Friday, October 05, 2007

Agreement with Stringer Ignores Dire Issues

Agreement with Stringer Ignores Dire Issues

As students of Columbia, we find it impossible not to take a stand when our University is actively ignoring the rights of the West Harlem community.
Instead of engaging the community in respectful and open negotiation, Columbia is pursuing an expansion plan of disruption and displacement. We believe that the community has a right to affordable housing, living wage jobs, and a prominent voice in any development plan for its neighborhood. We believe that Columbia’s plan must recognize the rights of all people regardless of their economic background or race. We believe that Columbia must concretely apply the principles of the community’s 197-a plan to its planned expansion.

It is our view that Columbia’s agreement with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer does not go nearly far enough to address the dire issues at hand, and in fact does not provide more than has already been stated in Columbia’s application for rezoning, released in June 2007. We adamantly object to Columbia’s assertion that its compromise with the Manhattan borough president can replace or even equate productive dialogue within established forums of negotiation such as the West Harlem Local Development Coalition.

As informed and active members of this institution, we refuse to allow the current expansion plan to go forward in our name. We stand in solidarity with Community Board 9’s demands and therefore insist that Columbia withdraw its 197-c proposal to rezone Manhattanville.
We are not against expansion. We are for accountability. Our demands are the community’s demands. We demand the following, as drafted by Community Board 9:

1. Withdraw the proposal for eminent domain, cease to use the threat of eminent domain to intimidate owners to sell, and abandon the process of imposing gag orders on those that have entered into agreements to sell.

2. Withdraw the proposal to build the seven-story below grade structure and the request to build under city streets and convey the area below grade to the University.

3. Build only on property owned by the University and obtained through negotiations with the owners without coercion and without the threat of eminent domain.

4. Guarantee that all housing developed directly by Columbia as a result of the proposed actions would meet the inclusionary housing requirements of the 197-a plan; and that, in all Columbia-developed and -owned housing, an equal amount of housing for the University and the community would be created both on-site and off-site; and that no direct displacement would occur in the 17- acre area.

5. Columbia must immediately develop and hereafter permanently implement and carry out an effective housing anti-displacement program; commit not by itself or through any affiliate to purchase or lease or net lease any residential units in CB9M above 125th Street; and provide sufficient additional housing in areas outside CB9M to house all of the students and employees expected to use the proposed campus. And, further, not interfere with the transfer of 132 units from HPD to the residents of those units as previously agreed to by the city.

6. Pursue state and national registers listing of any of its properties within the proposed Academic Mixed-Use Development Area found “eligible” by the New York State Historic Preservation Office and not oppose LPC landmark designation of any site herein. Also preserve buildings of historic and cultural character throughout the proposed Special Manhattanville Mixed-Use Zoning District and in CB9 as a whole, as listed in the 197-a plan.

7. Not build pollution emitting power sources­—such as power plants and co-generation facilities—or research facilities above biosafety level two, or other noxious installations that would contribute to the already high environmental burdens of this community.

8. Engage in sustainable design and construction practices that result in LEED platinum designation by U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system prior to the commencement of construction.

9. Engage in good faith negotiations with CB9 to achieve a mutually beneficial land use compromise that would permit the construction of academic facilities needed by Columbia on properties owned by the University, through technical amendments to the 197-a plan, in a manner that is consistent with the underlying principles and goals of the 197-a plan and.

10. Otherwise meet the goals and objectives outlined in the 197-a plan including, but not limited to, mitigating all direct and indirect adverse impacts with respect to job creation for local residents, economic development, socio-economic conditions, environmental protection and sustainable development, public transit, neighborhood character, public open space and other impact areas, as delineated by CB9 in the 197-a plan.

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