Tuesday, October 31, 2006

LDC Defers Land-Use Demands

Columbia Spectator
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LDC Defers Land-Use Demands
Eminent Domain Not A Condition for CBA Talks
By Erin Durkin
Issue date: 10/31/06 Section: News

The local development corporation that is slated to work out a community benefits agreement with Columbia on behalf of the Manhattanville community has voted not to make the renunciation of eminent domain a prerequisite for negotiations.

The decision, made at a private meeting of the LDC earlier this month, was discussed at a meeting of Community Board 9's Manhattanville task force Monday night.

Pat Jones, co-chair of the task force and a CB9 representative on the LDC, explained, "The mission of the LDC is to negotiate and monitor a CBA ... the negotiation of a CBA by no means assures, winks, or nods at Community Board 9 supporting a plan that has eminent domain in it."

"We know that strange things happen in the City of New York," she said, explaining that the Columbia plan may well be approved with or without CB9's approval, adding that the LDC will have "done a great disservice if there's no community benefits."

But some attendees objected to the group's decision. "I know that the LDC wasn't created to deal with the land use issues, but I feel that it's in a unique position to force Columbia to deal with that," Harlem resident Mario Mazzoni said.

He said that demanding eminent domain be taken off the table as a precondition could be effective because "I think personally Columbia needs the CBA more than we do."

CB9 member Michael Palma defended the decision, saying that while eminent domain is important, "It's not the only thing."

"If no one talks to Columbia, they'll go ahead and use eminent domain," he said. "When everybody's paid off and they go home to the suburbs ... we're left holding the bag."

Business owner Judy Zuhusky, who has refused to sell her property to Columbia, objected to this premise. "If we wanted to be paid off we'd have been paid off months and years ago," she said, "I resent that anyone suggests that I'm going to go into suburbia and live my happy life."

Issues also arose over the retention of attorney Jesse Masyr to represent the LDC. Masyr is working pro bono, but his agreement with the LDC states that he will keep track of his fees and may be reimbursed by "outside parties" if it is deemed appropriate. Who these outside parties might be remains unclear.

CB9 member Carolyn Kent objected to Masyr's retention, calling him a "hero of big development."LDC member Cecil Corbin-Mark said he was also uncomfortable with the situation. "I tried to find alternative counsel," he said, but was unsuccessful. "In the end, I think people decided, OK, he's represented developers, he brings some knowledge of how they work and how they're fought."

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