From: "Mario Mazzoni"
Subject: article from 1987 about Columbia's evictions back then
This article may be of interest to others in your CB9M email list. It addresses
how Columbia has pursued expansion in the past, and in particular the ways in
which Columbia's housing practices completely changed the demographics of the
Morningside Heights neighborhood as a whole.
I have one other article, written by the Columbia chapter of the Students for a
Democratic Society, about Columbia's housing policies of earlier decades. (The
SDS piece was published around 1967, I've been told, right before the height of
the Morningside Park conflicts.) I'll send that over next.
Columbia University: Town on a Hill
By Neil Smith
Broadway: Magazine of the Columbia Spectator
March 1987, page 6
"A university that is set upon a hill cannot be hid," proclaimed President Seth Low in his 1896 dedication of the new Columbia campus on "Morningside Heights."
"Columbia cannot escape the observation of the city," he continued, "nor can the city escape from it." Low could hardly have anticipated the cruel truth of what he presumably meant as moral prescription. Today Columbia University is the third largest landlord in New York City; it dominates the Heights in every conceivable way; and in the last quarter of a century it has been responsible for extensive displacement of Heights residents.
The current president of Columbia, Michael Sovern, wants to continue Low's high moral tone; he sits on Governor Cuomo's commission investigating corruption in government, and on the city's Commission on the Homeless. One could be excused, of course, for asking whether a conflict of interest might exist between Sovern's position as the city's third largest landlord, and his role on the homeless commission, but this would miss the point.
In a city with perhaps as many as 100,000 homeless—the estimates vary and the city admits to at least 40,000—Sovern is a man of action, not one to be side-tracked by the moral niceties of conflicting interests. He already has had a personal effect on the homeless situation. Unfortunately, far from helping to solve the problem, Sovern has directly caused an increase in the number of homeless. Ask Susana Acosta-Jaafar.
At 8:00 a.m. on February 25th, Acosta-Jaafar was evicted from her apartment by Columbia University with the help of the City Marshall. Acosta-Jaafar had lived in her Columbia-owned apartment for 18 years and worked for Columbia for 13, but because she was not a "Grade 14" or higher employee, Columbia decided that she did not merit housing and refused her a lease. When Acosta-Jaafar was evicted, the Columbia lawyer handed her the address of a local homeless shelter.
Following the Acosta-Jaafar eviction, Columbia could immediately evict as many as forty other tenants, nut will probably wait until summer to do so. An even larger batch of evictions, currently enjoying steady progress through the court system, is not far behind.
We have all lamented angrily that Columbia pretends to be a humane seat of learning and that the least we can expect would be the decent treatment of people who work for Columbia or live in the neighborhood. At least that is the message we are supposed to take from the awesome list of classical scholars—Aristotle to Virgil—on the sombre edifice of Butler Library's intimidating
But this assumption of humanity misses the point entirely. Whatever it may have
been in Seth Low's time, Columbia is not now a university. Claiming $1,100,000,000 in endowment assets (not including their real estate holdings), Columbia is a multi-billion dollar, multi-national financial corporation which has its major investments in real estate and a substantial involvement in defense industry research, and which also happens to hand out degrees every May.
From its intransigence toward the blockade of Hamilton Hall in 1985, to its blatant anti-union posture, and most recently to the racist attack against black students, Columbia presents itself !o the outside world as a hard, ruthless business entity.
Columbia is engineering nothing less than the gentrification of what used to be "Harlem Heights."
They began early. The name was changed around the turn of the century when Columbia began to colonize the neighborhood and was repelled at the stigma of being in Harlem—so they changed the name. 80 years later, President McGill admitted, with marvelous understatement: "I am not hostile to the gentrification of the Morningside Heights.
Gentrification is the process whereby dilapidated, working-class neighborhoods attract reinvestment and are converted into middle-class neighborhoods.
Although Columbia also displaces some middle-class white people, gentrification is the administration's aim. If you read The New York Times, gentrification is always presented as a beneficial process in the American rugged individualist
The actors in this tradition are "urban pioneers" busying themselves in urban homesteading. Not only is this vision insulting to existing residents—who are treated no better than Native Americans were on the original frontier—it is wholly wrong. As on the original frontier, wherever the homesteaders settled, the institutions of capital or the state had already gone before. Columbia continues this tradition.
In Harlem Heights as elsewhere, gentrification is the result of economic calculations by those with the money to buy and sell real estate. Many of the rest of us become its victims.
In 1968, a group of students published a pamphlet entitled Who Rules Columbia?
They estimated that Columbia had displaced about 7,500 people in the previous ten years. More recently, Robert Kahn, a 1984 graduate of Columbia College, estimated that form 1960 to 1982 there had been approximately 11,000 "first-time" displacements resulting from Columbia's acquisitions of new property. But there is a second kind of "repeat" displacement which occurs when affiliates—or even non-affiliates—are harassed out or evicted through the affiliation clause (this does not include students in dormitories or those who leave voluntarily).
If repeat displacement occurs even at the conservative rate of one household per apartment per decade, then the displacement figure from 1960 to 1982 would range between 17,500 and 25,000.
That is, at the very minimum, Columbia has been displacing people at the rate of 750 to 1100 per year over nearly two and a half decades. This amounts to between 2.8 per-cent and 4.1 percent of the neighborhood displaced each year, almost twice the level of displacement that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development deemed to be taking place nationally in gentrifying neighborhoods.
These figures give a new meaning to warehousing. Warehousing is when a landlord holds properties vacant, either in expectation of higher rents or with the hope of selling the building for an inflated price at a later date. At 130 Morningside Drive, only five of the 24 apartments are occupied. Columbia has maintained vacant apartments there since 1968, when, according to Marie Runyon who has been a resident there for over 20 years, Columbia sent university employees into the building to smash the fixtures, thus ensuring that these flats were
In 1983, the University Senate Housing report admitted that the university had 238 vacant apartments. Today, the figure is approximately 250, representing 5.8 percent of Columbia's properties on the Heights. The average Manhattan vacancy rate is about 1.7 percent; the city-wide average is 2 percent.
In 1971, the state declared that a vacancy rate of less than 5 percent constituted a housing
emergency. New York City has been in a housing emergency ever since, and as the third biggest landlord, with more than 5 percent of its properties vacant, Columbia is doing its bit to keep things tight.
In fact Columbia treats the whole of the Heights as its personal warehouse. It slots people into apartments for four years or six years, or however long, and when their term is up, they are booted out. It doesn't take street smarts to figure out that this is no way to make a community.
This is the profile not of a humane educational institution but of a truculent and at times vengeful corporate employer, the Columbia Corporation. In case any hint of skepticism remains about what makes the Columbia Corporation tick, pick up a copy of the "Columbia University Directory." There you will find that in its administrative structure, the institution boasts some 15 vice-presidents on the "Morningside Heights" campus alone. Of these, three are concerned with academic matters; the remaining 12 with investments, financial affairs, the budget,
facilities, personnel, "university development," government relations, and so on. Such are the priorities of Columbia. Its vice-presidents are geared more to the daily achievements of the Dow Jones than the accomplishments of students.
As a landlord, Columbia is no less the consummate corporation. In 1985 it sold a nine-block land parcel under the Rockefeller Center for a cool $400 million. It still owns highly lucrative Wall Street properties, where the original university was located, but it is on the Heights that its landlord practices have been most extreme.
By 1982 Columbia and its affiliated institutions owned 63.2 percent of the total housing units on the Heights—from Riverside Park to Morningside Park, 110th Street to 123rd Street. This represented a total of about 4,400 apartment units; it excludes 3,753 dormitory bed spaces, and approximately 1100 further apartment units beyond the boundaries of the Heights (e. g. , 560 Riverside with 325 units).
These buildings had an assessed value of $149.9 million. In 1982, the last year for which
it was possible to get figures, their profit on this real estate was approximately $2 million. This means that while Columbia does not make market rates on this property (nor, indeed, do they pay property taxes on them), they are not non-profit either; if non-profit is the criterion, Columbia over-charges its Heights tenants an average of almost $40 per month. Thus, according to a 1983 University Senate Report on Housing, Columbia has "sought to secure a higher rate of return on its residential real estate."
In reality, Columbia's holdings on the Heights are worth much more than $150 million. It is traditional to assume that assess-ed value is only about 35-40 percent of actual market value, and so this would put the true value of Columbia's 1982 holdings on the Heights at $375 million. In the last five years, however, property prices in New York have soared at almost 10 percent per year, and so a more realistic estimate of Columbia's assets in Heights real estate would be
about $600 million.
Columbia has a long history of belligerent expansion in the neighborhood. A perusal of the Columbiana collection in Low Library reveals the extent of tenant and community protests against Columbia even before the attempted 1968 expansion into Morningside Park and colonialization of Harlem.
A 1967 Trustee report on the "Progress and Promise of Columbia University" announces gleefully that despite community opposition, the Heights "has been cleaned up. .. and is now one of the safer parts of the city. All but two of the worst SRO houses have been eliminated, and nobody really regrets their passing."
An SRO is a single room occupancy hotel which generally rents rooms by the week to what used to be referred to in polite company as "the indigent poor". For many people, SROs were the last defense against homelessness, and even today's Koch administration—not known for its progressive policies concerning homelessness, displacement or gentrification—-has introduced a moratorium on SRO conversions in recognition of their vital importance. Not so Columbia, however.
As recently as 1983, CC purchased the Carlton SRO on 109th Street and refused to meet community demands for the provision of adequate space for community residents. The Carlton SRO is now a Columbia College dormitory—"The Carlton Arms".
A more infamous case was that of 600 West 113th Street. In 1979, Columbia acquired the building at that address, and there followed what the Village Voice described as " brutal harassment," aimed largely at elderly and minority tenants, including some Indian and Pakistani students. Heat was turned off in winter, ceilings fell through, and one tenant was thrown through a glass door. The manager of the building admitted to local Democratic Assemblyman Ed Sullivan that he was trying to clear the building so that Columbia could buy it.
In fact Columbia already held the $ 1.6 million mortgage on the property.
According to community activists, five elderly tenants of the building died during this displacement process. George Ewing, a tenant of the building at the time, said, "You can't say that Columbia killed them and sent them to the grave, but they did help with a hefty kick."
It is important that this incident not be dismissed as an aberration. It is part of a very clear strategy on Columbia's part. William McGill was President of Columbia until 1980, and here is his version of the neighborhood: "In addition to SROs I'm opposed to bars—especially sleazy ones— and fast food joints. I don't want people like that here! The people here aspire to the typical services that are available in the East 80's."
This is the grand plan Columbia still has for the Heights. It relies on short memories and four-year stints by students to disguise its avaricious elitism.
But there are long-term community residents who remember and who know how and why
Columbia earned its local reputation. Ask Paul at NRS books, who successfully fought off Columbia; or Marie Runyon of the Harlem Restoration Project, who, with other tenants, had to physically prevent Columbia from evicting them illegally from their apartments at 130 Morningside Drive; or Kenny Schaffer, a lawyer working for Assemblyman Sullivan, who has been in court more times than he cares to remember trying to keep people in homes; now, too, you can ask Susana Acosta-Jaafar.
So why is Columbia gentrifying the neighborhood? What do they hope to achieve?
In one sense the answer is obvious: they want control. But there is more to it than this. Columbia has an extraordinary vision of its "manifest destiny" in its colonization of the Heights. And like all such visions, Columbia's is a blend of fear and the will to power. Fear is the most basic reaction of Columbia's administration to the local community. Morningside Park is not simply a geographical gradient, but in the plans of Columbia it is a gradient of many different dimensions anxiously doubled up on each other—geographical, social, economic, cultural and political, not to mention racial.
Columbia has never been stymied in its fight to keep things just its way. Get rid of the bars, the SROs and the kind of people who live in them, and refurbish the neighborhood with the amenities of the East 80s with prices to fit.
Columbia is attempting to build a lily-white jewel on the Heights; what Michael Sovern once described in a meeting of senior SIA faculty (where he presumably thought he was "among friends") as a "secure zone" against the predations of Harlem.
Let's translate this into straight English: Columbia wants to build a sterile white neighborhood where the squeamish sons, daughters and parents of the upper middle class can be cordoned off from Harlem. No more, no less. Yet many Columbia faculty and students don't want a Heights sterilized by Columbia's elitism and ignorance.
To accomplish this grand plan requires power, and Columbia has it. They used it to support the 1974 Sperling decision in State Court. That decision exempted so-called non-profit institutions (like Columbia) from the rent control laws. New York State rent control laws restrict the annual rent increases that landlords may charge, and regulate the conditions under which tenants may be evicted.
Columbia used it that same year to pressure the legislature into exempting non-profit institutions from the rent stabilization laws. The rent stabilization laws put into effect milder rent regulations for buildings not covered by the original laws.
In 1983 Columbia had to use its influence to stop a University housing administrator, Richard Golden, from going to jail. Golden, director of Acquisitions and Rehabilitation, was listed as the official manager of Columbia's property at 547 Riverside Drive. In March of that year, the building at 547 Riverside was partly damaged by fire, and Columbia proceeded to evict everyone, regardless of whether their apartments were damaged or not. The University refused to relocate tenants, and dragged its feet on making repairs; cynically, the fire was seen as an excuse to evict non-affiliated tenants who, because they had resided at 547 before Columbia bought it, were otherwise protected from eviction. (The full story is very well told by Lynne Schwartz in her book, We are Talking about Homes, published by Harper and Row.)
But this attempt at warehousing was declared illegal in Manhattan courts, and Columbia was continually cited for failing to make repairs. Finally, the criminal court issued an arrest order against Richard Golden. CU argued that it should not be forced to spend large amounts of money on repairs for a building operating in the red. Only then did the repairs begin in earnest.
Columbia exercised its power too in 1985 when a bill was presented to the State Legislature which would have restored a modicum of rights to tenants of non-profit institutions. The bill "did not even come up for consideration" according to tenants' rights lawyer Kenny Schaffer, "because Michael Sovern and NYU President John Brademas used their connections to kill the bill."
Most recently, they used their power last October to protect their rights to attach an affiliation clause to the leases they make tenants sign. According to the affiliation clause, a tenant must relinquish an apartment when he or she no longer studies or works full time at Columbia. For staff there is also the condition that they be above grade 14; Columbia convinced the judge to go along with them.
Therefore, although it is the third largest landlord in the city, Columbia has been able to use its power to subvert normal legal regulation. They can raise their rents by any figure they please and they can evict whomever they please.
In effect they have created a company town on the Heights, where Columbia gives and takes away jobs, holds all the tied cottages, and rents out to over 100 of the local businesses.
So what is Columbia's justification for its behavior?
Let's list the rationalizations;
1. "We don't own 65 percent of the Heights, only 33 percent."
2. "We need to make it a safe neighborhood."
3. "We have no choice—there's a housing shortage."
4. "We need the apartments for our faculty and students, otherwise they
wouldn't come here."
Let's look at these excuses.
Columbia employs imaginative statisticians but they're not so hot at geography.
When they tell us that Columbia only owns a third of the neighborhood's housing, they are conveniently including the Grant Houses and Morningside Gardens between 124th Street and 125th Street. These have several thousand tenants, very few of them Columbia students or faculty.
1. A safe, neighborhood would be nice. Unfortunately, Columbia is the biggest bully on the block, and like all bullies, it is proving to be very dumb. It has never shed itself of a siege mentality. You don't make a safe neighborhood by building large fences at the perimeter, and hiring lots of menacing cops. The racist assumption that the Heights would be safe if it housed only Columbia people ("our own"—as long as they're above grade 14) is self-defeating.
2. If you establish a racist enclave, it will become a target. Better by far to encourage a genuinely mixed and integrated neighborhood, which would be more fun anyway than the inaccessible sterility of a Cafe Lumiere, or its predecessor, Crepes and Capuccino.
3. It's good to know that Columbia is aware of the housing crisis. What it comes nowhere near understanding is that it is the chief cause of a housing shortage on the Heights. Last year, Columbia was unable to house some 1700 graduate students, and Columbia blamed this on non-affiliates who were taking up "their" housing. Apart from the obvious argument that most of these community residents have been here for some time, it apparently never occurred to Columbia to open up the 19 vacant apartments at 130 Morningside Drive, or any of the other 230 vacant apartments in the neighborhood. As the 63 percent shareholder in the neighborhood's housing, Columbia can hardly blame anyone but itself if existing housing policies create a crisis.
4. This is the best gem of all—that Columbia needs the housing for their students and faculty. Presumably we need not belabor Columbia's attitude toward its students—housing them in Upper West Side SROs while holding 250 Heights apartments vacant. As regards faculty, according to 1984 figures released by Greg Fusco, Vice President for Government Relations and Community Affairs, full-time faculty occupied 398 of Columbia's apartments in the Heights, while 1101 were occupied by non-teaching administrative personnel; almost as many as the 1200 occupied by students. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Columbia administration is the major beneficiary of its own housing policies. Columbia may be powerful, but it can be beaten.
5. In 1968 the sit-in not only succeeded in preventing the colonization of Harlem Flats by a thoroughly hostile institution; it forced Columbia to retrench entirely in its real estate dealings on Harlem Heights. The accompanying graph shows the dramatic drop-off in housing purchases on the Heights after 1968, and its rise again after 1978.
The lesson from this history is really quite simple. Whatever else it is, the Columbia Corporation is a rubber wall. If you force it back with a punch it will give, but the moment you remove the pressure it will slip right back into business as usual. What lies behind business as usual at Columbia was described eloquently by the conservative historian, Charles Beard, when he resigned from the university in disgust: "I have been driven to the conclusion that the
university is really under the control of a small and active group of Trustees who have no standing in the world of education, who are reactionary and visionless in politics, narrow and medieval in religion. This conduct betrays a profound misconception of the true function of a university in the advancement of learning."
Columbia's reactionary attitude has now cost Susana Acosta-Jaafar her home, but this is only the start of a new phase of active evictions planned by Columbia in Harlem Heights, according to the local tenants organization, Housing For All.
76 people were arrested for attempting to prevent the Acosta-Jaafar eviction, and Housing For All has vowed to mobilize even greater support should Columbia proceed with further evictions. If the university administration and its Trustees refuse to adopt a set of policies that prevent rather than increase homelessness, then students, faculty and community residents will have to make it their responsibility to prove Seth Low correct, and to ensure that the university on
the hill cannot be hidden.
Columbia University has shown itself un-willing or incapable of adopting such housing policies. The solution today lies not so much in devising inventive policies that the administration can then use for their own perverse purposes, but rather in shifting power over housing in the Heights from the Columbia administration to the people-students, faculty and community residents who live here.
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2007 13:13:46 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Mario Mazzoni"
Subject: article about Columbia's role in urban renewal policies of the '50s & '60s
Here is the article from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Columbia
chapter, about the role that Columbia University played in affecting urban
renewal policies in the 1950s and 1960s---not only in Morningside Heights / West
Harlem, but throughout the West Side of Manhattan. I have been told that this was
published around 1967.
COLUMBIA EXPANSION AND URBAN RENEWAL
WHY WILL 280 FAMILIES IN WEST HARLEM FACE EVICTION IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS?
WHY AND HOW DOES COLUMBIA SUPPORT THESE EVICTIONS?
WHY DOES COLUMBIA OPPOSE LOW-INCOME HOUSING ON MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS?
—COLUMBIA STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY
Columbia University, the other institutions on Morningside Heights, and the City of New York via its various agencies have initiated an urban renewal program for the area surrounding the University. The Morningside General Neighborhood Renewal Plan covers the area from West 100th Street north to West 125th Street, from Central Park West-Eighth Avenue west to the River.
The Renewal process will be carried out in four separate stages. Stage One of the GNRP encompasses Morningside Heights, Manhattan Valley, and one block of West Harlem (Douglass
Circle North at 110th Street and Central Park West). This is the Cathedral Parkway Urban Renewal Area.
The Early Acquisition Package is the first part of Stage One and is where urban renewal begins. It includes the acquisition of parcels of land and the eviction of 200 to 320 families in the near future depending on the final packages. The evictions will begin in the next several months.
The purpose of the next few pages will be to show the causes of growing community resistance to urban renewal and the reasons why students should join the movement to defeat it.
WHAT IS URBAN RENEWAL?
Ostensibly urban renewal is a means of rebuilding slums of American cities by replacing sub-standard housing with new construction and by decreasing the population densities in the core of the City. In fact, urban renewal appropriates the taxes paid by wage-earners to:
1.) Subsidize local real estate interests. The City buys a site for 1.8 times its assessed value and then sells the site back to an investor for 1/4 to 1/3 its actual value.
2.) Float bonds for financiers and to meet the needs for expansion of the local institutions in the area.
3.) Buy off local political leaders. Jobs are made available for "community" organizers and the City sets up site offices in the area where jobs are available.
4.) Drop crumbs to liberal ethnic leaders by constructing a token amount of low-rent housing.
In the end the process provides housing for upper income people at the expense of Black, Puerto Rican and white wage earners, merely moving the original residents from one slum to another.
In New York City there is an acute housing crisis which is exacerbated by urban renewal. At present there are 800,000 slum housing units in the City with 50,000 more added yearly through deterioration of existing dwellings. In 1968, only 12,000 units of low and moderate rent housing were constructed in all of the City.
On the West Side of Manhattan urban renewal has meant the removal of Black, Puerto Rican, and white working class people. The construction of Lincoln Center and Lincoln Towers to replace a working class neighborhood is one example.
The Stryckers Bay Urban Renewal Area (West 87th Street to West 97th Street) is a more blatant example. More than 10,000 units of low-rent (rent-controlled) apartments have been demolished while only 1,500 units of low-rent housing have been constructed to replace then. Columbia University fought to have only 400 units constructed as noted in a secret memo from the executive director of Morningside Heights Inc., Stanley Salinen, to the Trustees and President Kirk:
"The high hopes that the City officials had for the satisfaction of our needs were depressed by the force of the Puerto Rican and other groups during the many hearings on the West Side renewal from 37th to 97th Streets, in the course of which the optimal number of low-rent units was increased from 400...."
Why must the whole West Side be made into an institutional enclave and upper income haven at the expense of the poor people and wage earners who live there now?
To the City government, real estate investors, and bankers the answer is a simple question of economics. Low-rent housing is not profitable. High-rent housing increases property values for real estate interests. Ranks can float high interest loans to finance construction of housing. Some crumbs are dropped to the City government by way of more revenue from real estate taxes, income taxes and the sales tax to temporarily save the City from bankruptcy and to insure
debt service payment to the banks.
WHY HAS MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS-MANHATTAN VALLEY AND WEST HARLEM BEEN DECLARED A FEDERAL URBAN RENEWAL AREA?
The main reason is that Columbia University wants to throw out most of the Black, Puerto Rican and white working people from the neighborhood without becoming directly involved. (A few will remain to preserve Columbia's image.) This will allow Columbia to expand and to create an upper income enclave in the area. There are certainly real estate and financial interests involved, but these are more obscure.
In Salmen's memo mentioned above, Columbia outlines the principles under which
it wants renewal to proceed:
"The University will want to cooperate with the City in every possible way, but must hold three principles in mind: 1.) no public housing between 110th and 123rd Streets; 2.) room must be available for institutional expansion; and 3.) no single room occupancy houses north of 110th Street..."
In 1959, for these and other reasons, David Rockefeller, a friend of Columbia and then Chairman of Morningside Heights Inc. and President of the Chase Manhattan Bank made a trip to Washington to ask the Urban Renewal Administration to declare this area an active federal urban renewal project area.
HOW DOES THE URBAN RENEWAL PROCESS OPERATE?
The mechanism urban renewal uses to carry out the above objectives includes:
1.) The City and the federal government in Washington agree that a certain area needs to be "renewed." The decision is based on political considerations and on guidelines set down by urban renewal legislation. The geographical boundaries are determined, and a "community" council is set up so that the appearance of community participation can be created. In the Morningside Heights Neighborhood Renewal Plan, the Morningside Renewal Council performs this function.
2.) Once the Renewal Council is established, it decides to accept federal funds to finance the renewal project. The area is surveyed, and a plan is drawn up by a planner hired by the city. For our area this is David Rosen and Associates.
He has drawn up a preliminary plan for the area, but it has not been completed or approved.
3.) The Renewal Council draws up an Early Acquisition Package to designate the first sites for urban renewal. (See Map for location of sites.) The Package is then approved or rejected by the City Planning Commission and the Board of Estimate.
The Housing and Development Administration reserves the right to modify an Early Acquisition Package either before it goes to the City Planning Commission and Board of Estimate or after. Of course, modification must be approved by the City Planning Commission and the Board of Estimate.
In the Cathedral Parkway Urban Renewal Area, the Housing and Development Administration has decided to ask the City Planning Commission to add five buildings along Manhattan Avenue
between 110th and 111th Streets to the Early Acquisition Package.
Once the City gives its final approval to the Early Acquisition Package, it goes to Washington for approval by the Housing and Urban Development Department.
If Columbia does not like the package, it can intervene even on this level to stop it.
4.) While this process is going on the Renewal Council will recommend staged relocation and that a certain combination of low and middle income housing be constructed. (Staged relocation means that housing is constructed on vacant sites to provide relocation housing before anyone is forced to relocate.) The City planning Commission and the Board of Estimate will ignore most of these requests.
5.) The City then evicts people from their homes, forcing them into another slum, while promising them they can move back once the new housing is constructed.
High-rent housing is constructed with a few token low-rent units. Most of the people who have been forced out are not able to move back because of the high rents. They are thus left living elsewhere in deteriorated housing at higher rents. In addition, they have been uprooted from their neighborhood only to land in what will probably shortly become another renewal area.
WHAT IS THE MORNINGSIDE RENEWAL COUNCIL?
The Morningside Renewal Council is a government-sponsored independent corporation composed of the institutions in the area, several community and church groups, poverty agencies and various political clubs.
Altogether, there are over 60 organizations in the body. Institutions such as Morningside Heights, Inc., Columbia University, Teachers College, and Barnard, and a few Columbia fronts* account for a bloc of 20 votes in the body. Several other organizations exist solely on paper, e.g., Bank Street Tenants Association. The buildings this organization represents were demolished during the summer.
[*For example, the Adult Youth Association, Inc. and Morningside Junior Library
are funded by Morningside Heights, Inc.]
Other organizations include the Riverside Democrats, Morningside Heights Republican Club, Port-Washington Democratic Club, and the West Side Liberal Club.
An average meeting is attended by representatives of forty groups. Justice Poole currently serves as chairman of the body. It meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 8:00 p.m. in 304 Barnard Hall, Broadway and West 117th Street.
The Morningside Renewal Council has a community relations office on Columbus Avenue under the direction of Eric Arroyo. They have hired several community organizers and have received two Vista volunteers from the government. It is their job to "sell" the community on the idea of urban renewal—that is, to portray urban renewal as a good thing, rather than as a mechanism for throwing people out of their homes.
HOW DOES THE MORNINGSIDE RENEWAL COUNCIL FUNCTION?
The Renewal Council's primary function is to involve people in the urban renewal process. Since urban renewal is bad, the Renewal Council is bad in its essence. In the Morningside area, the Council performs the additional function of drawing people into "negotiating" with Columbia and her allies rather than fighting against her. How does involvement in the urban renewal process lead people to sell-out the interests of the community, rather than to leave the Council and
fight arainst the process?
The Morningside Renewal Council, when it was formed, included some people who knew the history of other urban renewal projects and the sell-out role of other renewal councils. But they honestly believed that urban renewal would be different in this neighborhood. Even today there are some people on the Council who think that it can be used as a vehicle for improving the community.
However, the ruling class has educated them with a political framework which makes community victories impossible. This framework has in the past led the honest people to defeats, and has prevented them from drawing the correct lessons from those defeats. Consequently, by the time many people start working with the Council their basic attitude towards politics is a lack of faith in the people's ability to organize and to win immediate and long-range demands. Their faith lies in the hope that there are divisions in the ruling class which can be exploited by clever tactical maneuvers—pitting one part of the ruling class against the other. The result of these attitudes is an increasing stress on legal actions through the courts, "pulling the right strings," and eventually joining the ruling the ruling class—ostensibly to be one of the "good" members of that class.
In effect, all of this amounts to avoiding the people, losing contact with the people, eventually unconsciously selling out, and finally consciously selling out. The sell-out is the inevitable result of the assumption which underlies the very nature of the Morningside Renewal Council and the negotiations which take place within it: the assumption that a community of interests exists between the trustees of Columbia, other Morningside Heights institutions, the government,
and the local reform Democrats on the one hand, and the people on the other.
This false assumption denies the class nature of the Morningside Heights institutions (including Columbia) and more generally the rest of the state apparatus (electoral system and parties, courts, police, city government bureaucracy, federal legislature which appropriates urban renewal funds, etc.)
The interests of the bourgeois state and those of the working class are irreconcilably opposed.
The "community" people on the Renewal Council see the City as mediating the conflict between the community and the institutions. They believe the City can be used to check institutional expansion via urban renewal,
The falsity of this position can be seen in the record of a telephone conversation between Donald Elliott and Grayson Kirk on June 30, 1966. At that time Elliott, was a council to Mayor Lindsay. He is now Chairman of the City Planning Commission. The memo reads:
"He (Donald Elliott) had not even proposed to work through the Renewal Council nor had he said that the City would accept and follow the advice of the Council... However, the City was obliged to allow the Council to give advice on renewal problems, though, of course, the City was not committed to follow Council recommendations."
This memo gives an inkling of Columbia's power in the City. The people on the Renewal Council fail to realize that the interests represented on the Columbia Board of Trustees are the sane real estate and financial interests that run the city.
Since the "community" members of the Renewal Council rely on the City to protect their interests, they are constantly sold out and are themselves prone to com-promises which cost the community dearly (an example is the Early Acquisition Package).
The Renewal Council is a sop and a deception. It permits "representatives" of the community to sit down with the City, and the institutions, talk, and object to expansion, while at the same time the University and the City throw thousands of people out of their homes.
The Morningside Renewal Council, by drawing people into the Urban Renewal Process, creates the appearance of a community ratifying its own destruction.
HOW CAN WE FIGHT URBAN RENEWAL?
The Cathedral Parkway Urban Renewal Plan being sponsored by the Morningside Renewal Council is not in the interests of the people. The only road to victory is in organizing the community itself to fight the Reform Democrats, the Morningside Renewal Council, Columbia University, and the City. The Urban Renewal Plan must be stopped, starting with the Early Acquisition Package. At the same time the community must fight for construction of low-rent housing (on non-residential sites) and the renovation of existing homes for the people who live in them now. It is crucial to initiate such a fight NOW.
Under the Rosen Plan, which was the City's preliminary plan for the Morningside Heights area, the entire block on Douglass Circle North (between W. 110th and W. 111th Streets and Manhattan Ave. and Eighth Ave.) was to be acquired and all of the eleven buildings on the block demolished. The Housing and Development Administration concurred in this recommendation. The Morningside Renewal Council refused to include the Manhattan Ave. buildings in the Early Acquisition Package. However, at the Board of Estimate (where the Early Acquisition Package had to be approved) there was a fight over this. The Package was approved with the proviso that the Manhattan Ave. buildings could be added at a later date.
Thus, the Early Acquisition Package as regards Douglass Circle North, includes only the six buildings on West 111th Street. The addition of the remaining five buildings on Manhattan Avenue is to be voted on by the City Planning Commission on February 19, 1969.
The Morningside Renewal Council as it has done in the past, opposes the inclusion of the five Manhattan Avenue buildings in the Early Acquisition Package.
(1) While the Council opposes the inclusion of the five buildings, it supports the Early Acquisition Package as it stands now. It views renewal as a means of rebuilding the neighborhood and checking expansion rather than as a mechanism for throwing people out of their homes, although the members of the Renewal Council believe that there are some bad aspects to urban renewal which must be fought.
(2) The attempt to save the five buildings on Manhattan Ave. by themselves is also wrong. Separated from the rest of the block and from other tenants in the area, the tenants of these five buildings, no matter how well organized they are, cannot hope to save their buildings for long. If the rest of the block is destroyed, then it is certain that these five Manhattan Ave. buildings will go too. To the extent that the Manhattan Avenue tenants are isolated from others on the block, the community will be defeated. The people on this block can only win if they unite and fight the whole urban renewal scheme, in particular the Early Acquisition Package.
They must demand:
(1) Defeat of the proposal to include the five buildings along Manhattan Avenue in the Early Acquisition Package. This will have the effect of saving the buildings on Manhattan Avenue from demolitions in the near future.
(2) Halt the entire Early Acquisition Package, which has been approved by the Morningside Renewal Council, the City Planning Commission and the Board of Estimate. This will end the initial threat of urban renewal in our area. It will save the buildings on West 111th Street from demolition and prevent 160 evictions.
(3) Close the Cathedral Parkway Urban Renewal site office, which will eventually serve as an eviction office. There is no need for an eviction office if there are to be no evictions.
(4) Abolish the Morningside Renewal Council, which initiated urban renewal and which is controlled by Columbia and the Reform Democrats. This will prevent them from selling out the community under some other plan.
(5) Renovate the existing buildings for the people who live there now by using the $5.3 million allocated for Early Acquisition. This money should also be used to construct low-rent housing on vacant and commercial sites. This would be genuine renewal of the community, not removal of its residents.
Beyond the problem of uniting the people of Douglass Circle North is the problem of uniting the community to fight urban renewal and Columbia expansion. Many of the white people on the Heights perceive their interests to be in contradiction to the interests of the Black and Puerto Rican community in West Harlem and Morningside Heights. They see the deteriorated housing Blacks and Puerto Ricans inhabit as eroding the quality of the neighborhood. They blame the rising crime rates in the area on Black and Puerto Rican people.
To the extent that white people place the blame for the problems of the community on Blacks and Puerto Ricans they weaken their own fight against removal by permitting Columbia and the city to exploit divisions within the community. To defeat racism, the community and students as well must realize that. Black, Puerto Rican and white working people do have a common material interest in fighting Columbia expansion and urban renewal. They can only win if
they unite around a set of class demands.
Columbia and the City are attacking Douglass Circle first because of its prime geographic location and its size. Since the north side of the block is occupied totally by Blacks, the City and Columbia will use racism to isolate the block from the rest of the community and destroy the block. In response to this attack, Black people on the block will take the lead in the fight against urban renewal. Students, both Black and white, must unite behind these Black working
people to defeat urban renewal.
WE MUST see that this is the first step in a plan that will hurt all Morningside Heights residents- some through evictions in the future and many others by accelerating rent increases.. We must take the offensive NOW to halt the plan, BEFORE the evictions begin.
WE MUST talk to other people to show them the interests Urban Renewal really serves-not those of the community but those of the various real estate interests, construction firms, New York banks, and Morningside Heights Institutions.
WE MUST unite now, with this block and others in the community to fight the Reform Democrats, the Morningside Renewal Council, Columbia University and the City to stop Urban Renewal and in particular the Early Acquisition Package. At the same time we must demand renovation of our homes and construction of low-rent housing on non-residential sites in the area.
Morningside Housing Committee