Columbia Announces Preliminary Drillings
By Anna Phillips
Issue date: 4/19/07 Section: News
Members of the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification, the Coalition to Preserve Community, and several West Harlem community activists held a teach-in on the sundial to educate Columbia students about the University's Manhattanville expansion plan on Wednesday.
The protest, which began at the sundial with a series of short speeches by business owners and residents, was modeled after Columbia's "Manhattanville Open Houses," during which the University promotes its expansion plans to students, faculty, and community members.
"We are not against the concept of Columbia coming into the area [West Harlem], but we are against eminent domain," said Nick Sprayregen, a West Harlem business owner who has refused to sell his property to the University. University officials have said that they want to own all of the land in the expansion zone before going forward with the plan and, while saying that they hope to acquire property by negotiation, have declined to renounce the option of eminent domain, the power of the state to forcibly buy property for "public use."
The event concluded with a march to President Lee Bollinger's house on Morningside Drive, where protesters attached a string of balloons with messages including "Don't take what's not yours," "No eminent domain in our names," "Columbia, love thy neighbor," and "Bollinger, are you listening?" written on them. The protesters chanted outside Bollinger's house for about 10 minutes.
The event came a day after Columbia announced it will begin test borings-which involve drilling holes in the ground. The boring will take place throughout the three blocks located between Broadway and 12th Avenue and 125th and 130th streets, the first part of the proposed expansion zone. At Tuesday night's Community Board 9 meeting on Housing and Development, Warren Whitlock, director of construction coordination, Marcelo Velez, associate vice president for capital project management, and Philip Pitruzzello, vice president for Manhattanville Capital Construction, presented the University's test boring plans.
According to the Columbia officials at the CB9 meeting, as well as a notice they distributed, the 50 or 60 borings will be four-inch-wide holes extending 150 feet into the ground. They will take soil samples, as well as gauge the depth of ground water and rock.
Columbia officials explained that each boring would take two to three days, and that most of the work would be conducted on sidewalks, but some would occur in streetbeds and in parking lots. The borings will begin on April 23, less than a week after the notification.
Walter South, chair of the CB9 committee said he found the plans presumptuous. *
"It's very ballsy for you [Columbia] to do this before finding funding for the project," South said, adding that "to go ahead and do this type of work is very intimidating to this community."
Anne Whitman, a West Harlem business owner who has refused to sell to Columbia, agreed, expressing concern that one of Columbia's marked sites for boring was close to her building.
Velez tried to quiet concerns, saying that the first borings would begin on 130th Street in front of Reality House, a Columbia-owned property, and that the project "would be relatively low-impact" on surrounding businesses and residents.