Sunday, June 3rd 2007, 4:00 AM
Nearly four years ago, Columbia University announced plans to turn an underused swath of West Harlem into a multibillion-dollar 21st century campus. Now, the City Planning Commission is to start a formal public review process, leading, it is hoped, to approval by the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg.
Lamentably, Columbia may face a nasty fight. On Friday, neighborhood representatives, including members of Community Board 9 and the West Harlem Local Development Corp., joined a mini-protest at City Hall during which the commission's looming action was branded "unconscionable," "underhanded," "conniving," even "racist."
The pretense for such a descent into the rhetorical gutter was the claim that the commission scheduled summer hearings to sneak the matter through the oversight process. This was cynical posturing; Columbia has met at least 40 times with community groups, including the West Harlem LDC, which has held weekly sessions since early this year.
The university has bought nearly all the property west of Broadway between 125th and 133rd Sts., and it envisions an open campus on sites occupied by warehouses and auto-repair shops. Columbia's plan also includes major benefits for its West Harlem neighbors, including a high school, greenspace and walkways connecting to the Hudson River.
Thousands of jobs will be created. Perhaps, Columbia can do more. The way to find out is through civil negotiations rather than overheated obstructionism.
NB - As someone that has read one or two books on the power of words, I loved this editorial! I was beginning to worry that Columbia's spending of $1.5 million this year on heavy duty politicos-as-lobbyists might have been wasted but, now I am relieved to see that the Daily News is benefiting from Columbia's munificence.
Note the delightful and contradictory use of expressions such as "under used swath", "Lamentably", "nasty fight" is balanced by such other expressions as "pretense" and "descent into rethorical gutter".
Absolutely loved "mini-protest" referring to the Press Conference I called for last Friday and attended by over 30 people. Of course, I have seen so many macro protests on the steps of City Hall attended by 10-12 people that my "mini-protest" must be reference to the fact that I am only the Chairman of a Harlem Community Board and not even a Columbia graduate both of which must diminish my 6 feet 300 lbs US Marine corpulence to a "Mini-me" size.
Then absorb the effect of "cynical posturing" by miscreant protesters followed by "Columbia has met at least 40 times with community groups". I would say that, Columbia has probably met many times over with community groups but not to engage in the dialogue with the community with which they claim to want to be partners; rather to postulate their monologue over and over again. In addition to the large number of meetings Columbia must also be commended for their efforts to entertain the community with their delightful minstrel shows and dog and pony shows to demonstrate their plans.
And let's not forget that there must be something intrinsically wrong with honest, blue collar employment in "warehouses" and "auto repair shops". May God deliver the most illustrious Columbia University from having to share a community in such a plebian milieu.
Of course, it woul be unthinkable for Columbia University to be next door neighbors of the Latino, Black and ethnic White residents of the 6 residential buildings in the target area.
That is why Columbia University has deposited several hundred thousands dollars into the Empire Development Corporation, to declare the area blighted and condemned, then eminent domain the properties for conveyance to Columbia University which also wants some of their own properties comdemned and eminent domained back to them. Such generosity knows no end!!
We the residents of West Harlem and, particularly those who reside in West Manhattanville, should get down on our collective knees every day and thank Columbia University for coming to save our neighborhoods,and shower us with untold and uncounted benefits.
We should look forward to the THOUSANDS of jobs that will make it possible for all our 20% of the residents who are unemployed PhDs, MDs, JDs and LLBs, etc. to finally get well paying jobs with Columbia University. Therefore, in view of the foregoing, we must stop being "overheated obstructionists" and cool down.
After all, the West Harlem children attending among the poorest performing public schools in the City will be greatly relieved to have Columbia's Math, Science and Engineering High School in our neighborhood; even if most will not qualify to attend but then they will have the wide new "walkways and greenspace" to parade their self esteem.
Our community should be proud and happy to look forward to the next 30 years of demolitions; excavations; debris removal; truck and traffic congestion; disruption of basic services such as water, sewer, pipes and gas, electricity, telephone etc., conduits are reset and relocated under the very same streets Columbia intends to acquire also via eminent domain.
And of course the rats, roaches and all sorts of creepy crawlies displaced from the construction sites will serve to hone the hunting skills of the residents of Manhattanville Houses, General Grant Houses, Morningside Gardens and the northern sections of Morningside Heights and the southern sections of Hamilton Heights.
We should look forward to the additional carbon emissions from the proposed two electric plants; the new 20-25 stories buildings and the vehicles which will transport many, if not most, of the new 9000 people to be imported into the area. What the hell, we already have one of the highest rates of upper respiratory diseases in the City.
We are so lucky that the magnanimous Trustees of Columbia University in the city of New York desire to save us from our dreary selves - after all what is good for Columbia is good for the universe and the sacrifice of a mundane community such as ours should be a source of pride and happiness.