Tuesday, July 31, 2007

School of hard knocks - Columbia project closes biz's doors

School of hard knocks
Columbia project closes biz's doors
Tuesday, July 31st 2007, 4:00 AM

Tony Garcia stands outside his auto shop yesterday
at W. 131st St. and Broadway. He's been notified that
the property must be vacated by tonight for Columbia
University expansion.

Columbia University's massive West Harlem campus expansion project today spells the end of the auto shop Tony Garcia manages at Broadway and W.131st St.

"It's not fair," said Garcia, father of seven, who was told the business will have to vacate the block-long building by tonight.

"I came here [from the Dominican Republic] with little," the 38-year-old mechanic said. "I work hard and now it's taken from me."

Several auto shops in the largely industrial area are among the casualties of Columbia's planned expansion. Some have closed already and others are just counting the days. Today was the original deadline, but some businesses are fighting it.

"It's difficult to find another job in this area because all the auto shops are closing," Garcia said.
Columbia owns more than half of the targeted development sites in the neighborhood - from 125th to 133rd Sts., between Broadway and the Hudson River. That will be the site of its "Manhattanville Project."

The Ivy League institution, in need of space to house new programs, employees and students, has sketched plans to build new facilities in West Harlem over the next two decades. The school claims the expansion will bring 6,000 new jobs to the Manhattanville area.

Learning a lesson from its controversial plans for a gym in Morningside Heights in the 1960s that touched off wild community and student protests, Columbia has been working with the community this time around.

"We're communicating," said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9.

He lauded the university for working on a building-by-building basis, but said a major community issue is a fear that the school will employ eminent domain to acquire properties for what is essentially a private project.


NB - Once again the DailyNews in their rush to press misquotes me. I did not laud the University working on a "building-by-building basis". What I recall saying is that the community's had concerns about the size and bulk of the buildings and other features of CU expansion in addtion to eminent domain and that CB9M opposes eminent domain, for the taking of private property for the benefit of private developer.

I also mentioned that technicaly these tenants were not CU's tenants but sub-tenants of Mr. Juan German who reached a deal with CU and had agreed to leave the premises by July 31st. Mr. German made no provisions for his sub-tenants but that CU had indicated to me that they would look at each of German's sub-tenants on an individual basis to see what they could do them although legally they had no such responsibility.
When asked if I had access to CU senior administration, I said yes, we do communicate as needed. - JRM

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