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.

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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.

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