The old saw is that one can't fight City Hall, and we can apparently add the ivory tower to the bulwarks of imperviousness. Despite fierce community opposition, Columbia University will be expanding its upper-Manhattan campus to surrounding blocks. The plan to expand the university's property by 17 acres and several blocks in each direction was approved this afternoon by the New York City Planning Commission. CityRoom reports the neighborhood meeting wasn't exactly neighborly:
Columbia's proposal will probably undergo some revision before passing before the City Council. You can see Columbia's Manhattanville plan here.
A majority of people who crammed into the commission’s meeting room in Lower Manhattan did not appear to agree. Many booed or hissed throughout the meeting. Critics have asserted that the scale, density and design of the project would overwhelm the neighborhood in Harlem, an area that has already been subject to rapid gentrification and rising real estate values.
Community Board 9 voted against Columbia's expansion plan in August, which the university took as an opportunity to negotiate with the community but the community board felt the university was too arrogant. And one of the demands of Columbia students on hunger strike were concessions about the Manhattanville plan.
The properties that Columbia wants to acquire includes residences, gas stations, and storage facilities. Thus far, the school has declined from using eminent domain legal procedures against any residences. One critic feels that's a bit a fair-weather hedging, hoping that the state will come in and do eminent domain seizing for the school from afar, without alienating city or neighborhood residents too directly.
And Columbia President Lee Bollinger said, "We believe that thriving universities are essential to preserving New York City’s historic role as a place that provides good, moderate-income jobs and a global leader that continues to attract great minds to consider the central intellectual, scientific, artistic and cultural challenges of our time. We look forward to continuing to work with our neighbors, City Council members and other local elected representatives to ensure that the people who live and work in West Harlem and all of New York continue to benefit as the home of a world center of academic excellence.”
Photograph of Manhattanville by Mira (on the wall) on Flickr