Friday, April 29, 2005

A Push for Voting Rights, Right off the Boat

Columbia Spectator

A Push for Voting Rights, Right off the Boat
By Amanda Erickson
Spectator Staff Writer

April 29, 2005

Felipe Tarud, CC ’08, came to Columbia to study political science. But in New York City, he can only watch the government from the sidelines.

Though he lives here during most of the year, Tarud is not a citizen of the United States and currently has no say in who represents him in government. “I study politics, but politics is about everyone,” said Tarud, a native of Colombia. “I think it’s really important for everyone to be heard and to be considered ... that’s the point of democracy isn’t it?”

It is for city council member Bill Perkins (D–Harlem), who is currently sponsoring legislation that will allow any person who has been in the country for more than six months to vote in New York City municipal elections.

“Many non-citizens are legal taxpaying residents in our city,” Perkins said. “They should have the opportunity to participate in the process of making decisions about the community and about the city.”

According to Perkins, non-citizen voting has a long history on the very local level. “You got off the boat, you could vote,” he said. It’s an “idea that’s as basic as no taxation without representation.” Non-citizens were able to vote in school board elections until 2003, when school boards were abolished in New York City.

But before Perkins’ legislation is approved, it faces serious scrutiny from voting experts, community leaders, and, maybe most importantly, lawyers.

According to Robert Shapiro, a political science professor at Columbia, allowing non-citizens the right to vote may endanger the meaning of citizenship. “It’s not consistent with the idea of rights and responsibilities,” he said. “Legal immigrants ... should become citizens so they can vote.”

Still, he acknowledged that there is a place for non-citizens in the democratic process. Shapiro advocated allowing immigrants to vote in very local elections, such as those for school boards. “Once they get involved, there is incentive to do more,” he said.

But Perkins argues that non-citizens do have responsibilities, noting that they participate in city life in very important ways. “When April 15 comes, [non-citizens] are under just as much pressure to get their taxes in,” he said. “We don’t have a draft, but we do know non-citizens are dying in Iraq and participating responsibly in the war.”

Not everyone agrees that this is enough of a reason to give non-citizens voting rights. “Citizenship is a privilege that many people have worked very hard to earn ... It should not just be given away to people” said Community Board 9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc. “I’m glad they pay taxes, but they have no voice in this government.”

Others suggest that the motives behind the bill are partisan. “You don’t see Republicans doing that kind of thing,” Shapiro said.

But Perkins denies this. Calling the accusation “cynical,” Perkins said that his legislation is for the good of the people, regardless of their party affiliation. “Partisan bias is irrelevant of the fundamental issue.”

Bill Perkins is not the only legislator to take on this issue. In Albany, Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat (D–Inwood) is also co-sponsoring a bill that would allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.

“These [non-citizens] are people who are living in the city, who are here legally, who are paying taxes, and who have their own businesses,” Joel Barkin, Espaillat’s spokesperson, said. “They should have a say in who their local representation is.”

Espaillat’s bill is still in committee and has not yet been considered by the Assembly at large. While Espaillat is not currently working with Perkins, he does not doubt that they will support each other in the future.

Bringing the bill to the state legislature also raises questions of constitutionality. Some claim that allowing non-citizens to vote is unconstitutional. “That is one of the arguments that’s being made,” Barkin acknowledged.

But Perkins says this is not an issue. “In the interpretations we’ve been getting, the state constitution is silent on this matter,” Perkins said. “Municipalities maintain the prerogative.” However, he said that he is working with the New York State Bar Association to examine this question of legality further.

Many international students at Columbia agree that no debate over legality should stop the New York State government from allowing non-citizens to have a voice in government. Non-citizens “still contribute to the economy as a non-citizen, still live in the place,” said Rahul Krishnan, CC’08, who is from India. “Anyone who is affected in any way directly should have the option to vote in the election.”

David Mazzuca, CC ’07, a member of Students United for America, personally agreed: “Someone in here legally should be involved in the process,” he said.

Perkins agrees that the fight for non-citizen voting is, at its core, about allowing everyone to have a say in how they live. “If the bottom line is fix the sidewalks,” Perkins said, “Two voices screaming fix the sidewalk is louder than one voice.”


My Turn:

Voting is a right and privilege of Citizenship.

US Citizens tend to forget that the right to Citiznship and the right to vote have been paid dearly by our people through the hisotry of our country.

Our country welcomes all peoples regardless of origins.

Inmigrants come to the USA for several reasons, political, economic, social, religious.

Our country allows all to reach their innermost ambitions within their own capabilities and the only limitatiosn are those one creates for oneself - that is not the norm in most countries of this earth.

This country provides the same opportunities to inmigrants as it does to natives, but the right to vote is reserved to Citizens. I know many inmigrants that have lived in the USA far longer than the 5 years required for Citizenship but they have not become Citizens. By joining the US Armed Forces the Citizenship process is greatly reduced.

Granting voting rights to non-Citizens will dilute the value of our American Citizenship, in fact it will tell inmigrants that they do not have to become one of us and it will tell us that we are not one nation with a united future as AMERICANS.

The fact that a an inmigrant pays taxes falls into the category of paying their dues to become one of us, an AMERICAN.

Our country is one of the very few countries where people from all over the world can come a become one of the many that makes the one nation we all love.

An inmigrant wants to vote? Become a Citizen and do vote!

Bill and Adriano you are my friends whom I admire, but on this one you are both WRONG!!!

J. Reyes-Montblanc
Cuba-born AMERICAN
Veteran US Marines

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Students 'Camp' to Protest Expansion - Day-Long Demonstration on Sundial Sought to Put Human Face on Columbia'sManhattanville Plans

Subject: The Columbia Spectator - article from Anne Whitman
Date: 28/2005 2:42:21 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Columbia Spectator

Students 'Camp' to Protest Expansion
Day-Long Demonstration on Sundial Sought to Put Human Face on Columbia's Manhattanville Plans
By Tanveer Ali and Erin Durkin
Spectator Staff Writers

April 28, 2005

You may have thought your housing number was bad, but local residents camped out on campus thought they were getting a much worse deal.

Members of the West Harlem community made College Walk their temporary home yesterday in what they called “Bollingerville,” hurling strong words against Columbia’s administration and imploring students to join their cause.

The Tent City protest was sponsored by the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification and the Coalition to Preserve Community. It was intended to highlight the issues of displacement and gentrification surrounding Columbia’s plans for Manhattanville.

Nell Geiser, CC ’06 and member of SCEG said, We’re here “to change public opinion on this campus from apathy to agitation on this issue.”

She was one among many speakers who called for Columbia to respect the community-supported 197-A Plan, a framework for future development in West Harlem drafted last fall by Community Board 9.

A late afternoon rally featured testimonials from 10 Manhattanville residents who fear they will lose their homes if the expansion plan goes forward.

All the residents delivered the same message: they have lived in Manhattanville for years, they have raised children and grandchildren here, and they have no intention of leaving.

“I do not plan and do not wish to move,” said Mary Watkins, a Manhattanville resident for the past 45 years.

Some of the residents who live in the expansion zone, stretching from 125th to 133rd Streets between Broadway and 12th Avenue, fear they will be pushed out to make way for Columbia’s new campus. While they do not face direct displacement, others who live in the surrounding area are concerned that rising property values and rents resulting from expansion will make it impossible for them to afford their current homes in West Harlem.

“We’re here, and we’re going to stay here because we have no other place to go,” Nellie Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council, said.

University officials said that they viewed the demonstration positively.

“The University supports student-sponsored activities that seek to foster discussion on the proposed expansion, while it continues its efforts to solicit input from students, faculty, and the greater community,” Columbia spokeswoman Liz Golden said. “This event... reflects an important aspect of education at Columbia—the civic engagement of students on issues of concern to the University and our neighboring communities.”

Participants in Tent City said their fears of losing their homes and businesses were amplified by the recent disclosure of a letter written by Columbia officials last July to the Empire State Development Corporation, obtained by Spectator under the Freedom of Information Law. In the letter, the University asked the state authority to consider using eminent domain to condemn property in the expansion zone. Enlarged copies of the letter with the words “Eminently Dishonest” branded across them in red hung from the tents.

Eminent domain is the power of government entities to forcibly buy private property for “public use.” It has been used in the past to take “blighted” property for private development, but whether this practice is considered a “public use” is widely debated, and a case calling it into question is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Speaker after speaker vowed that the University’s plan to use eminent domain would not be allowed to go forward. Norman Siegel, an attorney hired by Manhattanville business owners to challenge any use of eminent domain, said, “This is a civil rights struggle. This is a David vs. Goliath struggle... just as David won, we’re going to win.”

“Not only will we meet you in the court of public opinion,” Siegel said, “I’ll meet you in a court of law.”

Several participants described what they see as the “vibrancy” of the Mahattanville neighborhood, in contrast with the designation of “blighted” that is required for eminent domain to be invoked.

At a meeting of Community Board 9’s 197-A Task Force this Monday, Warren Whitlock, Columbia’s director of construction coordination, apologized on behalf of the University both for not disclosing the communication with ESDC and for the fact that Columbia paid the authority $300,000 to cover its costs in considering options for the area.

“We did not have our finest hour... we apologize for not keeping the community informed,” he said, describing the decision not to notify the community as “a major miscommunication, a major mistake.”

The apology was accompanied by a letter to the Community Board from Assistant Vice President for Facilities Planning and Space Management Geoffrey Wiener in which he acknowledged a “lapse in our communication,” and wrote, “Columbia did not take, or seek to take, actions inconsistent with our conversations with you and members of the community. However, we regret that our actions caused concern.”

The University’s attempts to make amends did not seem to have changed any minds at the tent city, where many participants accused Columbia of lying about its role in the eminent domain process, and said that the University’s payment to ESDC represented a conflict of interest for the authority.

The participants were also disquieted by the possibility of having a large amount of the expansion project be committed to biotech labs. They feel this is a public health hazard and that Columbia is only considering it for profit. Participants raised the prospect of dangerous bio-defense research being conducted in their neighborhood, with one sign proclaiming, “No Anthrax on the Hudson.”

While Columbia’s plans for the area do include science facilities, University officials have said that it is premature to make claims about research that may or may not take place in buildings that haven’t been built. They have also committed that they will not build a Level-4 research facility, the classification for labs working with the most dangerous materials. They have said that none of their plans will involve public health risks for the area.

Another major issue brought out in the course of the day was the impact expansion will have on employment in the area. Columbia administrators have argued that both the University and the neighborhood’s economy stand to benefit from expansion.

“The University believes its proposed expansion will solve critical space issues while significantly contributing positive benefits to the larger Manhattanville community and the city as a whole by creating opportunities for commercial and retail development and adding, both directly and indirectly, some 14,000 new jobs,” Golden said.

But Tom Kappner, a member of CPC, claims that only a fraction of those jobs will likely go to area residents, adding that Columbia can only offer clerical and support staff jobs to the area and eliminate existing jobs.

Kappner said, “Less than 2,000 jobs over 30 years will be available to community residents. We have 1,000 to 1,500 in the area already.”

Organizers of the event emphasized that it represented a united front between students, other members of the University community, and the neighborhood. “For a long time Columbia has divided the students from this community,” SCEG member Brett Murphy, BC ’07, said.

“All of this expansion is being touted as for the students,” she said. “But as a student, personally, I know that I am not in favor of this expansion.”

Robin Kelley, professor of anthropology and a Harlem native, who authored a letter from professors supporting the 197-A Plan to President Lee Bollinger and Columbia’s Board of Trustees, said that Columbia students and professors have a responsibility to support the community.

“I don’t want to go down in history as contributing to the displacement of people in a community where we live,” Kelley said. “These are our neighbors.”

Activists at the tent city frequently took an incendiary tone towards Columbia, often invoking the 1968 protests against Columbia’s expansion into Morningside Park and the general political climate of the era. “We’re not being polite today because our lives are at stake,” Nellie Bailey said.

“Their apartheid politics persist,” she said, attacking Bollinger for being inaccessible to the community. Vowing to “bring Bollinger to his knees,” Bailey said, “If you don’t come down to talk to us then we’re going to climb those steps of Low Library and talk to you... Let’s move Bollingerville to his goddamn office.”



Anne Whitman, who owns a business that would be affected by the expansion, held a blow-up of a letter sent by Columbia asking the state to consider using eminent domain.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Texas Rep. Senfronia Thompson's speech

[not our region - but a worthwhile read - ]

Texas State Rep. Senfronia Thompson's speech in response to anti-gay constitutional amendment that passed this week in the Texas House.

I have been a member of this august body for three decades, and today is one of the all-time low points. We are going in the wrong direction, in the direction of hate and fear and discrimination. Members, we all know what this is about, this is the politics of divisiveness at its worst, a wedge issue that is meant to divide.

Members, this issue is a distraction from the real things we need to be working on. At the end of this session, this Legislature, this Leadership will not be able to deliver the people of Texas, fundamental and fair answers to the pressing issues of our day.

Let's look at what this amendment does not do: It does not give one Texas citizen meaningful tax relief. It does not reform or fully fund our education system. It does not restore one child to CHIP, who was cut from health insurance last session. It does not put one dime into raising Texas' Third World access to health care. It does not do one thing to care for or protect one elderly person or one child in this state. In fact, it does not even do anything to protect one marriage.

Members, this bill is about hate and fear and discrimination. I know something about hate and fear and discrimination. When I was a small girl, white folks used to talk about "protecting the institution of marriage" as well. What they meant was if people of my color tried to marry people of Mr. Chisum's color, you'd often find the people of my color hanging from a tree. That's what the white folks did back then to "protect marriage." Fifty years ago, white folks thought inter-racial marriages were a "threat to the institution of marriage." Members, I'm a Christian and a proud Christian. I read the good book, and do my best to live by it. I have never read the verse where it says, "gay people can't marry." I have never read the verse where it says, "though shalt discriminate against those not like me." I have never read the verse where it says, "let's base our public policy on hate and fear and discrimination." Christianity to me is love and hope and faith and forgiveness-not hate and discrimination.

I have served in this body a lot of years-and I have seen a lot of promises broken. I should be up here demanding my 40 acres and a mule because that's another promise you broke. You used a wealthy white minister cloaked in the cloth to ease the stench of that form of discrimination.

So, now that blacks and women can vote, and now that blacks and women have equal rights-you turn your hatred to homosexuals- and you still use your misguided reading of the Bible to justify your hatred. You want to pass this ridiculous amendment so you can go home and brag --- brag about what? Declare that you saved the people of Texas from what? Persons of the same sex cannot get married in this State now. Texas does not now recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, religious unions, domestic partnerships, contractual arrangements or Christian blessings entered into in this State- or anywhere else on this planet Earth.

If you want to make your hateful political statements then that is one thing- the Chisum amendment does real harm. It repeals the contracts that many single people have paid thousands of dollars to purchase to obtain medical powers of attorney, powers of attorney, hospital visitation, joint ownership and support agreements. You have lost your way- this is obscene.

Today, you are playing to the lowest common denominator- you are putting aside the real issues of substance that we need to address so that you can instead play on the public's fears and prejudices to deceive and manipulate voters into thinking that we have done something important.

I realize that gay rights are not the same as civil rights -but I can guarantee you we are going in the wrong direction. I can not hide my skin color. In fact, in most of the South, people as pink as Rep. Wayne Smith were still Black by law if they had a great grandparent who was African. I was unable to attend an integrated and equally funded school until I got my Master of Laws degree. There were separate and unequal facilities for nearly everything.

I got second-hand textbooks even worse than the kind you're trying to pass off
on every public school student next year. I had to ride to school on the back of the bus. I had to quench my thirst from filthy coloreds-only drinking fountains. I had to enter restaurants from the kitchen door. I was banned from entering most public a ccommodations, even from serving on a jury.

I had to live with the fear that getting too uppity could get you killed --- or worse. I know what third-class citizenship feels like. In my first term, one of my colleagues walked up and down this aisle muttering about how Nigras should be back in the field picking cotton instead of picking out committees.

So, I have to wonder about Rep. Chisum's 3/5 of a person amendment. Some of you folks hid behind your Bible then, too, to justify your cultural prejudices, your denial of liberty, and your gunpoint robbery of human dignity.

We have worked hard at putting our prejudices against homosexuals in law. We have denied them basic job protections. We have denied them and their children freedom from bullying and harassment at school. We have tried to criminalize their very existence.

But, we have also absolved them of all family duties and responsibilities: to care for and support their spouses and children, to count their family's assets in determining public assistance, to obtain health insurance for dependents, to make end-of-life or necessary medical decisions for their life partners---sometimes even to visit in the hospital, even to defend our own country. And then, we can stand on our two hind legs and proclaim, "See, I told you homosexual families are unstable." And nearly every one of you on this Floor has a homosexual in their extended families.

Some of you have shunned and isolated these family members. Some of you, even some of the joint coauthors, have embraced them within your own family for the essence of Christianity is love. Yet,you are now poised to constitutionalize discrimination against a particular class of people.

I thought we would be debating real issues: education, health care for kids, teacher's health insurance, health care for the elderly, protecting survivors of sexual assault, protecting the pensions of seniors in nursing homes. I thought we would be debating economic development, property tax relief, protecting seniors pensions and stem cell research, to save lives of Texans who are waiting for a more abundant life. Instead we are wasting this body's time with this political stunt that is nothing more than constitutionalizing discrimination. The prejudices exhibited by members of this body disgust me.

Last week, Republicans used a political wedge issue to pull kids-sweet little vulnerable kids- out of the homes of loving parents and put them back in a state orphanage just because those parents are gay. That's disgusting. Today, we are telling homosexuals that just like people of my ilk, when I was a small child, they too are second class citizens. I have listened to all the arguments. I have listened to all of the crap.

Mr. Chisum, is a person who I consider my good friend and revere. But, I want you to know that this amendment are blowing smoke to fuel the hell-fire flames of bigotry. You are trying to protect your constituents from danger. This amendment is a CYB amendment for you to go home and talk about.

Protest RX Tests on Foster Children 5-14

Saturday, May 14, 2005 1:00 PM
Emergency Rally at 1:00 PM
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Incarnation Children's Center

142 Audubon Avenue between 172d & 173d St.
#1, 9, A, C to 168 STREET

From: "Rolando Bini"
Subject: [NYGAN] Emergency Rally on 5-14-05 at the Incarnation
Children's Center
Dear Freedom Fighters: Please Spread Far and Wide.
Rolando Bini, Parents in Action For Leadership and Human Rights

Forced Drug Experiments
on Black & Latino Babies

Recent news report have exposed the NYC Administration for
Children's Services (ACS) in a conspiracy to force experimental and lethal
drug treatments on Black & Latino Children who after testing HIV
positive were kidnapped from their mothers at the Hospital and forcibly
placed in Foster Care.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Co.) after a 9 month
recently aired a documentary called "Guinea Pig Kids", which
how NYC government supports these racist and genocidal acts
Our Children at the Incarnation Children's Center in Washington
Heights, Manhattan, run by Catholic Charities for big profits.

There are 19,000 Children in Foster Care in NYC: 98% of them
Black & Latino, less than 1% White. Foster Care in NYC is a subtle
continuation of Institutionalized Slavery. It treats Children as
Chattel, violating the 13th Amendment against Slavery and
Involuntary Servitude. See

Stop this outrage Now!
Join Us in Defense of Our Children

It Must be Stopped by Us
Defend Our Children from their Tormentors
Close Down This Slaughterhouse
No More "Tuskegee Experiments"

Emergency Rally at 1:00 PM
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Incarnation Children's Center
142 Audubon Avenue, Washington Heights, Manhattan
(172 & 173 Street, Trains 1, 9, A, C to 168 St. Stop)

Sponsors: Parents in Action, Millions for Reparations, Mothers
of the
Stolen Children, December 12th Movement, Parents Against Forced
Adoption, Circulo Bolivariano, Concerned Citizens for Family
Preservation. Harlem Tenants Council, Descendants of Freedom,
Mother's Acting Up, People's Advocacy Network, etc. Contact:
or parentsinaction1'at'


---------- Yahoo! Groups Sponsor-----------~-->
DonorsChoose. A simple way to provide underprivileged children
often lacking in public schools. Fund a student project in
NYC/NC today!

(origin of the above message):
Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Outrage over usage of HIV positive children as Guinea pigs

[ a true HORROR - M. ]

Published: Saturday, 23-Apr-2005

Saying "the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) has perpetrated a 21st century Tuskegee Experiment on nearly 500 New York City children over the course of 15 years," New York State Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright (D- Central Harlem/West Harlem) today demanded that the Vera Institute of Justice in conjunction with the NYS Office of Children and Family Services conduct a thorough investigation of ACS policy in light of its enrollment HIV-positive children who are in foster care in clinical drug trials during the late 1980s to 2001.
Assemblyman Wright also announced that he has introduced legislation (A. 6217) that would require the commissioner of the Administration of Children's Services to obtain an order of consent from the court before allowing experimental drug testing on children under the care and/or control of the ACS.

"I suppose I should feel some encouragement from the fact that an independent review of Administration policy will be conducted. Any encouragement is immediately dashed, however, when we realize the gravity of the questions that must be answered," Wright said, adding that the questions include:

Who made the decision to administer the drugs?

How old were the children, and where were they from?

Given that this program began in an era when people had yet to fully comprehend the how and why people contracted HIV, were the children made aware of what medications they were taking, and for what they were taking them?

Given that medical science was not nearly advanced at the time this program began, was sound medical science utilized in administration of these drugs?

Were the foster or birth parents made aware, and was permission given?
Wright added that the use of the foster children is particularly galling when one considers that in the late 1980s, that nation was still dealing with significant fear and hysteria when it came to AIDS. "There is no question that drug trials have helped to increase the life expectancy of those living with HIV. The question is whether children in foster care settings, children who obviously have already suffered greatly in their young lives, should be given experimental treatments. I have no problem with consenting adults undergoing these programs, but doing this to children who may not know better, and whose parents might not have been informed is akin to treating them like animals you'd find in a lab -- rats or guinea pigs," Wright concluded.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Grease guzzlers - Countdown with Keith Olbermann -

Grease guzzlersAlternative fuel saves money at the pump
By Monica Novotny
Updated: 5:25 p.m. ET April 22, 2005

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - Soaring gas prices are pushing drivers to get creative. Now, instead of draining your wallet at the gas station or running on empty, there is another option.

With a diesel engine and quick conversion, you can just head over to the greasy spoon down the street, fill yourself up and then do the same for your car.

When Mike Paulson heads to his neighborhood Chinese restaurant to fill up, he skips the kitchen and heads straight to the back alley where the grease from last night's dinner will power his car for the next few days. That’s deep fried fuel for a car that's strictly vegetarian. ”People are usually laughing and they'll pull up to me and ask me if I'm frying French fries inside,” says Paulson.

Paulson is one of the estimated 5,000-plus American drivers going from gas to grease —converting diesel engines to run on free vegetable oil.

Most restaurant owners are happy to give away their used oil, otherwise they must pay to have it removed, which can cost. The converted say their oil engines run, well, like butta'.Critics say the oil may damage the car, and drivers run the risk of voiding a manufacturer's warranty. But at Grease Car, the four-year-old Massachusetts company that converted Paulsen's car, no one is worried.

Greasecar founder Justin Carven says their customers trouble-free record speaks for itself. He says, “The only difference is the emissions are generally cleaner and the odor of the exhaust of course changes.”

Carven manufactures and installs conversion kits nationwide. Conversions range from $800 to $1,200.

To him, “when you're looking at over $2.50 per gallon, it just makes all the sense in the world.”
Paulsen, who used to spend as much as $240 a month in gas, agrees. “It's a nice environmental gesture but that wasn't my decision-making,” says Paulsen. “I wanted something to save me money."

The idea is not a new one. Rudolf Diesel first invented the diesel engine back in the 1890s. At its debut at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris it ran on peanut oil.
And the people at Greasecar say they're taking that old concept and re-packaging it for modern needs.

Here's how it works. The diesel engine starts the car, heating the vegetable oil to thin it. A temperature gauge tells you when it's safe to switch from diesel to oil — usually a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on how cold it is outside. Hit a small red button and you're cookin' — without gas.

Link 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann'

Monica Novotny reports for 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann'. The show airs weeknights at 8 p.m. ET. on MSNBC.

Click here: Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems

Thursday, April 21, 2005

New York Daily News - Boroughs - Memo stirs nabe anger at Columbia

Memo stirs nabe anger at Columbia


Community outrage over a proposed expansion of Columbia University's campus into West Harlem spilled onto the school's doorsteps yesterday.
Local business owners and community leaders gathered outside the university's gates to protest a newly publicized memo that reveals the school has paid a state agency $300,000 to consider using the power of eminent domain to pave the way for the proposed 18-acre expansion.

"Columbia has been giving the impression that it's an innocent bystander. This document is evidence that it's an active participant," said Norman Siegel, the civil liberties lawyer who has been hired by seven business owners who have refused to sell their property to the university.

The August 2004 agreement between Columbia and the Empire State Development Corp. states the university will pay $300,000 - and more if necessary - to cover the agency's costs of investigating the possible use of eminent domain. This sweeping power allows the state to condemn private property so that it can be used for a public purpose.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a landmark ruling this summer on what uses count as public.

The agreement was turned up recently by the student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, through a freedom of information request.

But Deborah Wetzel, a spokeswoman for the state agency, said it is "normal procedure" for the agency to require developers to set aside money to pay off any costs the agency may incur while vetting real estate plans.

"ESDC is currently evaluating the proposal," Wetzel said, but the agency has made no decision on whether to take action.

Liz Golden, director of operation planning and special projects for Columbia, said the document is consistent with the university's position all along.

"We have said repeatedly that the decision to use eminent domain is the state's, and we are not prepared to take the option off the table. However, it remains a last resort," she said.

Siegel said the payment raises serious questions of conflict of interest.

"If this is routine, they should stop it," said Siegel, who plans to urge Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and state lawmakers to review the practice.

The holdout business owners and community leaders plan to stage a sit-in with students on the campus next Wednesday to protest the expansion plans.

Originally published on April 21, 2005

Columbia Spectator - CU Letter on Expansion Incites Protest

CU Letter on Expansion Incites Protest
by Erin Durkin
Spectator Staff Writer

April 21, 2005

Community activists gathered at Columbia’s gates yesterday to display an increasingly organized and official opposition to the use of eminent domain in Manhattanville.

Attorney Norman Siegel, who represents several Manhattanville business owners who have refused to sell to Columbia, organized yesterday’s press conference, which included a veritable who’s who of the anti-expansion movement.

Vying for attention with the chants of striking grad students, they repeated many criticisms they have made since they learned last Friday that Columbia had asked the Empire State Development Corporation to consider condemning property to make way for the University’s expansion project.

Siegel described the ultimate agreement between Columbia and the ESDC as “extremely troubling.” The letter, which was obtained by Spectator under the Freedom of Information Law, revealed that the University agreed to provide $300,000 to cover the authority’s costs in considering condemnation and other options for the area.

Siegel urged the ESDC to make public any other documents relating to the state’s possible use of eminent domain to forcibly buy property in the expansion zone, located from 125th to 133rd Streets between Broadway and 12th Avenue. He also called on ESDC representatives to “come to West Harlem and meet with the community, and to do it as soon as possible.”

ESDC officials noted after the letter’s release that any use of eminent domain would be accompanied by public reviews, but that these reviews would occur later as the condemnation process moves forward.

“If Columbia is open, if Columbia is forthright, if Columbia is fair, then there is a possibility that there can be cooperation,” Siegel said. Otherwise, opposition to the Manhattanville project would become “Manhattan-wide, citywide,” Siegel said.

The activists backed his claim and referred to the official support they gained from leaders including the New York City public advocate and the Manhattan Borough president.

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9, presented a letter that New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum sent to Columbia Senior Executive Vice President Robert

Columbia Spectator - CFE Fights Pataki to Get Funding for NY Public Schools, Appeal Pending

CFE Fights Pataki to Get Funding for NY Public Schools, Appeal Pending


CFE Fights Pataki to Get Funding for NY Public Schools, Appeal Pending
By Amanda Erickson
Spectator Staff Writer

April 21, 2005

The battle for better schools for New York City students again finds itself in court—maybe for the last time.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity filed a motion on Tuesday asking an appeals court to prevent the stay on Governor Pataki’s appeal from going through. According to the CFE, their motion will prevent the governor from avoiding payment of the billions of dollars in aid to New York City Public schools, at least for a little while.

“The governor is under a court mandate to deliver to our children sound basic education,” said Stacy Feldman of the CFE.

After a 12 year legal battle, the campaign won a case in New York State’s highest court last year affirming that the state was obligated to provide New York City public schools with several billion dollars in additional funds.

Since then, the governor has filed several appeals to avoid paying the city, and the CFE has fought each one. This February, Manhattan Judge Leland DeGrasse ruled that the State had 90 days to pay $5.6 billion for yearly operating costs and $9.6 billion for facilities improvements to public schools in the city.

On Monday, Governor Pataki appealed that ruling “because the court has ordered a massive infusion of cash without recommending a single reform,” said Scott Reif, a spokesman for the governor.

According to state lawyers, this appeal effectively gives the state more time to allocate the money, since it eliminates the 90 day deadline that had previously existed.

But the CFE disagrees. They immediately took action to file a stay that will force the governor to pay money to New York City schools by the deadline, before the forthcoming school year.

“We’re just hoping to ensure that our children receive the resources that they need this year,” Feldman said.

Community leaders hope that the governor will allocate money to New York’s public schools.

“I really would like to see [the state government] come up with the money that has been won in court,” said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9.

State representatives said they wished the governor had provided funding for New York City schools in his original budget. The Governor “never proposed anything to counter CFE decision,” said Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell (D–Morningside Heights). “He will not ... give up his appeal.”

Senator Eric Schneidermann (D–Upper Manhattan) agreed that the governor’s budget did not do enough for New York’s schools. “One of the biggest things is that it still didn’t address the CFE lawsuit,” Clifton Pool, head of policy for Schneidermann, said.

But to CFE’s lawyers and staff, the governor’s decision to deprive New York City schools of financial aid is more of the same. They have been fighting to secure funding for years, and they are not going to give up now.

Feldman described the appeal as more “cynical delay tactics to essentially avoid the inevitable.” She said the governor is “perpetuating violation that will necessarily harm at least one million public school children in NYC.”

NY Budget Raises Region Tax, School Funding

Click here: Columbia Spectator - NY Budget Raises Region Tax, School Funding


NY Budget Raises Region Tax, School Funding
By Amanda Erickson
Spectator Staff Writer

April 21, 2005

It’s official. The numbers have been crunched and the counts tallied—New York State’s budget is ready to take effect. This budget, punctual for the first time in 21 years, will have an impact on both New York City and Columbia with increases in taxes and spending.

One major change that has gone into effect will show up on credit card bills and in stores, as the sales tax will be raised and eigth of a percentage point in the area serviced by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to an overall 8.625%.

According to Scott Rief, a spokesman for the governor, the plan for the increased sales tax was suggested as a method to pay for projects in the MTA region.

Rief noted that the funds are necessary to “fund mass transportation projects.”

Some community leaders disagree that this is the method that should be used to raise funds for the MTA. “I’m generally opposed to sales tax increases,” Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell (D–Morningside Heights) said. He instead advocates raising income taxes. “It’s a very brave thing to do,” he said. “Much more progressive.”

Senator Eric Schneidermann (D-Upper Manhattan) agreed that increasing the sales tax to fund MTA projects was not an appropriate decision. There are “better ways to [fund the project] then with a regressive tax, paid disproportionately,” Clifton Pool, Schneidermann’s head aide, said. But it’s “a tough year to close the budget gap.” Pool said he believes the governor could have used other methods for raising funds, such as taxing commuters who use the MTA one percent of their incomes.

Other local leaders see the governor’s decision to direct the funds toward the MTA as potentially dangerous. “MTA projects should be closely scrutinized by the legislature before any money is put into that bottomless pit,” Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9, said.

Local legislators are also particularly proud of the aid they’ve preserved for higher education in New York State. Among other programs, the legislature was able to restore the TAP program, which provides cash to low-income residents, ensure no tuition increases at public CUNY and SUNY schools, and maintain the HEOP program after the governor proposed changes in his original budget.

“This was important to students in all parts of the state,” O’Donnell said. Restoration of the financial aid cuts was “one of the biggest victories,” Pool agreed.

Another element of the budget will directly affect Columbia. The legislature has agreed to provide $150 million in funding for improvements and renovations at private colleges and universities. This decision comes at a price—$100 million was cut in funding to public colleges this year. These allocations represent a mentality shift in how to get aid to needy students.

“If you look at statistics, private colleges and universities have a high percentage of lower income students,” Ellen Smith, vice president of Government Affairs at Columbia, said. It is “higher here than state institutions.” Smith’s argument echoes that of the Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities, a lobbying group, that asserts private schools play host to a larger number of low income students than public schools.

As a result, it is the private colleges that need funding and support.

But some at public universities dispute this fact. David Henahan, spokesman for SUNY, told The New York Times that the statistics used by CICU are “manufactured” because they do not take into account the students attending state-run community colleges.

Through the program, the state will provide one dollar for every three that the university spends on capital development. Money will be allotted based on campus size and the financial need of students. Development funding must go to specific items, including economic development or urban renewal projects.

“This is really good news for independent colleges throughout the state,” said Dennis Kennedy, a spokesperson at the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, which actively lobbied the state to provide this funding. “It will enable them to build and rebuild their infrastructures to better help their students and communities.”

While Columbia is unsure of how much money it will be allotted, there is little doubt that the results will be positive, Smith said. “It is historic that the state legislature will consider doing this,” she said. She could not comment on how the money would be spent.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

How City Council may kill affordable housing

Click here: New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Julia Vitullo-Martin: How City Council may kill affordable housing

How City Council may kill affordable housing


The outcome of the fight now occurring over rezoning the Brooklyn waterfront will go far toward determining the future of the entire city.
The industry that once flourished on the East River left behind a huge swath of polluted, inaccessible land. As the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg started to rejuvenate in the 1990s, property owners and investors found that their efforts were impeded by zoning.

Indeed, large portions of Williamsburg's much admired rejuvenation has generally been done illegally, through the conversion of old manufacturing and commercial lofts into residential and mixed uses.

City planners hope to fix the zoning along 184 blocks of waterfront, permitting new development and returning the water's edge to New Yorkers. The Bloomberg administration wants to authorize thousands of units of housing to be built there while allowing light industrial and residential uses to co-exist - as they have historically.

Indeed, the beauty of Greenpoint-Williamsburg had been that residents could work and shop within walking distance of their houses.

But at recent City Council hearings some advocates opposed the rezoning, urging a host of contradictory changes. Some wanted much smaller buildings, which they argued would be in keeping with the neighborhood's low-rise character. Others wanted any newly created public space to be under the control of the Parks Department rather than developers. Many wanted assurances of continued industrial use of the waterfront.

The most vociferous objection, however, had to do with the number of residential units that would be set aside for low- and moderate-income households. Advocates urge that 40% of the housing units be made "affordable," meaning that developers would provide 40% of the units at below-market prices.

Below-market prices have to be paid for by someone, though, either by generous government subsidies, which are no longer available, or by the developer, subsidized by the profit yielded from far great

Monday, April 18, 2005

Columbia Students Walk

the Village Voice

Bush's Allies
Columbia Students Walk
by Tom RobbinsApril 19th, 2005 10:26 AM

alert me by e-mail write to us
e-mail story printer friendly

Springing into action: Columbia grad students demonstrate for the right to belong to a Cary Conover

Graduate student teaching assistants at Columbia University walked off their jobs this week, a follow-up to a four-week strike they held last spring that nearly derailed graduation ceremonies.

The demands of Graduate Student Employees United, affiliated with the United Auto Workers, haven't changed much over the four years they have been trying to persuade the university to negotiate over wages and benefits. Like similar efforts at New York University, Brown, the University of Massachusetts, and Yale, the aborning unionization movement won a major boost in 2000 when the National Labor Relations Board�after months of studying the issue�voted unanimously that student teachers were workers and thus entitled to collectively bargain over their working conditions.

But after the Bush administration achieved its majority on the NLRB in late 2003, that victory was quickly undone. In a 3-2 vote split along party lines, the panel overturned its previous ruling. The odd-couple alliance between the academic bastion on the Upper Left Side and Bush's Texas Rangers still leaves Columbia representatives tongue-tied when asked about it.

"The NLRB is an officially recognized entity. The university is in line with the NLRB," said Alissa Kaplan Michaels, a spokesperson for Columbia, last week. Pressed as to whether the university feels a little funny being protected from its own students by the GOP, Michaels said: "I don't think we look at it that way."

The strike is expected to last for one week.

Columbia Spectator - Growing CCNY to Get First Dorm

Columbia Spectator

Growing CCNY to Get First Dorm
Plan Finds Optimism Among Students; Concern Swells Among Others
By Eleazar David Melendez
Spectator Staff Writer

April 18, 2005

While Columbia students are relishing the return of sunshine, green grass, and lazy days on Low steps, at CCNY, the warm weather has brought a completely different set of sights and sounds: hammers, men in hard hats, and Caterpillar-brand machinery.

Beginning in March, the City College of New York, the flagship campus of the CUNY public university system, embarked on a 10-year plan to reshape the southern part of its campus. The space is currently an eclectic collection of scattered academic buildings, sports facilities, bright red trailers, and even a sight to behold in Manhattan: unused open space. The plan calls for the overhaul of an existing academic building, the creation of two new science centers, and the erection of the first CUNY-built college dormitory.

Construction on this last project has already begun; the new dorm will be situated on the very edge of CCNY’s campus at the corner of 130th St. and St. Nicholas Avenue.

“CUNY wanted to build its own dormitory, and CCNY, because of its status as the flagship school, was the natural choice,” said Dr. Lois Cronholm, City College’s vice-president and chief operating officer.

Cronholm said the fact that CCNY still has space on its campus also helped.

She described the series of construction projects as a crucial step in the campus’ Strategic Plan, an initiative she was asked to develop alongside CUNY’s current provost after they were both appointed in 2001. She described student reaction to the projects as “excellent; they can’t wait for it to happen.”

While the university’s decision to construct a housing unit on campus might seem fairly straightforward, CCNY’s character as a public institution, the demographics of its student body, and even its location in Harlem at 138th and Amsterdam Ave. bring in a host of factors that make the college’s decision anything but simple.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon on campus, student reactions to the proposal were similar: a mix of misinformation, optimism, and cynicism. Students interviewed seemed ill-informed, conceding they knew “absolutely nothing” or “very little” about the project.

Peter Rivera, a spirited sophomore who was having lunch with three friends in the college’s cafeteria area, epitomized the reaction of most students when interviewed about the new dormitory project.

“Do you know when it’s going to be finished? Are we paying for this?” he asked.

Despite the fact that the dormitory project was officially announced on February 10th on the CCNY Web site and was even featured on the front page of the campus’ monthly student newspaper, many students’ confusion might be attributed to a series of earlier leaks. Before February’s official announcement, the project appeared in an October 6 New York Times article and a winter press release from one of the developers.

Both Rivera and other interviewed students said they would be interested in living in a reasonably-priced dorm. Cynicism, however, had the last word.

“I’ve heard people talk about it,” said sophomore Jean Francois. “They are trying to get more people from out-of-state, since [those students] get charged more tuition.”

While the projected development will have only 600 beds for a college of over 12,000, the university is unlikely to give specific priority to out-of-state students. Cronholm suggested that rather than out-of-staters, students in certain fields of study would probably receive priority. For example, she said that students in programs like biomedical engineering who “stay on campus almost 24 hours” would greatly benefit from nearby affordable housing. Monthly room rates are projected to range from $800 to $1,200.

But attracting out-of-state students seemed to be a common motif among many of the University community members interviewed. Adjunct Professor Chithra Karunukaran was blunt in her socioeconomic appreciation of the issue.

“What’s really happening is the ‘white-ing’ of CUNY,” Karunukaran said.

She specifically attacked Cronholm for her statements in the aforementioned Times article, where Cronholm said that City College was “not trying to change the demographics of our students.”

“When Cronholm speaks of students being dissuaded from coming here because of the lack of convenient housing, you know she’s not talking about CCNY students—students who ride the B, D, 1, and 9 [subways] home,” she said. “She is thinking of an affluent white student in Minnesota.”

Community leaders have also raised doubts about the project. Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9, which includes the CCNY campus, said the community had not been informed and consulted properly about the project.

“The community knows very little about it,” Reyes-Montblanc said. He emphasized that a presentation made by one of the architectural firms at a CB9 meeting last January failed to address basic planning issues like “noise, traffic, street crossings, blasting and other disruptions.”

“Apparently [CCNY President Gregory Williams] never got the word or read the City Charter that mandates that all city agencies and dependencies consult their Community Boards with any plans that will affect the community,” Reyes said. “I suppose he will also be highly surprised ... that the community is not as receptive to them as he may think.”

Cynthia Doty, a Democratic district leader and an active member of the Coalition to Preserve Community, criticized the creation of the dorm in more ideological terms.

“It is a slow way to privatize [CCNY], but it’s something that stands counter to the mission of the college,” Doty said. “This is a public university whose purpose is to educate the people of the city of New York.”

The dormitory is expected to open by September 2006.

Click here: Columbia Spectator - Growing CCNY to Get First Dorm

Columbia Spectator - STAFF EDITORIAL: Eminently Thoughtless

Columbia Spectator

STAFF EDITORIAL: Eminently Thoughtless
Columbia has some explaining to do
April 18, 2005

For such a supposedly high-caliber institution, Columbia is a surprisingly slow learner. This is nowhere more evident—nor more damaging—than in the administration’s plans for expansion into Manhattanville. The recently revealed documents related to eminent domain are the latest signal that our beloved University has not been drawing lessons from its experience.

The documents, obtained by Spectator, show that the University requested that the Empire State Development Corporation begin exploring the possibility of using eminent domain to condemn property in Manhattanville as early as July 2004. Columbia gave the ESDC $300,000 and a promise of future funds to cover their legal expenses. Regardless of one’s position on the expansion issue, the administration’s attitude toward these documents is disappointingly solipsistic.

The administration has consistently argued that it is unwilling to take eminent domain off the table. The agreement with ESDC was a necessary first step toward investigating that possibility, and it is right in arguing that the documents do not contradict this publicly stated position. But we find it troubling that they choose to pursue this option without broadcasting it.

Given the sensitivity of expansion, Columbia should provide public statements on every action it takes related to the issue, no matter how minor. But for some reason, even Community Board 9 Chairman Jordi Reyes-Montblanc didn’t know about the agreement until publicized by Spectator.

By now, the University must have realized that much of the neighborhood community sees eminent domain as Columbia’s nuclear option and that any actions relating to it must be handled carefully.

The very fact that the administration treated the ESDC agreement as nothing more than a routine legal step is a disheartening sign of arrogance. Even if, as seems likely, the agreement was pedestrian in the eyes of the University’s lawyers, the community is not composed of lawyers. The average person looks at these documents and sees the administration asking that properties it does not own be considered for condemnation. The average person sees money changing hands between Columbia, which does not itself have the power of eminent domain, and ESDC, which does. Three hundred thousand dollars may be a pittance to an institution like Columbia, but it is a huge amount of money to the average person.

One can only conclude that Columbia, by providing no public announcement or explanation of its actions, either didn’t consider the community’s understandable sensitivity to the eminent domain issue or was hoping that no one would notice. In other words, Columbia’s administration is either thoughtless or devious.

We support expansion, but if the University continues to bungle it so profoundly, with or without eminent domain, it will never happen.

Click here: Columbia Spectator - STAFF EDITORIAL: Eminently Thoughtless

Columbia's Manhattanville Blunder

Columbia Spectator


Columbia's Manhattanville Blunder
By Matt Carhart

April 18, 2005

It turns out that Columbia was less than forthcoming about its expansion plans. For a long time, administrators danced around the question of whether eminent domain, the process by which the government forces landowners to move out of their homes for some specific public interest, would be used. Eminent domain is entirely the responsibility of the government and private institutions cannot “exercise” that power, they said.

Even though they were technically correct, that did not tell the entire story. As we learned last week, through documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, three Columbia trustees contacted New York State officials and asked them to condemn several businesses in the area of the Columbia expansion. No, Columbia cannot exercise eminent domain, but it can warm up the process—with a promise of $300,000 to cover legal fees. Interesting little game of semantics, huh?

Now, it seems, Columbia is in trouble. Many do not believe that this is just a routine legal proceeding, one so normal that it isn’t worth talking about, as Columbia claims. To the average person, $300,000 put toward the funding of an inflammatory project is worth at least a mention.

This raises two separate issues. The first is the use of eminent domain. Last year, Community Board 9, the most localized form of city government, which encompasses both Columbia University and Manhattanville, passed a rare unanimous resolution demanding that eminent domain not be used in the area of Columbia’s expansion. Administrators, who frequently point out that the area is composed of people with many different opinions, should take this as a sign of clear sentiment against eminent domain.

Anybody who followed the story could have pieced together Columbia’s intentions. Lee Bollinger has said that unless Columbia can use the entire Manhattanville site, the school will take its expansion elsewhere. Columbia has bought a great deal of property in Manhattanville, but much of the area remains in the hands of others, and some owners have insisted that they will not sell. Why would Columbia abandon this whole project, then, when administrators could ask a pro-development administration to use eminent domain?

With it increasingly likely that Columbia will not obtain all the land it wants, the University has reasons to seek eminent domain. Owning all of the buildings gives urban planners freedom they would not otherwise have. In addition, Columbia’s space restraints mean that the school needs all the space it can get.

But it is wrong to suggest that Columbia must own all the land in the area to pursue this project. Renzo Piano, the famed architect working on the expansion project, told me in an interview last year that the idea of a walled-off campus is outdated. Maintaining vestiges of the old neighborhood might be a challenge for designers, but it also represents a new approach to how a campus should interact with its city.

The second issue is that administrators, who clearly thought nobody would ever know they had contacted the state, decided they did not need to be forthcoming about where they are in the process. This is obviously wrong.

Many in the surrounding areas do not see the University as the devil incarnate and agree that what is good for the University is good for the community. On the subject of Columbia’s openness, though, the community, whether rich or poor, landlord or tenant, should unite. We can all agree that a university that hides the truth is bad for everyone.

Will Columbia ever be trusted again on expansion? Some will probably say no. For a project that could benefit the neighborhood in innumerable ways, that’s just sad. Too sophisticated to lie and not principled enough to tell the truth, administrators have created a public relations mess for themselves. A vitally important project will suffer as a result.

Click here: Columbia Spectator - Columbia's Manhattanville Blunder

Attention All Residents

Our District's Military Academy "The Renaissance Military & Leadership Academy, the only one in Manhattan needs Community support to be properly funded, equipped and staffed.

A Rally in support of the Academy is scheduled to take place on May 4th.

Community Board 9 Manhattan strongly supports the Academy and encourages all residents of the District to do likewise. JRM



I.S. 286

Wednesday May 4, 2005 6:00pm
St Mary’s Church
521 West 126th street
New York N.Y. 10027

Lt. Col Gregory E. Collins
Commandant R.M.L.A.

Community Board 9

Community Leaders

Veterans Organization

Parents and Students

Transit workers union sues the MTA

Subject: New MTA lawsuit - article and press release
Date: 4/18/2005 11:51:52 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Transit workers union sues the MTA
April 18, 2005, 10:51 AM EDT

The city's largest transit workers union is suing the MTA, claiming the Authority failed to get the most money when it sold its West Side yards to the Jets last month.

Joining Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union are the transit advocacy groups Straphangers Campaign and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and the New York chapter of the good government organization Common Cause.

An MTA spokesman declined to comment on the suit.

The plaintiffs were to hold an 11 a.m. news conference announcing the court action at Manhattan State Supreme Court.

The suit seeks to nullify the Authority's Mar. 31 decision to sell the Long Island Rail Road yards for $280 million to the New York Jets to build a stadium on the 13-acre parcel.

Cablevision offered to pay the MTA about $425 million for the site, which the company wants to protect competition with its flagship arena Madison Square Garden.

A news release announcing today's suit said it would make no claim that one bid was better. But attorneys said the MTA violated its financial duties by selling the property far short of the $1 billion the agency's own appraiser said it as worth.

Representing the plaintiffs are several attorneys who sued the MTA in 2003 in an unsuccessful bid to roll back a fare hike, including State Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan).

The Straphangers Campaign and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign are already suing the MTA and the city over environmental concerns about the stadium.

Cablevision also sued the MTA and the city last month, claiming that the process was rigged to favor the football team. Before the MTA put out the parcel to bid, the Jets were all but assured of the required zoning changes and promised $600 million in state and city subsidies.

Common Cause/NY
NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Transport Workers Union Local 100

Embargoed for Release: Contact: Neysa Pranger or
Monday, April 18, 2005, 10:30 a.m. Gene Russianoff at (212) 349-6460
Dave Katzman (212) 873-6000
Rachel Leon (212) 691-7071
Jon Orcutt (212) 268-7474

Groups Take MTA to Court
Demand MTA Rebids Its Hudson Yards Property; Seek Far Higher Price To Benefit Transit System

New York-Four groups today filed a lawsuit seeking to have the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rebid its Hudson Yards property to get more funding for the transit system.

The groups argue that the MTA violated its statutory and common law duties to secure the most beneficial terms possible for the sale of this valuable asset and did not proceed through a process that insured fairness to all potential bidders.

The suit makes no claim that one bid was superior to another, but asks as relief that the MTA begin the bidding process again with the aim of achieving an appropriate price for its property. The groups included the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign; Common Cause/NY; Transport Workers Union Local 100; and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

The case was filed today in New York State Supreme Court.

The groups are represented by Tom Shanahan of the law firm Shanahan and Associates, P.C.; Daniel Bright of the law firm of Kennedy, Schwartz and Cure; Nancy Christensen of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign; and Eric Schneiderman, New York State Senator for the 31st District. Schneiderman represented the Straphangers Campaign and the New York Urban League in a 1995 civil rights lawsuit against the MTA, objecting then to a 25-cent fare increase.

All the lawyers - except for Ms. Christensen - represented the TWU, the Campaign and other groups in challenging the 50-cent fare hike and the closing of scores of station booths in 2003.

"The MTA was too quick, played favorites, and violated its own rules," said Rachel Leon, executive director of Common Cause/NY. "Common Cause cannot let their flawed process stand."

"The MTA cannot act like a rogue agency," said Senator Eric Schniederman. "It has a legal duty to maximize the benefit of the sale of its assets."

"If we don't get a fair price for the Yards, the loss will be taken out on the riding public in fewer new cars and buses, less repairs and eventually higher fares and poorer service," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign.

"The MTA's Capital Plan requires them to sell assets to generate cash. Their most valuable asset-worth close to $1 billion, according to the MTA's own appraisal-are the Yards," said Tom Shanahan.

"The quality of the work environment directly affects our members," said TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint. "A fair price for the Yards would give us more dollars for a decent system."

"Tri-State knows that money from the Yards is part of the MTA's Capital Program," said Jon Orcutt, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "A shortfall in money from the Yards means that vital parts of the subway will not get fixed in the next five-year plan."

Two of the groups -the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign - are already in New York State Supreme Court suing the MTA and the City over the adequacy of the traffic section of the Environmental Impact Statement.


New PICCED Report Released: New Markets Tax Credits: Issues and Opportunities

Subject: e-Alert: New PICCED Report Released
Date: 4/18/2005 11:09:27 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Pratt Institute Center for Community and
Environmental Development (PICCED)
April 18, 2005

New PICCED Report Released:
New Markets Tax Credits:

Issues and Opportunities (PDF format)

The Pratt Center is pleased to release a report on the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) – the largest new federal subsidy for economic development in depressed urban and rural areas created in the past thirty years.

The report – written by P. Jefferson Armistead with support from the Taconic Foundation – explores how NMTC works and provides some insight into the program, early in its implementation. It includes case studies of ten NMTC deals from around the country, in which community developers are using the credits to:

• save a Maine paper mill from bankruptcy while dedicating 240,000 acres of forest for conservation;
• create an innovative shopping and community center in inner-city San Diego, with unprecedented levels of resident involvement in development and ownership;
• build charter schools and child care centers from New Brunswick to Los Angeles; and
• redevelop historic structures in weaker-market cities like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.

While it is too soon to evaluate the success of the NMTC, early indications show that the program is stimulating the flow of investment capital into underserved communities. While the Bush Administration and Congress are considering deep cuts to Community Development Block Grants and other federal programs, this report highlights deals where federal subsidies are making a real difference in low-income areas.

The report also identifies areas where community development advocates must continue their efforts to improve and extend the NMTC program – creating pathways to good jobs, genuinely involving community residents in the process, better supporting small businesses – so it can best serve the needs of low-income people in distressed communities.

Read the full report available online at


Other recent news from the Pratt Center:

Testimony on the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning
Director Brad Lander presented testimony on April 4, 2005 to the City Council Zoning Subcommittee on how the proposed Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning can do a better job at guaranteeing affordable housing, promoting good jobs, and creating public open space.

Issue Brief on a Prevailing Wage Requirement for Building Service Workers in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning Area.

After a thorough review of proposed legislation, PICCED recommends the adoption of a bill that applies prevailing wage standards to New York City subsidies for newly constructed residential buildings in Greenpoint-Williamsburg.

We respect your time and privacy by limiting the frequency of our emails. If you no longer wish to receive news from the Pratt Center, please reply to this message with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line or simply click on the following link: Unsubscribe

Forward this message to a friend

This message was sent by Pratt Center using VerticalResponse's iBuilder®

Pratt Center
379 DeKalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
Read the VerticalResponse marketing policy.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Five by Five Revitalizes Morningside Park

Five by Five Revitalizes Morningside Park
By Lauren Melnick
Spectator Staff Writer

April 15, 2005

After a period of neglect beginning in the 1980s, Morningside Park is well on its way to recovery thanks to the joint revitalization efforts of Friends of Morningside Park and the NYC Parks Department. Last week, Morningside Park received the attention of the Five by Five program in which, for five days, resources and crews from the five boroughs are assigned to one park and its specific needs.

The program, which is run by the City Parks Department, has been in effect since 1987. Its resources, which are based purely on displayed need, are used infrequently, and Morningside Park is the first park in 2005 to reap its benefits.

Understaffing was one reason behind Morningside’s selection as a priority recipient for inter-borough resources. “In Central Harlem, [Morningside] is one of the largest parks. We lost a lot of seasonal staff early last fall and did not have enough people for the fall leaf clean up,” said District 9 Parks and Recreation Manager Tricia Daniel.

The Morningside Heights community has also addressed the park’s need for revitalization. “Lately there has been a lot of interest in the community, concern over the amount of usage the park gets, and backing from the Friends of Morningside Park,” said Namshik Yoon, chief of operations for Manhattan Parks. “This program provides a way of concentrating efforts to improve the maintenance for this specific facility.”

In preparation for the Five by Five, Daniel and Park Supervisor Cheryl Grice discussed and identified which areas of the park needed to be addressed and compiled a list of top priority concerns. The list included log removal, forestry, spraying, clean-up and mason work, graffiti removal, weed treatment, and pipe rail fencing.

But expectations for the Five by Five were not met when a contingent of Parks Department crew did not show. “For the Five by Five, we asked districts to lend us staff for a day,” she explained. “We hired seasonal workers and anticipated that 60 people would come in, but only half as many showed up.”

“The crew that did show worked on tasks that were not priorities, such as painting benches and trash cans. We could have gotten volunteers to do that,” said Brad Taylor, vice president of the Friends of Morningside Park. “We are thankful for what has been accomplished, but we were expecting more.”

The crews had stopped painting as of last Thursday and focused on other tasks like raking and bagging leaves and cleaning up debris. In addition, the crews began to address high priority concerns like clearing logs from the upper areas of the park and pruning trees.

“There was a bit of a misunderstanding,” Yoon explained. “This was a spring clean-up in which we were training a bunch of new employees, not a Five by Five. We hadn’t finished hiring and processing our entire staff in the time span we had, and could not complete everything in five days.”

As a result, four representatives from the Friends and park officials affiliated with Morningside attended a meeting last Friday with Bill Castro, Manhattan Borough commissioner of Parks and Recreation, to discuss the current and future undertakings of Five by Five.

“The meeting went quite well,” Taylor said. “While the Park did not get a traditional Five by Five last week in terms of staffing levels, the Commissioner has committed to completing the tasks on the list and given us a time line for doing so.”

As of Monday, forestry crews were able to clear trees behind Morningside Park’s ballfields and areas around 119th Street. But for further forestry efforts, specialized forestry crews will be hired. Funds are still needed for log removal, which will cost $50,000 to $70,000. Railing repairs and blacksmith work will be completed before Memorial Day, as will plumbing and flooding issues, which have created icy conditions on the paths during the winter. Drain cleaning on the upper pathways is necessary, as is the continuation of graffiti removal, which was partially completed.

In addition, by this fall the second half of the 116th to 122nd Streets and Morningside Drive sidewalk renovation project should be complete. Morningside Park will also be receiving a Parks Enforcement Patrol officer once the next class of PEP officers is processed. They are authorized to give out summons to anyone who violates NYC park codes, including graffiti, excessive noise, being in the park after park hours, and barbecuing.

“The park looks cleaner now than I’ve ever seen it,” Taylor said. “I believe that everyone connected with revitalizing the park realizes its historic significance and I think [State Park Commissioner] Castro really wants to see it become one of the premiere parks in Manhattan, which it was when it was built in the 1890s.”

Columbia Spectator - CU Paving Way For Eminent Domain Use


Click Here for a PDF file of the letter obtained by Spectator.

CU Paving Way For Eminent Domain Use
Letter to State Requests Dialogue About Possible Condemnation, CU Provides $300,000
By Jimmy Vielkind and Erin Durkin
Spectator Staff Writers

April 15, 2005

Columbia officials have requested that the state consider condemning property in West Harlem for the University’s Manhattanville expansion plan and have made a payment of $300,000 to cover the state’s legal fees.

The request was made in a letter sent last summer to the Empire State Development Corporation, a state authority that facilitates development projects and can condemn property for private developers using eminent domain, and signed by Columbia’s Deputy General Counsel Howard Jacobson. Spectator obtained the letter under the Freedom of Information Law.

While the six-page letter is only a preliminary agreement between Columbia and ESDC and contains no specific promises to condemn property, it is the clearest expression to date of the possibility that eminent domain, the ability of government to forcibly buy property for “public use,” may be used for Columbia’s expansion and has raised concerns about how open the University has been in its dealings with the community.

“Columbia has requested that the ... Empire State Development Corporation, subject to applicable law, consider the condemnation of portions of the Property not under Columbia Control and the transfer of title by deed, subject to appropriate restrictions, to facilitate development by Columbia of facilities to be used for academic, administrative, student and faculty residences, retail, parking, on-site energy, open space, a hotel and other related or ancillary uses and public amenities currently under discussion. This letter agreement sets forth the agreement of Columbia to pay certain costs to the extent incurred by ESDC in connection with the Project,” the letter states.

The document also contains assurances that Columbia will assume liability for any lawsuits brought against ESDC in their work, which was defined in the letter as “drafting, reviewing and/or negotiating ... restrictive deeds and land acquisition and disposition agreement(s) between ESDC and Columbia, and necessary or appropriate documents related thereto.”

University officials downplayed the significance of the agreement and explained that Columbia’s communication with ESDC is a necessary part of any development of the scope of the planned Manhattanville project.

“We have said repeatedly that the decision [to use eminent domain] is the state’s, and we are not prepared to take the option off the table. Signing this reimbursement letter was a necessary step to preserve the option,” said Liz Golden, a University spokeswoman.

The letter stipulates that Columbia will pay ESDC $300,000 to cover any costs incurred in conjunction with its work on the expansion project, including the retention of condemnation counsel. University officials and ESDC both confirmed that the payment had been made. The letter also states that if the balance of the account in which the payment was placed drops below $100,000, ESDC will request additional funds. University officials said that this scenario has not yet taken place, meaning that ESDC has spent no more than $200,000 investigating possible condemnation in Manhattanville.

The last paragraph of the letter states, “If the foregoing accurately sets forth our understanding, kindly sign two of the enclosed copies of this letter agreement in the space set forth below, ... whereupon this letter agreement shall become a binding agreement.” The space below is signed by Charles Gargano, chairman and chief executive officer of ESDC.

Chapin Fay, an ESDC spokesman, confirmed that the letter represented a legal agreement between the University and the authority. He emphasized, however, that it was preliminary.

“Columbia University has asked ESDC to consider assisting in the University’s proposed expansion, which may include the use of eminent domain,” he said. “ESDC is currently evaluating the proposal and determining whether any ESDC assistance might be appropriate ... No commitment has been made regarding any potential ESDC actions.”

In order for any above-ground condemnation to go forward, property must be declared “blighted” under the law as determined by an independent blight study. Such a study was not mentioned in the letter and University officials denied they had asked for one to be conducted.

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9, said he was not surprised to learn that the use of eminent domain in Manhattanville was under consideration. He said he thought that any such move would take place in the future and that he had not been informed that Columbia had initiated communications with ESDC.

“What is a surprise is that it has actually been contracted with ESDC, that they have actually paid $300,000 to ESDC, and that Mr. Gargano, without even deigning to consult with the community, has signed this agreement,” he said.

Reyes-Montblanc said that the relationship between the University and the community would be affected by what he called “a very destructive action by Columbia.”

“I’m disappointed at Columbia, and I’m highly pissed off at ESDC,” he said. “Now we cannot trust either one.”

Fay called Reyes-Montblanc’s criticisms “unfounded,” noting there is “a very public process involved when we get to that point.”

“We are not at that point yet, and no commitment or decision has been made other than to consider a proposal,” he said.

Golden said that the letter’s disclosure would not change Columbia’s standing while working with community members and groups.

“The issue of condemnation is not new and we will continue to keep the community informed about our proposed actions in Manhattanville,” she said. “In any ongoing relationship, there are going to be areas of agreement and sometimes areas of disagreement. Our first priority is to continue to negotiate the purchase of properties in a way that addresses the needs of individual owners and meets the University’s objectives.”

Susan Russell, chief of staff to City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Washington Heights), said the Councilman was disturbed that Columbia had initiated communication about condemnation without informing the community. She said that, after reading the letter, he had called Columbia Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin to express his concerns.

“He [Jackson] didn’t know that Columbia had done this and he is disappointed that the Community Board did not know about this, because he thought that there would be more openness and discussion in this process,” Russell said.

“They keep representing to the community that they don’t want to go in this direction, and then we find out about this document,” she said, adding that Jackson “hopes there will be more transparency on Columbia’s part” and “expects much better going forward.”

Councilman Jackson, whose district includes the affected area, is “absolutely opposed” to the use of eminent domain in Manhattanville.

“We do expect that people will react strongly to this,” Russel said.

Reyes-Montblanc also warned that the letter would have significant impact.

“Those who know me know that there will be some kind of reaction, and it will not be pretty,” he said.


Subject: CB9M Chair Condemns Condemnation!!
Date: 4/15/2005 4:17:51 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
From: Reysmont

Click here: Columbia Spectator - CU Paving Way For Eminent Domain Use

Suggest that you read the Columbia Spectator this morning's, 15Apr05, edition re Columbia University Expansion and the CU Indemnity Agreement Ltr to NYS Urban Development Corporation/Empire State Development Corporation.30Jul04. Copy of which received by CB9M 14Apr05 4PM from unofficial sources who obtained it through the Freedom Of Information Act.

A .pdf format copy of CU's letter of Agreement and indemnity of $300,000 to ESDC is attached [Click Here] for your information and ready reference.

CB9M was never advised of such action by CU requesting condemnation of properties they are unable to purchase in the open and fair market although such eventuality was expected at some future date.

CB9M is on the record against condemnation and eminent domain.

I have personally advised CU, highest level offcials on several occasions and at least once two CU Trustees, that condemnation was beneath an institution of CU's category and touted integrity; that if condemnation procedure was started, the community would not support CU and that to my best judgement the fact was, (and is), that the only properties warranting condemnation are CU properties and that I would encourage the community to support condemnation of CU properties which CU has been allowing to remain vacant and in disrepair and in conditions of advanced and advancing state of deterioration - CU should be careful of what they wished.

CB9M most strongly opposes condemnation of private property and eminent domain for the benefit of any private institution and has issued Resolutions to that effect.

As I have said before, "Over my dead body"


Jordi (George) Reyes-Montblanc
Community Board 9 Manhattan
565 West 125th Street
New York, NY 10027

Tel: (212) 864-6200
Fax: 212-662-7396
Web :
Web Calendar: CB9M Calendar
Web Page:
Chair's Blog:

Friday, April 15, 2005

Calling all preservationists…Landmarks Forum

Subject: Fwd: Landmarks Forum
Date: 4/14/2005 7:42:29 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time

Our neighborhood has been ignored even though Eric Washington's book on Manhattanville has highlighted the rich history and culture of the area. I will talk to Eric about the district and maybe he can bring it to their attention again.
Note: forwarded message attached.

Anne Z. Whitman

To: undisclosed-Recipient
Subject: Landmarks Forum
Date: Thu, 14 Apr 2005 16:51:34 -0400

Calling all preservationists…

Celebrate! Tuesday, April 19, marks the day Mayor Robert Wagner enacted New York’s Landmarks Law in 1965.

Contemplate! Forty years later, how is the Landmarks Preservation Commission doing?

Participate! If you care about the future of the Law and the Commission, please come to this forum – and bring your tough questions. Information below…

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission invites you to a symposium

40 Years of Landmarks Preservation in New York

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

John L. Tishman Auditorium, designed by Joseph Urban

New School University

66 West 12th Street

On April 19, 1965, Mayor Robert Wagner signed into law the bill establishing the Landmarks Law and forming the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. To date, the Commission has designated 1,119 individual landmarks, 83 historic districts, and 11 district extensions, totaling approximately 23,000 buildings. This symposium has been organized to mark the Commission’s fortieth anniversary.

Schedule of Events

1:30 Welcome and Opening remarks

Robert B. Tierney, Chair, Landmarks Preservation Commission

Bob Kerrey, President, New School University

2:00 – 3:15 Creating a Layered City: On Preservation and Development

Panelists: Peg Breen, President, New York Landmarks Conservancy; Richard Cook, Partner, Cook + Fox, Architects; Ken Fisher, Partner, Wolff Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen; and Charles Lockwood, author of Bricks and Brownstones

Moderator: Gaston Silva, Chief Operating Officer, Vornado Trust Realty

3:15 – 3:30 Coffee Break

3:30 – 4:45 Changing New York: The Evolution of the Historic Preservation Movement

Panelists: J. Max Bond Jr., Partner, Davis Brody Bond; Susan Henshaw Jones, President and Director, Museum of the City of New York; Joan Maynard, Executive Director Emeritus, Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History; Otis Pratt Pearsall, Commissioner, Art Commission of the City of New York; and Charles Platt, Partner, Platt Byard Dovell White, Architects

Moderator: Paul Goldberger, Dean, Parsons School of Design, New School University, and Architecture Critic, The New Yorker

The Landmarks Preservation Commission thanks New School University and

the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation for their support of this event.

No R.S.V.P. is required for this free event.