Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Columbia loses non-binding zoning vote; says talks will continue


Columbia loses non-binding zoning vote; says talks will continue

by samantha gross / associated press writer
AUG 21, 2007 12:30 PM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Columbia University, pushing to get local support for a $7 billion expansion plan that calls for razing much of an old manufacturing neighborhood, failed to win a nonbinding community board vote.

Monday's vote, 31-2 against zoning changes for the Ivy League school's project, will be considered by planning officials but is only a recommendation.School president Lee Bollinger said the board's decision was no surprise, and he anticipates the school will continue negotiating with local representatives.

"We have a ways to go before we can reach an understanding of how to proceed, and I think that's to be expected," he said after the vote. "I am extremely confident we will arrive at an agreement with the local development corporation representing the community board."

Ruth Eisenberg, a member of the Coalition to Preserve Community, which opposes the project, expressed hope that city leaders would reject Columbia's rezoning application."We're portrayed sometimes as anti-development, and we're not. We just don't want our community destroyed," Eisenberg said.

Columbia wants to build new buildings for the arts, business and science, as well as a public high school, on 17 acres north of the campus. To construct the expansion, most of the neighborhood's buildings -- a mix of apartments, warehouses, auto repair shops and small factories -- would have to be torn down.

Opponents say the university is being insensitive to the history of the community, and that its project would displace poor, minority families who have long struggled to earn a living there.
Columbia officials say their project is essential if the school is to remain competitive with other top universities.

And Bollinger says there is another goal: "to achieve a sense of integration with the surrounding communities, so we could benefit from them and they can benefit from us.

That is important to say, but very difficult to do."

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