Sunday, September 30, 2007

BLOG BY ED KENT: Bollinger's Abuses

Blog By Ed Kent

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bollinger's Abuses

I have not met Lee Bollinger. But I have met a number of those under attack by him or witnessed in some amazement one of his attacks on my TV screen!

Of those attacked by Bollinger is one of the finest contributors to our community -- Anne Whitman, the owner of the Hudson Moving and Storage, which is a model for businesses both in the way an inherited property has been put to use in the interest of its surrounding community and in how it treats both its employees and community residents. Hudson Moving and Storage is more than simply a storage space. It also houses craftsmen's and artists' work spaces as well as providing jobs for community residents. It is a well maintained building suitable for landmark status.

Bollinger has called Anne an "outside business interest" which is both false and a cruel characterization of a caring person who gives strong service to our community -- as a CB#9 member as well until she was not reappointed this past year along with the two most recent chairs of the board by our Manhattan boro president, Scott Stringer, who has just announced his support for Bollinger -- one day after shutting down prematurely a meeting called to assess the community's views (overwhelmingly negative) towards the Columbia takeover.

OK. Columbia is the monster in our forest. It contributes funds behind the scenes to this or that campaign or neighborhood operation with resulting support from those so benefited with its monies. As a Columbia degree holder, I am appalled. Many a university works WITH its community and does it right!

Here is Anne's own statement today which I post again:

More Background: Here is another item not to be overlooked from 2004. Mr. Bollinger has repeatedly stated that Columbia University wants to be a "good neighbor." His staff planner sent me a letter on Columbia University letterhead (2004) stating he realized I wished to remain in my family property that we have owner occupied for the past 35 years. He also wrote that it was just not possible for me to do so because of CU's development plan. Good neighbor?

Columbia University continues to bully and use intimidation tactics in 2007. I have every intention of participating in any improvement in the CB9 and participating in the well being of the West Harlem community. My company is 100% woman owned, I employ 100% minorities and women, we have union affiliation and many employees walk or bicycle to work. My building is listed on the NYS and National historic registers. I believe in freedom of speech, affirmative action, the right to own property, equal opportunity, historic preservation and Columbia University needs to practice what it preaches.

Columbia University has an infill plan already developed that affords respect and human dignity and any forced eviction of a single resident or business owner is wrong. The community welcomes Columbia to expand but the present forced eviction plan is unacceptable. Please see for the list of conditions demanded by CB9 for Columbia to proceed with their expansion. Respectfully, Anne Z. Whitman, WBE: NYS amd NYS Certified


"A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope." (Livy cited by Machiavelli)--Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

posted by Ed Kent at 10:46 AM

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Spanish-Language Store Is Forced to Close Its Books


A Spanish-Language Store Is Forced to Close Its Books
Published: September 24, 2007

Edgardo Vega Yunqué, a Puerto Rican-born novelist, began going to Librería Lectorum, one of the oldest Spanish-language bookstores in New York, in the early 1960s as a student at New York University.

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Librería Lectorum, a Spanish-language

bookstore and longtime cultural resource
in Greenwich Village, is closing on Saturday.

Nowadays, if he needs a Spanish-language book, he is more likely to buy it online. The last time Mr. Vega visited Librería Lectorum, which closes its doors for good on Saturday, was about a year ago. “It’s more important as a presence rather than a resource,” said Mr. Vega, who lives in Brooklyn. “It’s more like a cultural icon — like a statue — that reminds us of who we are.”

Unfortunately, that cultural landmark needed to sell books to stay afloat. With new rent increases, “we could not run the bookstore in a profitable way,” said Teresa Mlawer, president of Lectorum Publications, a Spanish-language publishing and distribution unit of Scholastic Inc. that also owns the bookstore.

In a city — and a country — that has seen dozens of bookstores close in the face of online competition and dwindling customer traffic, the demise of Lectorum comes as a particular blow to the Hispanic literary community in New York. For nearly a half-century Lectorum has dispensed a wide range of translations of popular American titles by authors like John Grisham and Nora Roberts, as well as a vibrant collection of books by Spanish and Latin American novelists, poets and playwrights. It has also welcomed a steady stream of writers for readings at the store on 14th Street in Greenwich Village.

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Juan Pablo Debesis, manager of Librería

Lectorum, has worked there for 31 years.
“It’s a huge and really significant loss to the cultural and intellectual life of Spanish-speaking people and Latin Americans in New York,” said Ana Dopico, associate professor of comparative literature and Spanish and Portuguese at New York University.

Ms. Mlawer said Lectorum would upload the bookstore’s inventory onto its Web site. And she said Scholastic would continue to be a host to writers from Spain and Latin America in its SoHo offices.

But those who have spent years browsing Librería Lectorum’s floor-to-ceiling shelves don’t believe it can be replaced so easily. “There is no way that sales online are going to substitute for something that is tangible,” said Eduardo Lago, a novelist and executive director of Instituto Cervantes New York, a nonprofit Latin American cultural group.

Certainly it is hard for an online bookseller to replicate the personal advice and attention that the staff at a bricks-and-mortar store can offer. At Lectorum Juan Pablo Debesis, who has worked at the store for 31 years, said he often awoke at 4 a.m. so he could read new titles coming in from Latin America and advise his best customers on what to buy. He also helped professors select titles for their syllabuses.

David Unger, the head of the publishing certificate program at City College of New York, said that without an actual home, it would be difficult for Lectorum to attract Spanish-language readers to events. He recalled a reading he attended four months ago at Lectorum for the Cuban writer Mabel Cuesta, who read from a collection of poems published by Ediciones Vigía, a Cuban publishing collective that prints only 200 copies of each book.

The bookstore, Mr. Unger said, “is a community magnet for artists, writers and musicians to gather and experience deeply and profoundly their Latin American heritage.”

On a morning earlier this month, Mr. Debesis, showed off two walls of photos from past events, featuring writers including Isabel Allende, the Chilean author of “The House of the Spirits”; Nilo Cruz, the Cuban-American playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize for “Anna in the Tropics”; and Jorge Volpi, a Mexican novelist. He also pointed out photos of celebrity customers like Antonio Banderas and Benecio del Toro.

Ms. Mlawer said the store’s location on 14th Street, once a neighborhood that attracted Latinos from around the city with a church, restaurants, crafts stores and a food and gift emporium, had seen its status as a center for Spanish-speaking activity diminish as some of these places have closed. “It’s no longer the hub of Latino life,” she said.

When the landlords, who were, coincidentally, sons of the original founders of the store, raised the rent this year, Ms. Mlawer said the company could no longer justify paying it. One of the brothers, Kenneth Gutiérrez, said they had offered a rate that was 30 percent below market because they “genuinely cared about renting the space to an institution that was loved and appreciated throughout the city.”

His parents, Gerome and Nora Gutiérrez, Argentine immigrants, founded the business in 1960 when they started importing bilingual dictionaries from a publisher in Buenos Aires and sold them out of their car and from their apartment on 116th Street in Manhattan. They eventually opened a store on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea, moving to the Avenue of the Americas before finally landing on 14th Street in 1962.

In 1971 the Gutiérrezes sold the store to Ms. Mlawer’s husband, William Mlawer, then head of Simon & Schuster’s reference division, and Michael Shimkin, also an executive at Simon. The new owners expanded the business to distribute Spanish-language textbooks and other materials to schools and libraries and, in 1990, the business began publishing Spanish-language children’s books. They sold the company to investors in 1993, who in turn sold it to Scholastic in 1996.

Today Lectorum distributes about 20,000 titles, mostly to schools and libraries. It also publishes about 15 books a year.

According to Richard Robinson, Scholastic’s chairman and chief executive, the bookstore represents less than 10 percent of the Lectorum unit’s revenues. “If it were potentially a vital service in that location, we would keep it going, but it just doesn’t seem to have that characteristic right now,” he said.

He added that Scholastic was better able to serve Latino students in American schools — who represent a much larger group than the customer base of Librería Lectorum — through other arms of the company, which include a Spanish-language book club and a literacy-outreach program for Spanish-speaking parents, caregivers and teachers.

Ms. Mlawer said that the company had “not closed the door” on looking for an alternate location in New York or elsewhere.

But loyal customers of the Lectorum bookstore are lamenting its demise as part of the perhaps inevitable turnover of some of the city’s oldest institutions. “So many fabulous places have been closed,” said Fernando Torm, 63, a writer and multimedia artist who dropped by the store recently to find a volume of poems by Rubén Darío and was shocked to learn that the store was closing. “Everything is business.”

125th Street Corridor Rezoning Draft Environmental Impact Statement

125th Street Corridor Rezoning
Draft Environmental Impact Statement

On September 28, 2007, the New York City Department of City Planning, on behalf of the City Planning Commission as lead agency, issued a Notice of Completion for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed 125th Street Corridor Rezoning and Related Actions.
A public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will be held at a later date to be announced, in conjunction with the City Planning Commission’s citywide public hearing pursuant to ULURP. Advance notice will be given of the time and place of the hearing.

Written comments on the DEIS are requested and would be received and considered by the Lead Agency until the 10th calendar day following the close of the public hearing. The files below are in PDF format.

Table of Contents
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 1.0 - Executive Summary
(0.9 mb)

Chapter 2.0 – Project Description
(2.7 mb)

Chapter 3.1 – Land Use, Zoning and Public Policy
(13.8 mb)

Chapter 3.2 – Socioeconomic Conditions
(3.4 mb)

Chapter 3.3 – Community Facilities and Services
(1.3 mb)

Chapter 3.4 – Open Space
(0.7 mb)

Chapter 3.5 – Shadows
(5.3 mb)

Chapter 3.6 – Historic Resources
(4.7 mb)

Chapter 3.7 – Urban Design and Visual Resources
(10.6 mb)

Chapter 3.8 – Neighborhood Character
(0.3 mb)

Chapter 3.9 – Natural Resources
(4.1 mb)

Chapter 3.10 – Hazardous Materials
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 3.11 – Waterfront Revitalization Program
(1.5 mb)

Chapter 3.12 – Infrastructure
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 3.13 – Solid Waste and Sanitation Services
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 3.14 – Energy
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 3.15 – Traffic and Parking
(8.7 mb)

Chapter 3.16 – Transit and Pedestrians
(1.2 mb)

Chapter 3.17 – Air Quality
(0.8 mb)

Chapter 3.18 – Noise
(0.5 mb)

Chapter 3.19 – Construction Impacts
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 3.20 – Public Health
(0.3 mb)

Chapter 3.21 – Alternatives
(9.4 mb)

Chapter 3.22 – Mitigation
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 3.23 – Unavoidable Significant Adverse Impacts
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 3.24 – Growth-Inducing Aspects of the Proposed Actions
(0.1 mb)

Chapter 3.25 – Irreversible and Irretrievable Commitment of Resources
(0.1 mb)

Appendix A – Proposed Zoning Text Amendment
(0.7 mb)

Appendix B – NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Correspondence
(0.1 mb)

Appendix C – Natural Resources
(0.4 mb)

Appendix D – Hazardous Materials
(0.7 mb)

Appendix E – RWCDS Tables for Alternatives
(0.2 mb)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stringer Votes For Expansion

Stringer Votes For Expansion
By Erin Durkin and Anna Phillips

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and University President Lee Bollinger announced an agreement on Wednesday in which Columbia pledged money for affordable housing and Stringer voted to approve the University’s proposed Manhattanville expansion.

Under the deal, Columbia will create a $20 million affordable housing fund. Details on who will administer the fund, how many housing units it will create, and where they will be located have not yet been worked out.

“I’m hoping that this initial $20 million can be leveraged for a much bigger fund,” Stringer said. He explained that additional money could come from outside sources, and Bollinger suggested that Columbia might offer additional money as part of a Community Benefits Agreement, currently being negotiated with the West Harlem Local Development Corporation.

In addition, Columbia has agreed to use environmentally sustainable construction practices in building its proposed campus, meeting at least a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design “silver” certification.

The University will also create a new public park at 125th Street and 12th Avenue and pay $30,000 a year for 25 years to maintain it. It will commit $11.25 million over 25 years for the upkeep of the West Harlem Waterfront Park, and will contribute money for playground equipment at I.S. 195, a middle school on 133rd Street, and for grounds improvements at General Grant and Manhattanville Houses.

As a result of the deal, Stringer submitted a favorable recommendation in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the city public review process for the zoning changes Columbia needs before it can go forward with the Manhattanville project. Stringer, who has voiced skepticism about the expansion plan in the past, said at a press conference announcing the agreement that he had been convinced that “Columbia understands the needs, concerns, and fears of the Harlem community.”

The plan now goes before the City Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing next week.

Councilman Robert Jackson, D-West Harlem and Washington Heights, was on hand to support the deal. Jackson will have a formal voice in the process when the ULURP application reaches the City Council. Asked if he would vote to approve it, he said, “It’s not over until it’s over. I support the agreement that has been reached by our borough president.”

Community Board 9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc thanked Stringer for “breaking the impasse” in negotiations with Columbia, but said he still had significant concerns about the expansion plan and doubted CB9 would revisit its August vote to reject the plan unless a list of 10 conditions established at that meeting were met.

Among the board’s conditions were demands that Columbia renounce the use of eminent domain to acquire property—something Bollinger again refused to do Wednesday—and call off plans for a seven-story underground “bathtub.” “We stand by our resolution and our 10 points,” Reyes-Montblanc said at the press conference.“It’s a very good beginning, and that’s all it is, a good beginning,” he said of the deal in an interview. “Our concerns are still the same and they have not changed.”

He said that $20 million was “not even a drop” when compared with the community’s housing needs, and that at least $500 million would be required to address them. “That $20 million that he got can be parlayed into a couple hundred million dollars,” he said. “Once you have a bundle of money you can get other people to come in and add a lot more.”

Sarah Martin, president of the General Grant Houses Residents’ Association and a member of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation, expressed surprise at seeing her building mentioned in the agreement.

“Why didn’t he [Stringer] ask me what ails Grant Houses, or ask somebody who lives in Grant Houses?” she asked. “If you ask me what I thought was a problem, I would say the elevators, the plumbing, and the entrance doors. Those are the three main problems we have. Surely nobody in this development would have said walkways.”

Martin was equally perplexed that the University would offer to create a housing fund outside of its Community Benefits Agreements with the LDC. According to Martin, discussions about a housing fund were in the works, though the LDC had yet to propose a dollar figure it would find acceptable.

“Why is he [Stringer] trying to make the CBA for us?” she asked. “He should be supporting what we’re trying to do. ... He’s sold this community out,”

Brad Taylor, the president of Friends of Morningside Park, was pleased with the promise of new green space, and generally supported Stringer’s vote to approve Columbia’s plan.

“These contributions to these new parks are all a good development, but I would like to see parity in terms of contributions to historical Harlem parks,” he said. Also, Taylor said he would “like to see that money go into a fund that would be administered by a community-based organization, ... [and] not dumped into a city-wide fund.”

At a public hearing last week in advance of Stringer’s vote, the crowd was split, but a majority of speakers urged the borough president to reject Columbia’s plan, and some cautioned that he would face political repercussions if he approved it. “Politicians, I warn you, this is your litmus test,” Harlem Tenants Council president Nellie Bailey said at the hearing. “If you want to be in office, you’ve got to vote against this plan.”

TAGS: Expansion, Manhattanville, Stringer

Columbia plan to expand riles its neighbors

News » Nation

Columbia plan to expand riles its neighbors
Columbia University has already razed parts of its proposed expansion site in
Manhattanville. By Todd Plitt, USA TODAY
By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — It's a pocket of Manhattan that evokes New York City's past, its warehouses and former factories squatting in the shadow of subway tracks.

Yet it is here, in a part of Harlem known as Manhattanville, that Columbia University has sketched its future.

The elite Ivy League university wants to add 17 acres to its cramped nearby campus and construct buildings for the arts and research over the next 23 years.

Residents look over an architectural model of Columbia University expansion plans
at an open meeting Sept. 19.
Columbia promises that the $6.3-billion project will bring thousands of jobs and new vitality to this faded neighborhood, but the plan has stoked old tensions from its controversial expansion efforts in 1968 and 1990. Some community leaders say they fear that the college will callously displace its poorer neighbors.

"The sad part about this is, Columbia is a wonderful institution and they do wonderful things for the community," says Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of the local community board, which has voted against the plan. "But what they do wonderful and good with one hand they always seem to destroy with the other."

Others welcome a transformation. "Change is always difficult," says Reginald Williams, who lives in Harlem. But "nobody wants (the neighborhood) to stay the way it is."

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Schools Residents Harlem Todd Plitt University of Pennsylvania

The final decision will come from the New York City Council. In a vote expected by January, the council will decide whether to rezone the 17 acres and allow Columbia's plan to go forward.

For universities rooted in urban, working-class communities, the turf battle between Columbia and some of its Harlem neighbors is a familiar struggle. Colleges' need for more space sometimes clash with residents' feelings that they are being overpowered and disregarded by the wealthy academic institution in their midst. Columbia, for example, has a $5.9 billion endowment, and tuition alone is more than $24,000 a year.

While many universities in the past walled themselves off from their communities, an increasing number now are trying to be better neighbors, embracing their role as a major employer, partnering with residents and investing in the surrounding environment.

Schools get involved

"Universities have come out from behind the fortresses," says Bruce Katz, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. A rise in homelessness and crime starting in the late 1980s prompted schools to get more engaged, he says.

"Many university presidents are really a part of that small network of big employers who have an enormous amount of influence on how cities grow and evolve," Katz says. "So they've taken on more of a civic responsibility."

Key examples:
•The University of Pennsylvania launched an ambitious effort in the late 1990s to address crime and decay in its West Philadelphia neighborhood. Over the past decade, the once declining community has landed 350,000 square feet of new business space, including a Barnes and Noble bookstore and Hilton Hotel. It has built a public school that now is one of the city's top performers. As Philadelphia's largest private employer, Penn also has made hiring neighborhood residents a priority.

"Universities have both the resources and appetite to expand and historically have done it by displacing local residents, many of whom were poor and minorities," says Judith Rodin, the former Penn president who spearheaded the initiatives. Penn recognized that it shared the community's problems.

"Universities are trying to teach their students about civic engagement," Rodin says. "And I'm not sure you can do that responsibly without being a good role model of civic engagement as an institution."

•The University of Southern California in Los Angeles introduced initiatives that have led to university students mentoring and teaching at 14 local schools. A fundraising campaign among staff and faculty this year gave more than $850,000 to community programs.

"The tension will exist because you are the mansion on the street," says Carolyn Webb Dey Macias, a USC vice president. "You also are the person who can bring resources to your neighbor."

•Yale University in New Haven, Conn., has helped develop more than 1,000 units of affordable housing and made physical improvements to downtown, says Michael Morand, a Yale associate vice president. Such efforts have helped strengthen the relationship between the 250-acre downtown campus and adjoining neighborhoods, says Jerry Tureck, who has lived nearby for 25 years.

Creating 6,000 jobs

Columbia, a fixture in Harlem for nearly a century, provides legal aid for residents and offers free English as a Second Language classes.

It already owns about 70% of the properties in the area to be redeveloped. The project would provide nearly 6,000 new jobs at the university and about 1,200 construction jobs annually over the next two decades. Along with new academic buildings, there would be space for local businesses and a site for a university-supported public school stressing math and science.

One sticking point is the fate of some in the path of the expansion. The university says it won't ask the state to use eminent domain to force out those living in the 132 residential units located in the project site. Columbia says it has bought land for a new building to house some of those residents. It also announced Wednesday that it will create a $20 million affordable housing fund.
Columbia, however, has not rejected the use of eminent domain for commercial properties, rankling some business owners. "They have no right to come into a community and say get out … or we'll have the state throw you out," says Anne Whitman, 55, whose family has owned a six-story building within the project site for 35 years. "It's just a naked land grab."

Reyes-Montblanc worries that Columbia's development will increase housing prices that have already doubled and tripled in a neighborhood where the average household income is about $29,000 a year. He also says the jobs at the university will be beyond the educational or skill level of many in the neighborhood. "We clean up the neighborhoods, make the district livable," he says. "And when it's finally to a point where we should be able to enjoy it, here comes Columbia."

Williams, who has lived in Harlem all his life, says Columbia's plan is the best option.

"This is not the same Columbia that we dealt with 30 or 40 years ago," Williams says. "If we're able to improve upon a quality educational institution in our neighborhood, provide the jobs, have additional retail space … we think that's a good thing."



Columbia University wants to add to its campus in Manhattan. The plan could be the latest development in a history of shaky relations with its neighbors.

Columbia has asked New York City to rezone 17 acres of a West Harlem neighborhood of mostly old industrial sites. Nearly 7 million square feet of building space would accommodate mostly teaching and research. Tenants of 132 apartment units would have to move.

How Columbia says its space compares with that of other Ivy League universities:
(School/Gross square feet per student)

Yale: 866
Princeton: 828
Cornell: 674
Harvard: 673
Columbia: 326

Gym controversy
The university scrapped a plan in 1968 to build a gym in Morningside Park after complaints about the racial implications of a separate entrance for neighborhood residents. Students staged a large, campuswide protest against the proposals.

Flap over Audubon Ballroom
In 1990, the university agreed to modify an expansion proposal to destroy the ballroom where civil rights leader Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965. When the school built the Audubon Business and Technology Center, hit left intact part of the building.

Sources: Columbia University, wire reports, Columbia Spectator and ESRI
By Karl Gelles, USA TODAY

To report corrections and clarifications, contact Reader Editor Brent Jones. For publication consideration in the newspaper, send comments to Include name, phone number, city and state for verification.

Conversation guidelines: USA TODAY welcomes your thoughts, stories and information related to this article. Please stay on topic and be respectful of others. Keep the conversation appropriate for interested readers across the map.
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Showing: Newest first Oldest first

Jammer97 wrote: 13d ago
Perhaps the extra land is to be used when dictators are invited over...they can bring some tanks etc, and hold military parades a la the old Red Square May Day Parades.

JThos wrote: 24d ago
Is there a reason that Reginald Williams was depicted as a mere NYC citizen, and not as the preacher or ARC director that he is, etc.? This inquiring mind wants to know, because this article seems to be skewed and more pro-CU propaganda to me. It is just like the night that Bollinger, et al. spoke at the M'ville Houses CB9 meeting, having mailed their "Building West Harlem Together" brochure to every address in the area. No one should delude himself/herself about the depths certain CU entities will stoop to for conquests.

Mad Swede wrote: 25d ago
How about moving the entire University to Iran ? They could then do a study on Iranian homosexuals. Oh thats right, the students would all be killed. That would be one hard lesson on free speech. Something I guess they will never learn here. They certainly didn't know anything about free speech when the Minutemen tried to speak there !

R.I.P.RoryG. wrote: 27d ago
Is that lady in the middle wearing 3D glasses?

Reysmont wrote: 12m ago
Very good article however some points need clarification.

Harlem is really 3 separate and distinct Districts. When most people say Harlem they are referring to the traditional African American seminal community. However there is also an East Harlem also known as Spanish Harlem a seminal community for Puerto Ricans and other Spanish-Speaking peoples.

And there is WestSide Harlem or West Harlem, the community of diversity, multi ethnicity, multi racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural a unique District composed of 3 historic neighborhoods, Morningside Heights, Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights.

One major problem is people from other areas of Harlem interfering for or against the Columbia expansion.

CB9M tends to reject and discourage support from outsiders while Columbia only seem capable of getting support from outside the District.

Mr Williams may have lived all his life in Harlem, which he has, but in Central Harlem, Community District 10, he has no legitimate business getting involved in matters internal to West Harlem particularly since directly or indirectly his programs receive financial support from the University.

This is one of several strategic errors perpretated by Columbia which turn most of the community agaisnt their plans not the expansion itself but the invasiveness and impermeability of their expansion plans.

J. Reyes-Montblanc
Community Board 9 Manhattan

CB9M WestSide Harlem:

Morningside Heights * Manhattanville * Hamilton Heights

iceman4766 wrote: 29d ago
Can't they open a branch campus in Iran? I'm sure president Imanuttajob would love to have them there - I know I would.


New York News New York City News

September 27, 2007 -- Mayor Bloomberg yesterday embraced Columbia University's push to expand its Harlem campus, even before the city's land-use process to evaluate the controversial plan has begun.

"We need to have Columbia University stay in this city and expand in this city," Bloomberg said yesterday. "It is one of the great resources we have . . . it's one of the great universities in the world and we should help them."

He said expansion is part of keeping up with the competition for students, grants and professors, although he said the city has to be "mindful of the surrounding communities."

The process for evaluating the plan began last month with a raucous Community Board 9 meeting in which Columbia president Lee Bollinger was jeered.

Yesterday, Bollinger stood with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Councilman Robert Jackson and J. Reyes-Montblanc, the chairman of the board, and announced a deal in which Columbia has agreed to a string of sweeteners.

Stringer, who pushed for the deal, said it included a $20 million affordable-housing fund.

Council Approves Plan to Limit High-Rises on Upper West Side

N.Y. / Region

Council Approves Plan to Limit High-Rises on Upper West Side
Published: September 26, 2007

The City Council unanimously passed a rezoning plan yesterday that limits the spread of high-rise buildings along 51 blocks on the Upper West Side, an area that officials say has undergone a significant increase in development.
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The plan is intended to preserve the physical character of the community. It generally limits buildings to 14 stories along Broadway; 10 to 11 stories along the other avenues; and 6 to 7 stories on the side streets. Additionally, it imposes design restrictions so that new developments more closely match the neighborhoods around them.

Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, a Manhattan Democrat who represents the area, called the plan a “safeguard against aggressive overdevelopment that is running rampant throughout the city.”

The rezoning area is bounded to the west by Riverside Drive and the east by Central Park, and to the south by 97th Street and the north by 110th Street.

The plan was prompted by the construction of 37- and 31-story condominium towers along Broadway near 99th Street by the Extell Development Company, said Councilwoman Melinda R. Katz, a Queens Democrat and chairwoman of the Council’s Land Use Committee.

“That basically galvanized the community to make sure” the area wasn’t overrun by large-scale development, she said.

Under the old zoning rules, there were no height restrictions and developers could buy unused air rights from buildings on surrounding streets. The new plan ends those transfers.

The 51-to-0 vote comes as the Council is preparing to consider a far more contentious expansion plan by Columbia University that calls for Columbia to take over 17 acres in the nearby neighborhood of Manhattanville.

Negotiated Surrender

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance
Protecting Neighborhood Business For Over 20 Years
Thursday, September 27, 2007

Negotiated Surrender

Yesterday, as expected, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer lived up to his deal with the mayor, and agreed to support the Columbia expansion plan-with little of community benefit to show for his willing acquiescence. What he did get out of the deal was good for Scott; he gets to point with some degree of exaggerated pride to the city's support for the rezoning plan that he has put forward as an answer to the anticipated Columbia-generated widespread dislocation in the West Harlem community.

It is, however, way too little to show for his efforts. As Matt Schuerman of the Observer pointed out, the $20 million that Columbia has pledged to support affordable housing is a cruel joke when juxtaposed against the dislocation that the the university's own consultants envision will be generated by the massive gentrification impacts of the plan. As Scheurman observes:

"Some $20 million will be devoted to an affordable housing fund that will partially offset the indirect displacement that the new campus is expected to cause outside the footprint.
But given the fact that it costs, conservatively, somewhere around $400,000, and sometimes as much as $1 million, to build an affordable apartment in Manhattan, the contribution would only go so far in alleviating the indirect displacement. The draft environmental impact statement, for instance, says that “approximately 3,293” nearby residents would be forced out because of gentrification."

So what the BP has failed to do is to draw a principled line in the sand, something that would have been reflective of true leadership on behalf of a beleaguered community that has been looking for a righteous defender. Instead, just two days after Lee Bollinger acquiesces to an Iranian nutcase, Stringer acquiesces to Bollinger and becomes the midwife for the gentrification that he claims to be so concerned about.

Here's Stringer's comment on all of this sleight-of-hand: “This is a win-win for Columbia,” said Stringer. “It's a win for West Harlem, and quite frankly it's a win for all of New York City. Columbia's expansion will keep it at the forefront of higher education and scientific research. While it becomes an active partner with the community, we can be assured that binging affordable housing and jobs, sustainable development and economic opportunity is something that we will have to continue to strive for."

Notice the interesting circumlocution here? Columbia gets its expansion, but everything else is put in the "continue to strive for" category. It's a classic buying of a pig-in-a-poke, with Stringer acting as the auctioneer. Let's face it, Stringer, when confronted with the Columbia behemoth, simply blinked-afraid to tackle the university and its plan head-on. Where will the affordable housing be built. What good will the $20 million be if no space is set aside in the 18 acre footprint? Isn't this the real "player to be named later" that the baseball executives talk about?

It all reminds of of Popeye's Wimpy, who would always tell the sailor: "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." In this case, it is Columbia getting the hamburger today, while it is West Harlem that will be continually waiting to see if Tuesday will ever come.

Let's hope, as the Times reports this morning, that the deal making is not yet done: "Yesterday, some Harlem officials said the agreement by Columbia was a good-faith effort to begin discussions about the project and its impact." If this is so, we can only hope that the next negotiation phase will be led by those who understand that Columbia needs to truly modify its plan if the community benefits are to have real substance.

# posted by Neighborhood Retail Alliance @ 6:12 AM

NB- It was made very clear by MBP Stringer, Council Member Jackson that this is only the beginnig. I expressed being glad that the negotiations impasse had been broken and to phrase it as it was put to me by a real wise-guy friend, "Columbia's cherry has been popped". It is now up to the West Harlem LDC to pursue tough negotiations with CU.

I have expressed my opinion that any housing trust that cannot be levereraged to $500 to $700 million is not realistic and in fact offensive, $20 million is a good start.

$11 million for the West Harlem Pier Park will go a long way to permit the managing of that facility though the CB9M joint conservancy group that will include the 125th St BID, NYC Parks, CB9M and other LOCAL interest groups willing to participate.

By "popping Columbia's cherry" MBP Stringer may have done the community a major service and at the same time secured the first set of benefits for the West Harlem community.

I know that some pessimists will not like it and may even consider it a surrender, but being the eternal optimist I see great possiblities opening up if we are only smart enough and tough enough to move forward.

In my statements to the press, apparently not quoted any where, I emphasized the future discussions we expect Columbia to continue to have with the LDC, this was also echoed by Council Member Jackson, the MBP and President Bollinger.

I remind the members that the creation of the WHLDC was intended for the promotion of our 197-a Plan and to obtain the maximum beneifts for the community from all developers referred to the WHLDC by CB9M and then the administration and enforcement of the contracted CBA approved by CB9M. Any and all land-use matters will be handled only by CB9M as a totally sepparate and independent effort as no quid pro quo exists between the ULURP process and any CBA. - JRM



September 27, 2007 -- Mayor Bloomberg yesterday embraced Columbia University's push to expand its Harlem campus, even before the city's land-use process to evaluate the controversial plan has begun.

"We need to have Columbia University stay in this city and expand in this city," Bloomberg said yesterday. "It is one of the great resources we have . . . it's one of the great universities in the world and we should help them."

He said expansion is part of keeping up with the competition for students, grants and professors, although he said the city has to be "mindful of the surrounding communities."

The process for evaluating the plan began last month with a raucous Community Board 9 meeting in which Columbia president Lee Bollinger was jeered.

Yesterday, Bollinger stood with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Councilman Robert Jackson and J. Reyes-Montblanc, the chairman of the board, and announced a deal in which Columbia has agreed to a string of sweeteners.

Stringer, who pushed for the deal, said it included a $20 million affordable-housing fund.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BP Stringer Announces Agreement with Columbia University to Protect and Enhance West Harlem Community as Part of Columbia Expansion Proposal

BP Stringer Announces Agreement with Columbia University to Protect and Enhance West Harlem Community as Part of Columbia Expansion Proposal
Historic Agreement Includes Significant Investment by Columbia in Affordable Housing, Open Space, Sustainable Development and Community Resources
Stringer Issues Official ULURP Recommendation in Support of Columbia Expansion While Supporting Principles of Community Board 9 Plan

September 26, 2007 (New York, NY) – Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger today announced that they have reached an agreement on a series of steps to benefit the West Harlem community as it relates to Columbia’s planned expansion of their Manhattanville campus. The agreement contains a series of commitments from Columbia that will directly address community needs including affordable housing, open space, sustainable development, community resources, and greater accommodation of the local Community Board’s 197-a plan for the area.

Today’s agreement comes one day after Borough President Stringer and City Planning Director Amanda Burden announced the City’s intention to rezone the area of West Harlem surrounding the expansion zone in order to maintain the neighborhood’s character and put in place protections to mitigate secondary displacement impacts the Columbia expansion could potentially cause.

Borough President Stringer and President Bollinger made the announcement at a press conference in the Borough President’s office on the day Mr. Stringer issued his official recommendation in support of the required zoning changes needed for the expansion to move forward. Stringer’s advisory opinion came at the conclusion of his 30 day review period as mandated under the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP).

The historic agreement includes commitments from Columbia University to:

Create a $20 million affordable housing fund to be leveraged by affordable housing developers towards a much larger sum.

Abide by best practices for environmentally sustainable construction and design, ensuring that all academic and residential projects in the area will meet a minimum of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) v 2.2 “Silver” Certification.

Seek to create new public parkland at 125th Street and Twelfth Avenue on a property previously slated for development under the plan. On this site, CU would develop a 6,300 square foot park, and provide funding for site maintenance at a cost of $30,000 per year for 25 years.

Fund significant neighborhood open space improvements including $500,000 for playground and schoolyard enhancement at IS 195; a commitment to work with NYCHA and tenants to fund walkway and grounds improvements at Manhattanville Houses and General Grant Houses; and $11,250,000 over 25 years towards the upkeep and maintenance of the new West Harlem Waterfront Park.

Create a Community Information, Opportunities, and Resources Center to provide one stop access for community members seeking information about employment opportunities; construction schedules, site safety and mitigation, community-oriented service programs, housing opportunities created by the affordable housing fund, and other community resources. Columbia will create a 24 hour hotline providing information relating to construction activity and employment opportunities and a community alert system that will notify subscribers about construction issues.

Implement a comprehensive construction mitigation plan using practices designed to reduce environmental and health impacts of construction. Columbia’s website will feature a comprehensive communications strategy including information on the construction schedule and site safety.

Better accommodate the community’s plan for the area by establishing a community access policy for new amenities in the proposed campus, and promoting a retail strategy that prioritizes local, small, non-chain, neighborhood-based businesses.

“This is an historic day for the future of West Harlem and all of New York City,” Borough President Stringer said. “Columbia’s expansion will enable Northern Manhattan to remain a global center of higher education while bringing benefits in the form of affordable housing, jobs, sustainable development, economic opportunity and scientific research that will have a far reaching positive impact on the local West Harlem community and our city as a whole. I have sought to play a role in this process that would lead to a clear understanding that any expansion proposal must work to enhance the lives of those who will be directly impacted by its effects and today I am confident that we have reached an agreement that will do just that.”

"We are pleased to have earned the Borough President's recommendation," said Columbia President Lee Bollinger. "We understand that the public review process has several steps to go; and we look forward to working with the City Planning Commission as well as the City Council to complete that process. Our goal is to continue to respond to the concerns of our neighbors and their representatives to make sure that Columbia's long-term growth in Manhattanville brings the widest possible benefit to the people who live and work in West Harlem and our whole city."

Borough President Stringer will submit his official recommendation to the City Planning Commission today, bringing the Columbia University expansion project to the next step in the ULURP process. The proposal now moves to the Department of City Planning for a 60 day review period and then to the New York City Council for a 50 day review period before it can ultimately be voted on and become law.

As part of his review process Borough President Stringer held a public hearing where more than 700 people showed up to voice their opinions on the expansion. He sought public input throughout his review and has worked closely with the local community, Community Board 9, Columbia University, local elected officials and the Bloomberg administration throughout the process.

# # #

For a copy of BP Stringer's ULURP Recomendation on the Columbia's proposed Manhattanville rezoning click here.

For a copy of BP Stringer's letter of support for Community Board 9's 197-A community based plan please click here.

Manhattan: Plan for Manhattanville

N.Y. / Region
New York

Manhattan: Plan for Manhattanville

Published: September 26, 2007

At the urging of the Manhattan borough president, the Department of City Planning has agreed to work with community groups and others to develop a long-term plan for development in the Manhattanville neighborhood that would take into account the surrounding character and the need for moderately priced housing.
The borough president, Scott M. Stringer, and many residents have said they fear that Columbia University’s $7 billion plan to expand its campus on 17 acres will lead to a wave of gentrification in the surrounding area. Columbia’s proposal is in the midst of a highly contested public review.
In the meantime, Mr. Stringer proposed the creation of a special zoning district that would preserve the low scale of the neighborhood and encourage the development of lower-cost housing and the retention of local businesses. In a letter to Mr. Stringer, Amanda M. Burden, director of city planning, said she hoped to begin work on the rezoning this fall, with the goal of creating a proposal by June.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bed-wetter Nation

Bed-wetter Nation
By Rick Perlstein on September 25, 2007 - 3:02pm.

Here's a big question that I want to start addressing in upcoming posts: what is conservative rule doing to our nation's soul? How is it rewiring our hearts and minds? What kind of damage are they doing to the American character? And can we ever recover?

So: what is the American character? Hard to say, of course. But I daresay we know it when we see it. Let me put before you an illustrative example: one week in September of 1959, when, much like one week in September of 2007, American soil supported a visit by what many, if not most Americans agreed was the most evil and dangerous man on the planet.

Nikita Khrushchev disembarked from his plane at Andrews Air Force Base to a 21-gun salute and a receiving line of 63 officials and bureaucrats, ending with President Eisenhower. He rode 13 miles with Ike in an open limousine to his guest quarters across from the White House. Then he met for two hours with Ike and his foreign policy team. Then came a white-tie state dinner. (The Soviets then put one on at the embassy for Ike.) He joshed with the CIA chief about pooling their intelligence data, since it probably all came from the same people—then was ushered upstairs to the East Wing for a leisurely gander at the Eisenhowers' family quarters. Visited the Agriculture Department's 12,000 acre research station ("If you didn't give a turkey a passport you couldn't tell the difference between a Communist and capitalist turkey"), spoke to the National Press Club, toured Manhattan, San Francisco (where he debated Walter Reuther on Stalin's crimes before a retinue of AFL-CIO leaders, or in K's words, "capitalist lackeys"), and Los Angeles (there he supped at the 20th Century Fox commissary, visited the set of the Frank Sinatra picture Can Can but to his great disappointment did not get to visit Disneyland), and sat down one more with the president, at Camp David. Mrs. K did the ladies-who-lunch circuit, with Pat Nixon as guide. Eleanor Roosevelt toured them through Hyde Park. It's not like it was all hearts and flowers. He bellowed that America, as Time magazine reported, "must close down its worldwide deterrent bases and disarm." Reporters asked him what he'd been doing during Stalin's blood purges, and the 1956 invasion of Hungary. A banquet of 27 industrialists tried to impress upon him the merits of capitalism. Nelson Rockefeller rapped with him about the Bible.
Had America suddenly succumbed to a fever of weak-kneed appeasement? Had the general running the country—the man who had faced down Hitler!—proven himself what the John Birch Society claimed he was: a conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy?

No. Nikita Khrushchev simply visited a nation that had character. That was mature, well-adjusted. A nation confident we were great. We had our neuroses, to be sure—plenty of them.
But look now what we have lost. Now when a bad guy crosses our threshhold, America becomes a pants-piddling mess.

Iran's president speaks at a great American university. That university's president, in the act of introducing his lecture, whines like a baby bereft of his pacifier that his guest is a big meany poopy-head. City Council members, too, and a rabbi, make like ten-year-olds, giving their press conference in front of a sign with his face struck through and the legend "Go To Hell." Up in Albany, Democratic leader Sheldon Silver treat the students of this great university like ten years olds, threatening to defund Columbia University lest censors like himself prove unable to shut the poor children's ears to difficult speech. (What, was he worried they'd be convinced, join the jihad?) Then a Republican presidential candidate chimes in—bye, bye, federalism!—saying Washington should starve the school of funds, too. American diplomats used to have the gumption to spar face to face with dreaded foreign leaders. Now they go on cable TV and whine about what a "travesty" it would have been to visit a site which properly should belong to the world. Hundreds of foreign nationals died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 (maybe even some of the Iranian!). Yet we have to systematically repress that—as if our national ego would crack like fine crystal if we were forced to acknowledge the mingling of American blood with that of mere foreigners.

But—they sputter—Ahmadinejad has has promised to wipe Israel off the map!
Well, Khrushchev had promised to wipe the U.S. off the map. ("We will bury you.") And, unlike Mr. A, who has but some possible stores of fissile material, Mr. K very much had the means, motive, and opportunity to do it—thousands of nuclear-tipped rockets aimed at every city in the land.

How cowardly our conservative Republic of Fear has made us. How we tremble at the mere touch of a challenge. It's conservatives who started it, of course. Here's what they're reading in their own media: a letter from Human Events editor Tom Winter headlined "Are You Ready for a New Dark Ages?":

Dear Fellow Conservative:
Someday soon, you might
wake up to the call to prayer from a Muslim muezzin. Millions of Europeans
already do.

And liberals will still tell you that "diversity
is our strength" -- while Talibanic enforcers cruise our cities burning books
and barber shops... the Supreme Court decides sharia law doesn't violate the
"separation of church and state" ... and the Hollywood Left gives up gay rights
in favor of the much safer charms of polygamy.

If you think this can't happen, you haven't been
paying attention, as the hilarious and brilliant Mark Steyn -- the most popular
conservative columnist in the English-speaking world -- shows to devastating
effect in his New York Times bestseller, America Alone: The End of the World As
We Know It....

This stuff is mind-numbingly hysterical—literally. Such rhetoric is literally calculated to numb the mind, to render any rational calculus impossible, to reduce democratic deliberation on the most subtle and difficult issues of our time to mere grunts and snorts, turning readers' minds to mush. That's what the conservative media is all about.

The worst thing about, however, is how many people who should know better have surrendered it. They've lowered us all to their own pants-piddling level. And somewhere, Nikita Khrushchev is smiling. For well and truly, he is right. We have been buried—by our own demobilizing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad Questions 9/11, Holocaust / Bollinger Berates Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad Questions 9/11, Holocaust
Published - Sep 24 2007 4:38PM EDT - AP
By NAHAL TOOSI - Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK(AP) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the official version of the Sept. 11 attacks and defended the right to cast doubt on the Holocaust in a tense
appearance Monday at Columbia University, whose president accused the hard-line leader of behaving like "a petty and cruel dictator."

Ahmadinejad smiled at first but appeared increasingly agitated, decrying the "insults" and "unfriendly treatment." Columbia President Lee Bollinger and audience members took him to task over Iran's human-rights record and foreign policy, as well as Ahmadinejad's statements denying the Holocaust and calling for the disappearance of Israel.

"Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger said, to loud applause.

He said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust might fool the illiterate and ignorant.

"When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous," Bollinger said. "The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."

Ahmadinejad rose, also to applause, and after a religious invocation, said Bollinger's opening was "an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here."

"There were insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully," Ahmadinejad said, accusing Bollinger of falling under the influence of the hostile U.S. press and politicians. "I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment."

During a question and answer session, Ahmadinejad appeared tense and unsmiling, in contrast to more relaxed interviews and appearances earlier in the day.

In response to one audience, Ahmadinejad denied he was questioning the existence of the Holocaust: "Granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?"

Signs in the crowd displayed a range of messages, including one that read "We refuse to choose between Islamic fundamentalism and American imperialism."
Associated Press writers Karen Matthews and Aaron Clark contributed to this report.

Bollinger Berates Ahmadinejad
Staff Reporter of the Sun
September 24, 2007 updated 6:03 pm EDT
Stephen Chernin / AP

President Ahmadinejad of Iran speaks at Columbia University today.

The president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, delivered a strong rebuke to President Ahmadinejad of Iran during a question-and-answer program at the university today.

The university's invitation to Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has called for the annihilation of Israel and said the Holocaust is "a myth," has drawn outrage in New York and beyond and hundreds of protesters gathered at the campus to protest this morning.

Mr. Bollinger began by defending the university's decision to summon President Ahmadinejad.
"This is the right thing to do," Mr. Bollinger said, adding that he was sorry if the event hurt some people's sentiments.

Mr. Bollinger called Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments on the Holocaust "astonishingly uneducated" and characterized him as a "petty and cruel dictator."

After a religious invocation, Mr. Ahmadinejad began his alloted 30 minutes by complaining that Mr. Bollinger made "many insults and claims that were incorrect."

"I think the text read by the dear gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here, present here," Mr. Ahmadinejad said.

"Many parts of his speech, there were many insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully."

After a speech, which drew heavily upon the Bible and Koran, the Iranian grew increasingly tense as he took tough questions from the assembly of 600 students and faculty members.

When asked whether he seeks the destruction of Israel, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, "We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran, leaving peacefully, with security."

Pressed for a yes or no answer, Mr Ahmadinejad said, "You asked the question, and then you want the answer the way you want to hear it. Well, this isn't really a free flow of information."
When challenged about the execution of homosexuals in Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that Iran executes drug traffickers and killers, and drew a comparison with American capital punishment laws, eliciting applause from the crowd.

When pressed on the question, he said, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country." The response drew howls of laughter and booing. He continued, "In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it."On the Holocaust, the Iranian leader said, "Why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price for an event they had nothing to do with?"

Hundreds of protesters lingered outside the hall.

"This was an unimaginable mistake," a leader of a Jewish Community Day School network called Ravsak, Marc Kramer, said. "Inviting him is a crime in it of itself."

A member of Mothers Against Terrorism, Hillary Barr, stood outside the gates handing out postcards in support of sending American troops in Iraq.

One group of students arrived wearing yarmulkes and black t-shirts that read "Stop Ahmadinejad's evil: Columbia Students Unite against Ahmadinejad."

Others defended Columbia's decision to invite the leader.

"I think he should be here. We need these questions out in the open," a teacher who lives across the street from the university, Stephanie Rugoff, said.

A Columbia freshman who studies chemistry, Andra Nihali, said that in her homeland of Romania she could not imagine a debate like this.

"I think it's a good thing. If he's exposed to questions that challenge his beliefs, we'll get a better understanding of Islam, and it can benefit both parties," Ms. Nihali said.

Several of the students and faculty who packed the large windowless hall, Roone Arledge Auditorium on 114th Street and Broadway, said the national attention to the event sparked their interest in attending.

"It's fun to feed off of all of this attention," an audience member who procured a ticket through a friend who attends Columbia, Seth Aylmer, 25, said. "You can't ignore that he's a world leader. I think they should have invited him."

Some students arrived with notebooks and pens. Others said they would just observe and hear what Mr. Ahmadinejad had to say.

Columbia Issues a Til Ticket to Ride

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance
Protecting Neighborhood Business For Over 20 Years
Monday, September 24, 2007

Columbia Issues a Til Ticket to Ride

In Friday's Spectator, the paper writes about the Columbia proposal to relocate the Til tenants to comparable housing "within the community." This news is very much a mixed blessing. On the one hand, according to the university, the tenants will be given new apartments under the same potential ownership option that all of the Til folks currently have. On the other hand, as CB9 chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc told the Spectator:

"I was "flabbergasted" about a press release being issued without first having communicated with the TIL Tenants and gotten their concurrance if they actually decided or not to accept the offer and it needs to be an outstanding offer that will benefit the TIL Tenants and the community at large..HPD has made it clear that the TIL Tenants will decide their future and CB9M has made it clear will will support the TIL Tenants no matter what their decision is, expected to be made freely and without coercion from any quarter."

So what Columbia has done in this situation, is to hold separate negotiations with HPD behind the tenants back-only to present them with a take-it or-leave it proposition. This is not really any kind of good faith bargaining. It also doesn't address the larger housing issues that are bound to be generated by the displacemenrt effects of the university's expansion.

So while we are glad that there may be a possibility that the Til tenants will be able to stay "within the community," we are disappointed that the univesity believes that the way to expand is to do so unilaterally through the issuance of diktats. Clearly, real engagement is missing and, as yesterday's Times editorial said, Coumbia needs to overcome its decades of "aloof detachment" if it is going to win over its neighbors.

# posted by Neighborhood Retail Alliance @ 7:23 AM

Monday, September 24, 2007

NY Times' Half Measures

In yesterday's editorial in the City Section, the NY Times correctly points out that Columbia has done precious little to gain the confidence or support of its neighbors in West Harlem for the university's ambitious expansion plan. Here is the editorial at its most cogent: "And while Columbia has worked hard to accommodate residents, including finding replacement housing for those who would be displaced as it builds, more is needed to reassure the neighbors, particularly those who have not been impressed by the school’s promises of thousands of new jobs or by its deepening ties to the community."

The editorial goes on to say that the city is "recognizing the rift" and is doing so by taking a long look at the zoning plan proposed by BP Scott Stringer. And while we certainly support Stringer's efforts to deal with direct and indirect displacement of the area;'s residents we have already pointed out that the Stringer plan, in dealing with the Columbia aftershocks, doesn't deal directly with the impact of the plan itself.

In particular, as the Times highlights, gentrification is a major threat here: "Even those who live outside the university’s expansion area fear the spillover effects of new growth that could push them out, a prospect already faced by residents in other parts of the city where rents have risen with gentrification." Yet, curiously, the paper doesn't suggest any specific modification to the Columbia plan that would deal directly with the displacement issue.

Which is why the adoption of the Stringer plan needs to be seen as part of an overall comprehensive solution that includes the university's commitment to affordable housing and the negotiation with key property owners to swap land in order to build these kinds of units. In essence, the plan itself needs to be modified-and after that, the after-effects must be prepared for.

The Times is right that; "Columbia’s efforts to win over its neighbors have been hampered by the reputation for aloof detachment it helped create a generation ago and has been trying to live down ever since." The way to remedy this, is to treat the community with respect, take its demands seriously, and come up with a plan that engages the key community issues.Contrary to what the Times says, the Stringer plan alone is not the compromise that "could give Columbia the room it needs to remain a first-class university and the neighborhood residents the assurances they need that their lives will not suffer." A more comprehensive solution needs to be crafted, and the Stringer proposal is just a good first step.

# posted by Neighborhood Retail Alliance @ 6:50 AM

Quinn Rebukes Columbia on Iranian / Columbia Would Welcome Hitler, a Dean Insists

Columbia Would Welcome Hitler, a Dean Insists
By Staff Reporter of the Sun

September 23, 2007 updated 10:56 am EDT

The next round of controversy at Columbia will involve remarks of a dean who says that Hitler would have been welcome on Morningside Heights if he would take questions from students.

The dean, John Coatsworth, heads the same institution that will serve as Columbia's host for President Ahmadinejad. The decision of Columbia to honor the Iranian anti-Semite and terror master with a speaking platform has drawn outrage among political leaders in the city, including the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn.

"If Hitler were in the United States and wanted a platform from which to speak, he would have plenty of platforms to speak in the United States," Mr. Coatsworth said in an interview with Fox News that was linked last evening by the Drudge Report. "If he were willing to engage in debate and a discussion to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him."

A former professor of history at Harvard, Mr. Coatsworth is dean of the university's School of International and Public Affairs, whose graduates, according to a statement Mr. Coatsworth issued last week, "serve as diplomats, intelligence analysts, security experts, business leaders, human rights activists," and leaders of non-governmental organizations.

Columbia acknowledged last week that the visit to the university of Mr. Ahmadinejad was initiated not by the university but by the Iranian envoy to the United Nations through a faculty member, Richard Bulliet. Mr. Bulliet is described in Wikipedia as having been criticized for, among other things, "his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as overly favoring the Palestinian cause" and also for offering "qualified support" for the revolution that brought the mullahs to power in Iran in 1979.

Quinn Rebukes Columbia on Iranian
Staff Reporter of the Sun
September 21, 2007
Spencer Platt / Getty

The president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, gives the commencement address at Columbia University May 18, 2005.

As Columbia University prepares to welcome President Ahmadinejad to its Morningside Heights campus Monday afternoon, elected officials and Jewish leaders are urging the university to withdraw its invitation, some students are threatening to boycott the university for a week, and some faculty are calling the event an "embarrassing moment" for Columbia.
"The idea of Ahmadinejad as an honored guest anywhere in our city is offensive to all New Yorkers," the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, said yesterday in a letter to the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger. "He can say whatever he wants on any street corner, but should not be given center stage at one of New York's most prestigious centers of higher education."
Mayor Bloomberg yesterday defended the university's right to host Mr. Ahmadinejad. "I think who Columbia invites is up to them and that's what academic institutions do," Mr. Bloomberg said at a press conference. "I am not part of the management of Columbia or a student there."

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has stated in the past that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and that the Holocaust did not happen, has been invited by Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs to speak and answer questions as a part of its World Leaders Forum.

Last year, Mr. Ahmadinejad was invited by SIPA to speak on campus, but Mr. Bollinger withdrew the invitation when the university could not come to an agreement with the Iranians on the format of the event. Because Mr. Ahmadinejad has agreed to devote at least half of his time to answering questions from an audience of 600 students, faculty, and invited guests, Mr. Bollinger this year approved of the program. "That such a forum could not take place on a university campus in Iran today sharpens the point of what we do here," Mr. Bollinger said in a statement. This was an example of "America at its best," he said.

"A man who is directing the maiming and killing of American troops should not be given an invitation to speak at an American university," Senator McCain, a Republican of Arizona who is running for president, said in a statement.

The dean of SIPA, John Coatsworth, defended the invitation as an exercise in good citizenship. "Opportunities to hear, challenge, and learn from controversial speakers of different views are central to the education and training of students for citizenship in a shrinking and dangerous world," Mr. Coatsworth said in a statement.

A broad coalition of student groups, including Jewish groups and the college Republicans, yesterday were busy organizing a peaceful rally on Low Plaza in the center of campus for Monday. "Students are outraged, everyone's talking about it," a sophomore at Columbia, Emily Steinberger, said. A petition was also circulating yesterday among students and faculty members urging participation in a week-long boycott of classes.

Other students said they supported the university's decision to host Mr. Ahmadinejad. "This wouldn't have happened at any other institution," a junior history major at Columbia, Lydia Depillis, said. "The invitation does not represent an endorsement of his views."

Student leaders representing 12 groups, including the college's Queer Alliance and the student council, issued a statement yesterday calling the forum an "incredible opportunity for the student body to learn about world affairs and to challenge an influential and controversial figure." The student leaders met with Mr. Bollinger to express their concern that they were not given more notice of the event. Mr. Bollinger told them that the university could not publicize Mr. Ahmadinejad's appearance on campus until the details were finalized.

"It is a very embarrassing moment," a professor who is the co-coordinator of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East at Columbia, Awi Federgruen, said. "The university doesn't need to provide a platform to anybody regardless of how repugnant and absurd they are." The executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said Columbia's invitation smacked of hypocrisy. "Iran is having the largest brain drain in history because he makes life intolerable for academics. For those reasons alone he ought not to be invited to a campus," Mr. Hoenlein said.

"Last year, Columbia almost made the same mistake," the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement. "Ahmadinejad didn't get better since then. He's gotten worse." The ADL yesterday called on the university to reconsider an invitation that it said was "inappropriate and a perversion of the concept of freedom of speech."

All 600 tickets to hear Mr. Ahmadinejad speak were distributed online in less than an hour on Wednesday on a first come, first served basis. Some students immediately started selling their tickets on to the highest bidder. "The only debate that Ahmadinejad is interested in is over the veracity of the Holocaust, nuclear anarchy, the survival of Israel, and liberal rights, even in academia," a junior at Columbia who was selling his ticket on Craigslist, said. "I'm not interested in these debates. I'm selling my seat."