafety rating of up to level 3, meaning it might handle pathogens like anthrax and West Nile. Opponents say that kind of facility is too risky to locate near housing complexes, especially after 9-11 and particularly since the EPA in 2002 cited Columbia for mishandling hazardous waste. Columbia says no one's health or safety was endangered by the EPA violations. Their proposed lab won't handle real horror-show stuff like Marburg and Ebola viruses, like Boston University's planned level 4 lab in Southie. And Columbia already has a level 3 lab, although officials aren't eager to say where.

    The chief complaint of activists, though, is the lack on information about just what kind of lab Columbia is planning; the school says it knows roughly where the facility will go, but not what work will be done there. The same goes for what will happen to residents. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development owns four of the residential buildings in the area. Two are about to be transferred to a nonprofit for rehabilitation. Two others are in the Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) program, in which residents apply for conversion to a low-income co-op and are allowed to purchase their units for $250. Neil Coleman, a spokesman for HPD, says that there have only been preliminary talks with Columbia and that the city has told the school that it must offer the tenants nothing less than they'd get in their present digs. That could mean coming up with a replacement building for the TIL tenants. "No such offer has been made," Coleman says. Columbia vows that all tenants will get equal or better situations.

    When it comes to the 70-odd businesses that could be displaced, however, Columbia is making offers. Stollman, a former Columbia student who for 20 years has used a warehouse in the expansion zone, says the university started out threatening to shut down the building's elevator. Then the school lightened up, hiring a guy to run the elevator and offering relocation deals of better space at the same rent in the same area.

    Scott Lacock, for one, isn't fazed by the impending move for his plumbing-supply outfit, which employs about 30 workers hailing from the city and beyond. Heck, Lacock says, he might even gain some business when people in a new neighborhood see his trucks. Either way, he has no complaints: Columbia has been his landlord for years, and he was told early on that his stay would be temporary. "I'm very thankful," he says.


    With its physical size and financial power, Columbia can look like the 800-pound gorilla to its neighbors, and critics see the Manhattanville proposal as a gorilla-sized invasion. But Kasdin says going big was deliberate. In the past, Columbia has acquired properties one by one and battled with neighbors over what to build there. "There were regular clashes over our opportunistic and incremental approach to growth," he says. "The way in which this has been done has not served the university or the community." The Manhattanville proposal is an attempt at a more comprehensive approach, he adds, in which the school and the community understand each other's long-term needs. Columbia is quick to emphasize the friendlier aspects of its push: a community benefits agreement, open streets, and ground-floor retail. The school's steady pace of land acquisition is meant to negate the need for eminent domain.

    For skeptics of the plan, however, the problem is bigger than Columbia. It's the development craze that's roiling Harlem block by block, displacing tenants and replacing neighborhood stores with flashy franchises. Similar forces are acting citywide: The small industry that moves out of Manhattanville will compete for space with similar firms uprooted from Williamsburg, and maybe Willets Point. The areas where blue-collar work is welcome are dwindling.

    Kasdin says Columbia's development will offer "the full range of jobs, from unskilled to tenured faculty" with good pay and full benefits in an area where employment has plummeted 35 percent in the past two decades. The area's parking lots and wide-open factory floors reflect untapped potential. But Columbia's opponents say the area can prosper without abandoning its industrial roots. "If this were a mixed-use area which still supported the idea that manufacturing was a valuable and beneficial thing as a city, you would see a dramatic increase in local employment opportunities in that same 30-year period," says development opponent Tom DeMott.

    Even in boomtown New York, somebody's going to need that 100 percent brushless car wash.

    Copyright © 2006 Village Voice Media, Inc.

  5. #50


    Quote Originally Posted by Village Voice
    The areas where blue-collar work is welcome are dwindling.
    Things change. Blue-collar work is moving not just out of Harlem but also out of the U.S.

    History isn't static, never has been.

    I've been blue-collar, glad I escaped. Vastly overrated, and definitely not the wave of the future.

    Columbia used to offer easier admission to alumni's children. Why not a little favor shown in admitting Manhattanville's sons and daughters if they're otherwise qualified?

    A Columbia education is worth more to any family than a job in a car-wash.

  6. #51


    From the article:

    "That's where some local activists differ. "There's this theory of university and institutions being growth machines of the city," says Nellie Bailey, a member of the Coalition to Preserve Community. "We don't believe that. We believe the real growth of the city lies in bringing back its manufacturing base."

    Are they retarded? NY will never bring back its manufacturing base... and certainly not to Harlem, 10 blocks north of million dollar apartments and Columbia campus. Sorry, no way.

    This columbia expansion will enable the city to expand its employment base not only directly through Columbia but also indirectly through all the spinoffs these programs generate in the form of start-ups. Also, the improvements in the area (at least in the eyes of outsiders) will expand the ability of the city to attract smaller companies and middle class residents to that sector of the city. For the poorer working class, the opportunity to work for the school in services such as administration, maintenance, cleaning, moving, catering, etc. or in support of the school at local restaurants and stores will also be a source of steady income.

    The city is not getting 9000 jobs (and countless more indirect jobs) from a resurgence of manufacturing (which is mostly automated, anyway). It's best it tap this.

    In terms of manufacturing, i do concur that NY does need to provide space for it and also help it grow a little bit (mostly in terms of support manufacturing and repair). The way to do this is clearly identify a series of areas such as Hunt's Point, Maspeth, East New York, Staten Island West, etc. that it loudly announces it will NEVER rezone to anything else but industry and then (unlike in billyburg) it should enfore those rules in those few areas and prevent illegal conversions.

  7. #52
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    ...says Nellie Bailey, a member of the Coalition to Preserve Community. "We don't believe that. We believe the real growth of the city lies in bringing back its manufacturing base."
    Oh yes, I can see GM coming into Harlem and setting up an assembly plant to build Chevrolet Tahoes. This Bailey douche bag is truly an IDIOT to the Nth degree. Scary to think these people actually have some influence and say in the happenings in this city.

    Quote Originally Posted by elfgam
    Are they retarded?
    That would be a, YES.

  8. #53


    It would be nice to think that they were dinosaurs. But they survive to drivel again another day.

  9. #54


    I think it's just a matter of class warfare. Columbia is an elite ivy league wealthy university. The neighborhood is a lower income blue color mostly uneducated.

  10. #55
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    NY Sun

    Columbia's Planned Expansion to Manhattanville Draws Fire From Small Businesses, Community Board

    By JULIA VITULLO-MARTIN, Special to the Sun

    Columbia University's planned expansion northward from its Morningside Heights campus into West Harlem, which it calls Manhattanville, is now quietly being reviewed by the Department of City Planning. But the negotiations will not stay quiet for long. Columbia's expansion is not only opposed by several small business owners in the area who have refused to sell the university their property, it is also at odds with the local community board's official plan.And while many issues are ostensibly technical - current zoning disallows most of what Columbia hopes to do - the substantive disagreements are fundamental.

    Columbia wants a virtual blank slate on which to build Renzo Piano's ambitious scheme.The community board basically wants an improved and denser version of what it has now - a mix of industry, warehouses, a few restaurants and bakeries, and several housing projects. "Columbia has an all-encompassing plan that depends on the complete removal of buildings, people, places, and things between 125th and 133rd Street and from Broadway to 12th Avenue," a local resident and member of the Coalition to Preserve Community's steering committee,Tom DeMott, said.

    While this is somewhat of an exaggeration, according to the map Columbia has posted on its Web site, Mr. De-Mott is correct that Columbia plans to wipe out most of what is now in its "expansion zone." But to succeed, it must first get the city to change the area's manufacturing zoning, which outlaws nearly all new residential and many new commercial uses. Current zoning also maintains low height restrictions on buildings, thereby prohibiting construction of Columbia's proposed towers. In part because of the zoning restrictions,West Harlem has an old-fashioned industrial look. By Manhattan standards, it holds relatively few businesses, and limited residences other than public housing projects, which are allowed in manufacturing zones. Even as residential and mixed-use developments spring up all around it, West Harlem seems caught in earlier depressed times.

    Both Columbia, which is New York's 12th-largest employer, and Community Board 9, one of the city's most active boards, submitted their seemingly con tradictory plans to City Planning, which essentially asked for time out. "We knew Columbia's goals, and we knew the community's goals. We saw that these were two very different approaches to the future of the area," a spokeswoman for City Planning, Rachaele Raynoff, said. "We invoked a rule long on the books that we hadn't cause to use before - a coordinationof-plan rule - that lets us say we would like them to sit down and resolve their differences. It's better to resolve differences from the ground up rather than impose anything."

    The community board does not oppose Columbia's expansion as such, but says that it wants the university to adhere to the planning guidelines it has developed over 10 years of work, guided by the Pratt Institute. That means

    preserving some historic buildings, retaining a few industrial uses, encouraging affordable housing, and not using eminent domain to coerce property owners into selling.

    One such owner, Nicholas Sprayregen, whose father started their company,Tuck-It-Away Self Storage, with one building in 1980, said that his business is thriving and he intends to stay. He now owns five buildings, four of which are desired by Columbia. "I serve this community," he said. "I can't move. I won't move. I have no problem co-existing with Columbia."

    Similarly, the owner of Despatch Moving & Storage, Judy Zuhusky, said, "We not only need to be where we are in Manhattan for accessibility to clients, we have to be located on a wide street like Broadway that can handle tractor trailers. We set our roots down here many years ago, and we're willing to live with Columbia. They're a neighbor.They're welcome to be here. But we need to respect each other."

    Yet Columbia's goal, Mr. Sprayregen argues, is "to own 100% of everything. They have no desire for nuance, for compromise, for diversity."

    Columbia's vice president for government and community affairs, Max ine Griffiths, said that Columbia is making every effort to include diverse shops and businesses in its plan, in part by maintaining 125th Street as well as 12th Avenue as commercial corridors. The immensely popular Dinosaur Restaurant, for example, located in a building recently purchased by Columbia, will surely have a home in the plan, Ms. Griffiths believes. "I can't imagine it could be otherwise," she noted.

    In its application to City Planning,Columbia has asked for zoning map and text changes to convert nearly all of the expansion area to C6-2,which would normally allow medium density commercial, community facility, and residential development. Such development is compatible with what most activists, including community board members,want for West Harlem. But Columbia has inserted what zoning lawyer Howard Goldman called a cute trick - proposing half the normal permitted residential density. Mr. Goldman, who represents the West Harlem Business Group,says that asking for low-density residential is very unusual,but that one result would be the maintenance of low property values.

    When the time comes for exercising eminent domain, the state agency, the Empire State Development Corporation - acting for Columbia - would have to pay far less. Ms. Griffiths said the university simply doesn't need higher residential zoning since it will house most of its students under community facility zoning, which permits dormitory towers.

    The business group also wants rezoning to allow denser residential and commercial development. "Right now," Mr. Sprayregen said,"I'm not allowed to develop my own property to its full commercial potential. This is a blatant example of blight by zoning, blight forced upon the neighborhood by city regulations.Despite zoning,the neighborhood is far better off now than it's ever been, yet Columbia, ironically, is claiming it's so terrible and so blighted."

    At the heart of this struggle is the ancient question of who benefits. Manhattan is booming, businesses and enterprises are expanding, and those who invested early in blighted neighborhoods expect to reap the rewards of their foresight. As Ms. Zuhosky pointed out, "This is an island where everyone wants to be. We can all get along as neighbors, so long as everyone is fair."

  11. #56
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    Thos community groups are always protesting. Shouldn't they be happy that Columbia U. is going to invest billions in their community bringing new stores, new opportunities and new energy into a relatively poor and bad neighborhood? It's the same story all over again.

  12. #57


    It's ridiculous. Some people are terminal idiots.

  13. #58
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    Often in these cases it's only a few small birds making a lot of noise. I'd be willing to be the vast majority of the community would either support the development, or could give a rat's ass.

  14. #59


    Much of the protesting concerns the potential use of eminent domain to remove some of those people or their businesses, so it's less exaggerated in this instance than you claim. Moreover, locals are also aware of the radiating gentrification which will result from this; whether or not it serves a utilitarian function somewhere else in the city or world, the nearby residents believe it will certainly not help them, and not in the short term. Their biggest problem is not finding work, but paying the already exorbitant rent.

    Nevertheless, faced with the radical fringe determined to preserve the "light manufacturing" character on the one hand andaColumbia on the other, CB9 has come up with its own proposal, one which would essentially force Columbia to develop its properties in a piecemiel fashion within the preexisting Manhattanville context, a schema which has been likened to NYU's without reference to the fact that this new "campus" would not be located in Greenwich Village, but in a light industrial district of upper Manhattan. It's hard to imagine Columbia being able to attract the best students and researchers in the world to a place where they will have to scurry between rundown auto repair shops between classroom buildings. Moreover, since most of the local residents are renters, they would probably be evicted by landlords keen to cash in on the Columbia influx. The community has displaced its fears of gentrification driven by any other factor. The future for Manhattanville without Columbia is either a bleak retreat into continued obscurity and wasted potential, or the more haphazard eviction and replacement of the neighbourhoods residents and businesses by the same forces that have been gentrifying Harlem for a decade. For those with small businesses and everything to lose, the mere possibility of survival these two eventualities present, vis-a-vis the lack of such a chance under the Columbia scenario, is, I think, what animates their vehement opposition, and indeed these small business owners have been the most vocal critics so far.

  15. #60
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    I believe somewhere in between the radical obstructionists and Columbia's ambitions, there's a satisfactory middle ground.

    As for the students that may possibly be dismayed by the sight of auto repair shops, they should realize that this is what the real world is and that's what makes an education one receives in a New York-based university even more valuable and enriching. You are exposed to the living, breathing world instead being cocooned on a sleepy campus.

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