Monday, January 22, 2007

CB9M Chooses Treasurer, Talks Zoning - Barbara Marshall Reelected, Development Causes Anxiety

Columbia Spectator
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CB9M Chooses Treasurer, Talks Zoning
Barbara Marshall Reelected, Development Causes Anxiety

By Jacob Schneider
Issue date: 1/19/07 Section: News

Expansion projects at Columbia and City College of New York and a new zoning plan for 125th Street dominated discussion at Thursday night's Community Board 9 meeting, with the board also filling an executive board post and debating a proposed Harlem residential development.

In the fifth round of voting after four ties at December's meeting, incumbent treasurer Barbara Marshall was reelected 20-13 over challenger Michael Palma.

A top CCNY administrator met student opposition when he made a presentation to the board regarding planned construction on the CCNY campus. According to Robert Santos, the acting vice president for facilities planning, plans are moving forward to build a new science center on a site that is currently an athletic field used by many local youth sports teams. Santos also said that the installation of new lighting by CCNY near St. Nicholas Park has resulted in less crime in the park and on surrounding streets.

But a vocal contingent of students raised concerns about the planned installation of electrical transformers at CCNY's library. "The concern is that there are six of them next to each other in the building, not in the basement where they usually are," said CCNY student Rodolfo Leyton. "When you stand next to them long enough, you start to hallucinate. It's dangerous for people with pacemakers."

Santos responded that transformers pose no risk. "Transformers are safe pieces of equipment," he said. "They sit under your sidewalks right now and you walk around them ... they're in your house."

A new zoning plan for 125th Street designed to promote economic development across the city also prompted anxiety among some board members that gentrification in neighboring districts would threaten small businesses in West Harlem.

"Such tremendous development in Board 10 will have a ripple effect into our neighborhood," said CB9 chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, who said that, though the rezoning will have a "negligible" effect on Community District 9, he will form a task force to address the issue. "It's very important that we're willing to stand with our brothers and sisters in Board 10."

A hot topic throughout the meeting was the continuing progress of the Local Development Corporation, which will negotiate a community benefits agreement to accompany Columbia's proposed Manhattanville expansion. Board members complained that LDC meetings are not public enough, that representatives of elected officials on the LDC vote as a bloc, and that the corporation has not taken a strong enough stand against the possible use of eminent domain to acquire land in Harlem.

City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Harlem) denied that the elected officials coordinate their votes and reiterated his opposition to eminent domain.

"If the LDC gets bogged down on the question of eminent domain and can't move on to other business, then the LDC is not staying focused," he said.

A proposed apartment building on an empty lot at 753 St. Nicholas Ave. drew fire because it does not contain affordable units, but the board ultimately approved a letter in support of the project.


NB - The Chairman expressed concern about the "ripple" effects of the 125th Street rezoning within CB10M and will appoint a task force to review what effects those ripples may have on CB9M's portion of 125th Street and how to best either take advantage, avoid, mitigate or fight those effects and to support CB10M in their desires and aspirations for their portion of 125h Street

In reference to theWH LDC and Eminent Domain the Chairman, again, as he has innumerable number of times, pointed out that Eminent Domain is a Land Use Issue that will be addressed by CB9M if/when it is pertinent and that the LDC is charged with the negotiation of community benefits not any Land Use matters that will properly handle by CB9M and the community during the Public Review Process, the ULURP.

In reference to 753 St. Nicholas Ave. the Board approved a "Letter of No Objection" for facade redesign of Landmarked building purposes and not a "Letter of Support", the project will have to be reviewed again by the Board when, as stated, the owners apply for a 421-a tax abatement. - JRM

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