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Columbia University's plan to expand its campus into Manhattanville has prompted much debate about the eminent domain, college's commitment to the neighborhood, and gentrification and its effects on the community. The NY Sun revealed last week that Columbia spent over $400,000 for lobbying between January and April of this year, a sign that the school is getting aggressive to make sure its plans come through. And yesterday, there was a NY Times Op-Ed by former Mayor David Dinkins, titled Don’t Fear Columbia, in support of the Manhattanville plan. Here's an excerpt:

Columbia University’s proposal to develop the old Manhattanville manufacturing zone of West Harlem over the next two decades is the perfect example of a change that will generate growth and benefit all...

...Of course, town-gown partnerships are not without their stresses and strains, and the relationship between Harlem residents and Columbia has not always been the best. Indeed, I was one of those picketing Columbia back in the 1960s, so I know the history and appreciate the concerns that some Harlem residents may have about the university’s plans.

But we should give each other credit where credit is due, and not lose sight of the ways in which the partnership has benefited both groups and provided hundreds of public health and human service programs, educational and cultural exchanges, and workplace experiences and opportunities.

Dinkins goes on to mention various ways Columbia has worked with the community: Internships to minority CUNY student, health clinics and programs, and after school programs for students of low-income families, and ends with, "New York is a gorgeous mosaic, and an institution like Columbia is an important part of the vibrant mix that makes our city unique."

The NY Times byline reminds us that Dinkins is currently a professor at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. And here are some links: Columbia's Manhattanville plan as well as the Stop Columbia website, design firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill's plan and Pratt's work with Community Board 9.