Thursday, August 23, 2007

Just A Bump in the Road for Columbia?

Just A Bump in the Road for Columbia?
August 23rd, 2007

A Manhattan community board’s 31 to 2 vote against Columbia University’s expansion plans is exactly the type of thing that keeps New York’s bloggers at their computers. The university stumbled in the beginning stages of its approval process for its plan to take over 17 acres of Harlem for an expansion of the school’s campus. But what, exactly, does that mean in the long run?

The Real Estate blog writes that the vote includes some points that Columbia might still address in order to garner community support. Among those issues, the biggest sticking point, RE says, is the use of eminent domain, which the university might need to utilize if it cannot buy all of the property it needs. At the moment it owns 85 percent of the area in question.

In response, Richard Lipsky blogs that the inclusion affordable housing - not eminent domain - will most likely be the catalyst for the rezoning’s success or failure. Lipsky is lobbying on behalf of Tuck-It-Away, a storage company refusing to sell its properties to Columbia.

But Lipsky rubs the Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder the wrong way. Lipsky was also a lobbyist in the Atlantic Yards scuffle, but was on the developer’s side in that case. Now that he is on the side of community opposition, he is arguing points that he disputed in the earlier rezoning debate, Oder says.

For all the dabate, though, Curbed has dubbed the vote meaningless. Since the vote is non-binding, community boards alway vote against development, and because Columbia is buying its way into the area, they write the whole thing off in their typically snarky fashion.

The school’s next step is to gain approval by the City Council’s Land Use Committee followed by the City Planning Commission.

By Mike Muller on August 23, 2007, 7:27 am

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