Columbia Presents Expansion Plan
by Arun Venugopal
NEW YORK, NY July 10, 2007 —Columbia University presented its plan to remake a 17 acre area of Harlem to the city planning commission. The ambitious plan met got mixed reviews. WNYC'S Arun Venugopal was there.
The star of the presentation was the Italian celebrity architect Renzo Piano. He laid out his vision for a series of buildings that would, in his words, float over the campus and be humanistic in their appeal. But many of the commissioners seemed troubled by elements of the plan. Columbia says it needs control of the entire, 17-acre section of West Harlem and would apply for eminent domain if local businesses don't move out.
But one commissioner said the university needed to work harder to integrate those businesses and other members of the community into the campus. Another commissioner, Irwin Kantor, asked why Columbia was applying for 3 times as much space as it has plans for, a question that drew cheers from opponents of the plan. But Columbia says it has to prepare for the distant future, especially if it wants to remain competitive against the Yales and Harvards of this world.
Next month, the planning commission will hear a competing proposal for the site, from Community Board 9.
For WNYC, I'm Arun Venugopal.