Saturday, January 31, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 7


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:
"(January 21, 2009) In a last effort to turn the tide, the two remaining business on Columbia's future expansion site - a Tuck-it-away storage facility owned by Nick Spreyregen, and a gas station owned by Gurnam and Parminder Singh - file individual law suits challenging the designation of blight, and the invocation of eminent domain. The Supreme Court rules in their favor. Justice Chatterson remarks that `the blight designation in the instant case is mere sophistry. It was utilized by ESDC years after the scheme was hatched to justify the employment of eminent domain but this project has always primarily concerned a massive capital project for Columbia.'. The ESDC challenges the ruling at the level of the New York State Court of Appeals....There Judge Carmen Ciparick decides in favor of Columbia....Columbia overcomes the last juridical hurdle in their pursuit of eminent domain....  
"(June 2010) Gentrification throughout greater Harlem reaches unprecedented levels. During this summer, Harlem loses its African American majority.... 
"(December 2010) [Columbia University] President Bollinger assumes the position of Chairman of the Board at New York State's Federal Reserve Bank, where he will remain until December of 2012.  
"(January 2011) The demolition of the expansion site begins...."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 6


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:
"...(November 7, 2007) The Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification commences a hunger strike, led by Bryan Mercer (CC ’07), Emilie Rosenblatt (CC '08), Victoria Ruiz (CC'09), Aretha Choi (BC '10), and Sam Barron (BC '10). They are inspired by the hunger strike of April 1996, which, along with an occupation of Hamilton Hall, eventually led to the opening of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER). The strikers’ hope to call attention to corrupt practices behind Columbia’s pursuit of eminent domain, and foment political opposition to the coercive nature of the expansion project. On November 11th, after four days of continuous neglect by the Columbia administration, the Coalition to Preserve Community calls on SCEG to end the hunger strike, out of concern for the health of the students involved.  
"(November 26, 2007) Despite the grievances expressed by Community Board 9, the New York City Planning Commission approves Columbia's Plan 197-c to rezone large swaths of Manhattanville, and exercise eminent domain on the 17-acre lot between 125th and 133rd street. The commission’s refusal to represent the interests of residents in Community Board 9 illuminates their financial and political ties to the corporate real estate sector. Natasha Florentino and Tamara Gubernat analyze this relationship in their 2008 documentary, Rezoning Harlem. In an effort to placate the public outcry of West Harlem tenants, the commission demands that Columbia University dedicate $20 million dollars to fund affordable housing for those who suffer indirect displacement (who are priced out of buildings surrounding Columbia's expansion)...
"(December 12, 2007) Mercedes Narciso, the leading planner behind the 197-a document, testifies at the City Council against the removal of eminent domain restrictions, and affordable housing regulations in Manhattanville:  
"`We urge the City Council to correct this serious omission. Passing the 197-a plan without these provisions will not only substantially change the neighborhood without regard to the needs of the community; it also sets a dangerous precedent in which powerful interests can invalidate plans created by citizens under the City Charter … Residents of this community have invested years of their lives crafting a plan for their future. The City Council must take decisive action to realize the City Charter’s promise of a meaningful role for citizens in shaping the future of their communities'. .... 
"(October 8, 2008) Elizabeth Dwoskin publishes an article for the Village Voice, which reveals that Columbia Professor and leading geophysicist Klaus Jacob had been systematically ignored by the University administration when criticizing the environmental impact of their proposed expansion plan. As part of their justification for the use of eminent domain, since 2003 Columbia had cited their intention to build biochemical research facilities in an 80-foot basement below the main Manhattanville campus. According to Professor Jacob, the 125th street corridor is both a flood plain and an active fault line, that could put students and residents in danger if it were to house subterranean chemical research labs. In 2014, Columbia will drop their digging aspirations, suggesting that the whole idea may have just been a ploy to better their chances of acquiring eminent domain rights. Instead, they decide to raise the height of the buildings on the new-campus to free up the desired space.  
"(December 18, 2008) The ESDC formally announces the employment of eminent domain to remove the remaining property owners from Columbia's expansion site...."  





Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 5


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:
"(September 2006) The ESDC hires Alee King Rosen and Flemming (AKRF), the same company Columbia contracted to coordinate their expansion, to conduct a ‘neighborhood conditions study’ in Manhattanville. AKRF, in turn, subcontracts Thornton Tomasetti, Inc., a structural engineering enterprise, to actually carry out the details of the investigation. The Chairman of the Tomasetti firm is Richard Tomasetti, Adjunct Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at Columbia University. In this dizzying web of conflicting interests, the state authority designed to investigate the ethics of eminent domain hires an engineering firm profiting from Columbia’s expansion, which then proceeds to contract the company of a Columbia Professor to write their report. The outcome will deem whether or not Manhattanville is ‘blighted’, or in such economic disrepair that it requires complete overhaul, rather than further development. Without the ESDC’s designation of ‘blight’, eminent domain is not an option for Columbia  
"(March 2007) Business owners operating on the expansion site learn of the potentially corrupt ties between the ESDC, Columbia University, and the consultancy firm AKRF. They form a coalition called the 'West Harlem Business Group' to file a freedom of information petition (FOIL) to the New York Supreme Court. Their hope is to delegitimize claims of economic blight by uncovering conflicts of interest in the correspondence between the ESDC and its clients.  
"(June 2007) The FOIL petition gains access to 117 messages and communiqu├ęs that reveal the underlying complicity of AKRF in Columbia's project. According to New York Supreme Court Justice Kornreich, `while acting for Columbia, AKRF has an interest of its own in the outcome of the respondent's action (i.e., the ESDC's), as AKRF, presumably, seeks to succeed in securing an outcome that its client, Columbia, would favor' )...  
"(August 2007) Community Board 9 holds a public hearing to debate the use of eminent domain and the rezoning of 35-acres in Manhattanville by Columbia University, as stipulated in plan 197-c. Tenants, students, politicians, urban planners, and academics raise concerns of rising tenant displacement, community disenfranchisement, and adverse health effects from the residues of the construction process. Troubled by the influence of the Coalition to Preserve Community, Lee Bollinger founds a pro-expansion lobbying group, dubbed the 'Coalition for the Future of Manhattanville'. The group features former New York City mayor David Dinkins, and is lead by Dinkins' then deputy mayor, Bill Lynch. Lynch receives $40,000 a month from the Columbia administration as compensation for his efforts. During the five-hour meeting, 73 speakers testify against plan 197-c, 22 in favor. President Bollinger is booed as he addresses the audience. Several other members of Harlem’s political establishment campaign in favor of Columbia’s expansion, most notably Charles Rangel. Community Board 9 votes 17-1 against Columbia's proposal." 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 4


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report's introduction notes:

"(1991) Community Board 9 (CB9), the economic planning agency for the neighborhoods of West Harlem between 110-155th Street, begins to formulate a new development model. CB9 commissions urban planners from the Pratt Center to write a document for submission to the NYC Department of City Planning. The result of their work is Plan 197-a (referring to section 197-a of the New York City Charter), revised in 2001, and approved by the Department of City Planning in 2005. Plan 197-a includes the outlines of a job, housing, and school infrastructure intended to mitigate the growing problem of tenant displacement spreading throughout greater Harlem. The area of Columbia’s proposal for a new campus, already the site of 1,600 jobs in manufacture and retail, is envisioned as a central nexus for the plan as a whole, drawing from 5 public transit and housing facilities in the immediate vicinity to offer expanded employment opportunities.

"(1994-2002) Columbia University, then under the leadership of President George Rupp, begins to pursue their aspirations for a new campus in West Harlem more aggressively.  They start by purchasing properties in Manhattanville from those willing to sell, in the hopes of acquiring most of the land they need for their designs.

"(2002) Lee Bollinger is appointed President of Columbia University, after making a commitment with the Board of Trustees to realize the campus expansion in Manhattanville during his tenure.

"(January 2003) Columbia introduces their ‘General Project Plan’ (GPP) to Community Board 9, which contains two major revisions to Plan 197-a. These revisions, proposed under an alternate Plan 197-c, stipulate the seizure of 17 acres of land through the use of eminent domain, and the rezoning of 18 further acres to make room for campus housing, administrational, and research facilities.... Columbia continues to purchase as many properties as they can within the intended expansion zone 

"(Spring 2003) A group of longstanding residents found the Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC), with the stated purpose of fostering local participation in planning future changes affecting the neighborhood. The CPC holds monthly meetings in St. Mary’s Church (on 125th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam) to write proposals for housing, education, employment, cultural, and environmental policies, curated by tenants living in the community. Their meetings draw an average of 200 participants between 2003 and 2005, and the results of their labor reshape and clarify much of Community Board 9’s 197-a Plan. Although the relationship between CB9 and CPC is communicative and respectful, many members of CB9 remain weary of planning processes so deeply immersed in rank-and-file discussion, and some will eventually be receptive to bargaining with Columbia University at the expense of their constituencies.

"(October 2003) Several student groups at Columbia cohost a panel on `The Ethics of Expansion'. Their initiative produces a new organization called the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification (SCEG), which continues to operate until 2011....

"(January 2004) The Columbia administration constructs three advisory boards, designed to assess future expansion plans and procedures....

"(June 2004) Columbia’s advisory boards express their support for Community Board 9’s 197-a Plan, rather than the administration’s own 197-c alternative. In response, President Bollinger dismisses the advisory boards....

"(April 2005) The Coalition to Preserve Community and the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification build a tent city called `Bollingerville' in the middle of ‘College Walk’, to promote dialogue between University affiliates and West Harlem residents...
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"(Spring 2005) The Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification releases an open letter, cosigned by 54 Columbia University professors, demanding that President Bollinger and the Board of Trustees accept the limitations of Plan 197-a in the construction of the Manhattanville campus. Their demands are ignored by the administration.
  
"(June 10, 2006) Hundreds of local tenants march from Central to West Harlem in opposition to Columbia’s scheme. Organized under the umbrella heading, ‘Nos Quedamos’ ('we're staying'), the protestors draw from community groups like the Harlem Tenants’ Council, the Coalition to Preserve Community, the Mirabal Sisters, and the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification...." 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 3


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report's introduction notes:

“...First, we will trace the basic outlines of Columbia’s expansion process until now, to reveal its actual history. Second, we will emphasize the fact that the struggle for the right to West Harlem is by no means decided.

“The large majority of displacements caused by Columbia’s expansion into of Manhattanville will take place between 2014 and 2030, the estimated time frame for the construction of the new campus. During this period, landlords will continue to raise rent rates for local tenants as they prepare for arrivals of better financial means. Local businesses will close because of untenable ground rents.

“Columbia has said they will fund enterprises run by ‘minorities’. But they have not said when or where, and no one living in the neighborhood has much reason to trust them.
“The police, operating in tandem with the University, will increase the scope and scale of their patrol activity, targeting young tenants of color for drug possession, larceny, and assault – crimes committed at an equal if not higher rate by Columbia students themselves. The incarcerated will struggle for many years with criminal records that restrict them from housing and job opportunities.

“All the while the turbulent changes unfolding in the area will induce feelings of alienation and disillusionment amongst the people who think of it as home. But urban policy can change.


“There is still time and space to campaign against market based housing laws, to fight for tenants’ rights, and lay the groundwork for community welfare relief. There is no reason why Columbia can’t build new classrooms without aggressively reshaping the entire neighborhood. Collaboration and compromise are possible, but only if the voices of local residents are empowered to actualize their own visions for the future…”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 2


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report's introduction notes:

"...The Manhattanville Houses comprise six buildings with approximately 2,756 tenants, while Grant Houses has nine buildings and 4,519 tenants....Since 2009, Columbia University has begun purchasing shares in Manhattanville Houses. It is unclear what their intentions are for the future of the buildings. They sit immediately across the street from the site of Columbia’s new campus. We are unable to scrutinize Columbia’s ownership shares, because around 90% of the University’s investments are kept secret.


"What we do know is that Columbia University’s Public Safety Program intends to escalate their surveillance and patrol activity throughout the housing projects, in collaboration with the New York Police Department. Vice President of Public Safety James McShane’s announcement of the University’s plans arrived in the aftermath of this summer’s police raids targeting Grant and Manhattanville Houses. 103 teenagers and young adults were incarcerated under indictments ranging from conspiracy to murder, assault, gun possession, loitering and larceny. Heralded by the District Attorney and the Mayor’s Office as the city’s largest ‘gang bust’, the raid on public housing in West Harlem has caused anger and resentment amongst local tenants.

"Since 2011, parents living in Grant and Manhattanville Houses have organized community-based solutions to the problems in their neighborhood. These have included petitions for a new playground, a community center, smaller classes in public schools, family lead truces between rival groups, and job councilors to mitigate unemployment rates hovering above 27%. But their efforts were mostly ignored. Instead, the city spent as much as a hundred million dollars conducting a four- year covert surveillance operation, that used thousands of hours of Facebook chats, tweets, text messages, and security reels to formulate criminal indictments. The police raid itself was staged as a public relations stunt for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to prove to their donors that they too are ‘tough on crime’.


"...The real crisis, the danger of gradual displacement threatening 32,000 New Yorkers through increases in property value affecting the entire neighborhood, is effectively concealed by the University, and seldom mentioned on Columbia’s campus...Two housing developments...are in fact at risk of losing state protection. The first, 3333 Broadway, has already begun the process of purging working class people of color from the building. The second, Manhattanville Houses, is increasingly coming under Columbia’s purview. The University now owns shares in the projects, and plans to carry out extensive policing and surveillance on its tenants. The key to producing a credible analysis...is to conceive of the long-term effects of Columbia’s expansion into West Harlem from our present point in time, until the project’s scheduled completion in 2030..."
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 1

In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University’s Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist’s Guidewhich indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report's introduction notes:

"...Since 2003, Columbia University has moved to execute their plan to construct a new campus in the area running from 125th to 133rd street, between Broadway and Riverside...35 acres of the neighborhood known as Manhattanville, which spans roughly from 122nd street to 135th, east of St. Nicholas and Edgecombe Avenues (in total Manhattanville comprises approximately 228 acres of land)...Columbia...erected the first scaffoldings of the new campus in spring of 2014....The zoning change replaces small businesses, manufacturers, and residential buildings with a mixed-use academic model that will displace an estimated 298 residents from 135 affordable housing units in the 35-acre area....

"...The introduction of University facilities to the neighborhood...will  encourage significant rent increases in surrounding apartment complexes, as well. Landlords will attempt to attract a new influx of wealthier tenants...,In 2007, Columbia was forced to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in conjunction with the NYC Department of City Planning. Their report admitted `the potential for the indirect residential displacement impact within the primary study area to be significant and adverse' (p. 36). 

"According to statistics recorded by City-Data in 2008, Manhattanville is home to around 32,000 people. 70% of Manhattanville’s residents are Latino, 25% African American, and the remaining 5% Chinese, South East Asian, or White. The median household income for the neighborhood is $32,617. The Federal Poverty line for New York State in 2014-15 is...$36,000 for a household of three...The implication is that most tenants in the area live at or below the poverty level. The changes in property value that Columbia’s expansion will bring to the neighborhood present an imminent threat of  displacement for unprotected tenants.

"Meanwhile...one of the biggest apartment complexes in the area is 3333 Broadway, with close to 1,200 units on 135th street... In 2005, 3333 Broadway...began to remove affordable units in favor of market rate apartments. The University's entrance into Manhattanville has fueled this process further, by channeling an influx of new tenants willing to pay substantially higher rents. Without intervention, 3333 Broadway will be entirely purged of affordable housing by the time Columbia completes their campus in the year 2030. The change will ensue along racial lines, replacing a predominantly African American and Latino demographic with largely white newcomers...".