By Mike McPhate
By 2030 the university hopes to occupy the 17-acre area parallel to the waterfront from West 125th Street to 133rd Street and between Broadway and 12th Avenue. Included in the $7 billion plan are six academic buildings, seven research buildings, one retail building, and two residential buildings.
Community leaders have criticized the university’s plan to operate hazardous-material laboratories at the site. The university has not provided specifics of what will be housed in the labs, but the proposed safety designation for at least one lab, biosafety level 3, would allow research on deadly substances like anthrax and the West Nile virus.
She added, “Because of this research that we’re talking about I hope that we do not ignore the good that it’s designed to do. What we’re talking about is finding ways to improve the lives of people whether we’re talking about diabetes, Alzheimer’s.”
Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9, said much of the distrust has been sown by the university’s failure to communicate openly about its plans, including details about the materials to be handled in the bio-labs.
Residents often site as an example of the university’s lack of good faith the revelation in the press that it had applied to the state to invoke eminent domain, or forced eviction, against businesses that refuse to leave the expansion area. “If you want a partner, it has to be equal,” said Reyes-Montblanc. “We’re not going a silent partner, and we’re not going to be a minor partner.”
Fountain dismissed the accusation that the university has not been forthright. School officials have held over 100 meetings with local leaders, she said. “We’ve already been very, very open.”