Tuesday, May 02, 2006

CPC Storms Steps

CPC Storms Steps
Divisive Battle Over Proposed Expansion Comes To Campus
By Erin Durkin

April 28, 2006

Shouting slogans and waving signs, opponents of Columbia�s proposed Manhattanville expansion brought their gripes to the University�s gates in a large protest Thursday.

A crowd that peaked at nearly 200 circled behind police barricades, chanting variations of �Harlem not for sale.� Several signs read �Save our homes� and �Stop Columbia� in English and Spanish, while one suggested �Harlem is short on space, needs to expand. Let�s take Columbia�s South Lawn by eminent domain.�

�We came over here to protect our homes,� said Mary Granada, a 30-year resident of 3289 Broadway. The building is located inside the 17 acre zone that Columbia seeks to develop, and all its tenants would be displaced if the expansion goes forward as planned. Columbia has committed to relocating the displaced tenants, but Granada said that wasn�t good enough. �I don�t want to be relocated. I want to stay where I am,� she said.

Robert Rosello, another 3289 Broadway resident, agreed. �I don�t see how they can make that statement [about relocation] when they have no idea where they want to move people, and when most of the people who are here are perfectly happy here and don�t want to move.�

�We don�t want �better.� We want what we have,� he said.

�We don�t have enough money to pay for another apartment,� said Huelga, a resident of the area for 30 years who, though not located directly in the expansion zone, still fears displacement. �Where will we go?� she asked in Spanish.

�We�re against the whole thing,� said Benjamin Rosen, communications director for State Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-West Harlem), who represents the expansion zone. He clarified that �if they go with the 197-a, which they won�t, we can work with that, but even that�s a concession.�

197-a is a development framework passed by Community Board 9 that differs from Columbia�s proposed plan. It retains manufacturing, while disallowing eminent domain, among other conditions.

While the protest consisted mainly of Harlem residents, several students were present as well. �I came here because I think the community�s demand for the University to expand within the 197-a plan is valid,� said Lee Norsworthy, BC �06. Indicating the crowd, she said, �This is not the sign of a neighborhood that is fading away. This is a neighborhood full of people that care about it.�

After two hours of chanting, the demonstrators exited the police barricades and marched through the 116th street gates onto campus, convening on Low Steps.

Nellie Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council, addressed the crowd. �Lee, we want you to show your liberalism and compassion for your fellow man who is less than five blocks from this great institution,� she said, referring to University President Lee Bollinger. �You can no longer hide behind a fa�ade of generosity ... as you redefine the Harlem community with the help of some sellout African American politicians. ... We say no today, we say no tomorrow, we say no forever.�

Tom Demott of the Coalition to Preserve Community, which organized the protest along with the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification, read an open letter to Bollinger. �You and the University have repeatedly stated that you �respect� the Harlem community into which you seek to expand,� he said. He asked Bollinger to demonstrate this respect by giving leases to the auto shops tenants of 3251 Broadway, taking eminent domain off the table, avoiding hazardous biotechnical research, and complying with the 197-a plan.

A University spokesperson said in a statement that �The University encourages broad discussion on the proposed expansion and has actively participated in ongoing opportunities to solicit input from students, faculty, and especially members of the greater community. Today�s event reflects the values of the civic engagement by Columbia students on issues of concern to the University and our upper Manhattan neighbors. The University believes its proposed expansion will not only help ensure that this remains a center of great teaching and important academic research that benefits society, it will have significant local benefits to the community and the city as a whole.�

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