Friday, December 08, 2006

STAFF EDITORIAL: Neighborhood Feeling

Columbia Spectator
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STAFF EDITORIAL: Neighborhood Feeling
Issue date: 12/8/06 Section: Opinion

La Rosita was everything that Havana Central will never be-an authentic, family-owned Cuban eatery with cheap prices and a 24-year-long history in Morningside Heights. The restaurant is expected to permanently close by the end of the month because of rising rent. The closing of La Rosita is indicative of greater changes that have been shaping the neighborhood for some time.

With the closings of Movie Place and Wood-O-Rama and the installation of American Apparel and McDonalds, Morningside Heights is beginning to take on the strip mall appearance that now characterizes much of Manhattan. While the large-scale economic factors behind this trend of commercialization are not directly the fault of the University, Columbia should do what it can to preserve the character of the immediate neighborhood.

Rising rents are a fact of New York life, and while Columbia is frequently blamed for the gentrification of West Harlem, independently owned businesses are struggling all through the city. Coliseum Books, one of the largest independent bookstores in New York, also will close before the year's end. There is little the University can do to keep rent down in building it does not own, but in those that it does own, Columbia should keep rents as low as financially possible and discourage chains from moving in. While there is nothing Columbia can do about the broad macroeconomic trends driving the city's rising cost of living, it does have a responsibility to preserve and nurture its immediate community.

In comparison to the neighborhoods surrounding New York University and Fordham University, Morningside Heights has remained relatively chain-free. But recent changes in the neighborhood indicate a trend in the wrong direction. The effects of gentrification are to some degree unavoidable, but they can be mitigated by supporting local businesses that are reflective of the community.

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