Friday, November 30, 2007

Worker rescued from trench at park in Morningside Heights

Worker rescued from trench at park in Morningside Heights
Man was covered in dirt up to his chest
Eyewitness News

(Morningside Heights - WABC, Nov. 30, 2007) - A worker was rescued from waist-deep dirt in a trench at a park in Morningside Heights.

Photo Gallery
Morningside Heights - WABC, Nov. 30, 2007)
- A worker is trapped to his waist in dirt in a
trench at a park in Morningside Heights.
Officials say the worker was rescued from Morningside Park at the intersection of Morningside Avenue and West 116th Street just after 8:45 a.m.
Newscopter Seven was live over the scene as emergency workers freed the worker, who was then taken to the hospital just before 10 a.m.
Workers were building a new playground at the park when the collapse occurred.
Investigators are searching into why the 30 year old was trapped 8 to 10 feet deep.
The rescue took about an hour a half because the biggest concern in cases like this is undermining the loose soil. Con Ed helped with that process.
The worker was taken to St. Lukes Hospital where he is recovering.
Morningside Park runs from West 110th to West 123rd Streets between Manhattan Avenue, Morningside Avenue and Morningside Drive. It is one of four designated Historic Harlem Parks.
The City received jurisdiction over the 30-acres property in 1870 and began constructing the park in 1883. The original plans for the park were drawn up by renowned park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.

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Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 18:03:07 -0800 (PST)
From: "J Reyes-Montblanc"
Subject: [CB9M]: Morningside incident

This is a summary of the incident that occurred in Morningside Park this morning prepared by Namshik Yoon, our Chief of Operations:

Today a construction worker on the 116th Street playground reconstruction project was trapped in a trench as the soil surrounding the ditch slid into the pit up to his hips. A 911 call was placed by the construction crew, and multiple rescue teams responded. FDNY and NYPD rescued the worker as soon as they secured the site. The rescue took about an hour, and the worker was retrieved with no life-threatening injuries. The worker was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital in good condition. The site is now secured and work will resume next week.

Nov 30, 2007 10:12 am US/Eastern

Crews Work To Rescue Trapped Construction Worker

Morningside Heights Accident Leaves Worker Trapped To His WaistNEW YORK (CBS) ― Police and firefighters were at the scene of a construction site accident at W 116th St. and Morningside Ave. in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan that left a worker trapped to his waist.Rescue crews worked for about an hour, vacuuming dirt, and cutting through pipes to free the worker. The worker was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. His condition was unknown, but he was conscious.Stay with CBS 2 HD and for more on this developing story.'s Most Popular Pages

Firefighters and police officers worked 4
to free a construction worker trapped in
a trench in the Morningside Heights
section of Manhattan on a cold Friday
morning in November.



November 30, 2007 -- The alleged leader of an identity-theft ring - grifters responsible for ripping off more than $300,000 from banks along the East Coast - has been busted with two accomplices, police said yesterday.
Ronald Lampkin, 51, of West 135th Street - also known as Charles Belim - was picked up Wednesday after he, Crystal Velasquez and Kimberly Tucker, both 30, tried to withdraw a large amount of money from a woman's Bank of America account in Morningside Heights and branch officials got suspicious, authorities said.
A fourth member of their gang was busted in Manhattan last week, a police source said.
Lampkin is believed to have orchestrated the theft of at least 35 women's IDs and used their information at banks here, in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Boston over the past several years. The thieves generally get their victims' personal identification by sending female members of the ring into bars or other public places to swipe handbags or wallets.

All three suspects face charges including forgery, possession of forged instruments, identity theft and unlawful possession of a personal ID.
Additional reporting by Perry Chiaramonte

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY 1968 - A personal reminiscence of the 1968 student uprising at Columbia

Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 14:40:52 -0800 (PST)
From: "Anne Z. Whitman"
Subject: Who Rules Columbia
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"

Frank da Cruz
Columbia University Academic Information Systems
April 1998
Most recent update: 8 Aug 2005
(Click on the picture [see below] for more about the buttoms.)
A personal reminiscence of the 1968 student uprising at Columbia University. I was an active participant, but not a member of any particular faction (the only organization I belonged to was Veterans Against the War). I wrote this article for publication in the "Columbia Librarian" at the request of Columbia's Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, Elaine Sloan (then my boss's boss), on the 30th anniversary of the student rebellion (a). In 1968 I was an Army veteran working my way through a Columbia degree with a part-time job in the library; now I work in Academic Information Systems (the academic half of what used to be called the Computer Center), which, since 1986, is part of the University Library; hence the library connection.

Because this article was written for a Columbia audience, familiarity with the Columbia campus and setting are assumed. The article was HTMLized for the Web and slightly updated in February 2001, with periodic updates after that. Pictures were added in June 2001, which you can view by following the links; I hope to find and add more pictures as time goes on. While this is a personal recollection and not an attempt at a definitive history, corrections, comments,additional information, and especially photos are welcome, and will be acknowledged.


Life was different at Columbia University in 1968. There was a war and a draft. Up until the previous year, the University had routinely furnished class rank lists to the draft board (b), so if you had poor grades, off you went (of course, privileged Columbia students still had it better than the many kids drafted right out of high school, but that's another story). There were ROTC drills on South Field, military and CIA recruiters on campus, and classified military research in the labs (c). The Civil Rights movement had become the Black Liberation movement, and Black Panthers and Young Lords -- and Soul music -- captured students' imaginations. The women's movement was beginning to shake everybody up, especially guys who thought they were already progressive enough. Dr. King had just been killed and the cities were in flames. You couldn't ignore all this.

Throughout the mid-to-late 60s there was all sorts of political activity on campus -- teach-ins on Pentagon economics, Sundial rallies against the war, demonstrations against class rank reporting, confrontations with military recruiters, etc. It was an era of bullhorns. Amidst all this, the University was constructing a new gym in Morningside Park -- the barrier separating Columbia from Harlem -- with a "back door" on the Harlem side. This offended many people, and one day in April some students went to Morningside Drive and tore down the fence, attempting to break into the construction site. They were restrained by police and some were arrested. The ensuing Sundial rally wandered into Hamilton Hall and stayed the night. The original idea was that the united student body, or at least the considerable left wing of it (how times have changed) would occupy Hamilton until the charges against the students were dropped and some other demands were met. Various factions debated tactics and what the demands should be. Eventually six demands were formulated. Their thrust was against Columbia's complicity the war, against racism, and for better and more responsible relations with the surrounding communities.

The First Building Occupations

About 6:00am the white students left Hamilton and moved into the President's office in Low Library, while the Black students remained in Hamilton. This was the result of an agreement reached between leaders of SDS, PL, SWP, YAWF, etc (the predominantly white groups), on the one hand, and SAS on the other, behind closed doors and reflective of the tenor of times [1]. Over the next few days the various mostly-white factions branched out to other buildings -- SDS to Math (which flew the splendid red flag featured on the cover of Spring 1968 Columbia College Today, an issue devoted to the uprising with lots of great photos and much grouchy commentary), the Trotskyites to Avery, the anarcho-syndicalists to Fayerweather, etc (or something like that). In all, five buildings were occupied for a week. The history is written elsewhere such as the souvenir-bound editions of Spectator, and there is also a locally-produced film, Columbia Revolt (shot in large part by the legendary wall-scaling Melvin), that is trotted out on special occasions. When I took my son to see it at the 20th anniversary get-together in Earl Hall in 1988, it was already crumbling. (As of February 2003, there seems to be a copy available for viewing and downloading at Archive.Org; see Links.)

I spent the week in Low Library. There was a carnival atmosphere the first day, with press photographers and reporters from magazines, the local newspapers, etc (the Post was fair, the News was atrocious, but the Times was beyond belief -- small wonder, considering the connections (d)). There was an unforgettable, Felliniesque visit from a faculty member who swooped through the window in full academic regalia, Batmanlike, to "reason" with us. Security guards and office workers brought us snacks. Life magazine (May 10, 1968) ran a cover story featuring pictures taken in Low, including my favorite: a group of us seated on the carpet, each with a Grayson Kirk face, complete with pipe (from President Kirk's desk drawer, which was stocked with dozens of 8x10 glossy book-jacket poses).

After the first day, activities grew more structured, and thenceforth the occupation was one long meeting governed by Robert's Rules of Order, interpreted creatively ("point of obfuscation!"), interspersed by housework. Contrary to popular belief and press reports, the President's suite of offices was kept immaculate and orderly after the chaotic first day (e). Cleanup detail included vacuuming, shaking out blankets, scrubbing the bathroom, etc. The administration's fears of vandalism (and their special concern for the Rembrandt hanging above President Kirk's desk) were poorly founded, at least in Low.

Outside, a system of rings developed around Low Library. Opponents ("jocks") formed the inner ring; student supporters (known, along with us, as "pukes") formed an outer ring, and later concerned faculty formed an intermediate buffer ring. Each group wore distinctive armbands, not that they were needed: jocks (Columbia light blue) looked like jocks; pukes (red) were scruffy; faculty (white) wore tweed with elbow patches. Black armbands came later. Beyond the rings were crowds of onlookers and press. The outside pukes would try to send food up to us, but the jocks intercepted most of it and made a great show of wolfing it down con mucho gusto as we looked on with envy (most food didn't throw well and fell short; what little got through was mainly oranges and baloney packets). One day a tall stranger with waist-length hair appeared at the distant fringe of the crowd (almost all the way to Earl Hall) and began to hurl five-pound bags of home-made fried chicken our way, one after another, with perfect aim, over the jocks' heads and right into our windows. What an arm! (The chicken was cooked by Mrs. Gloria Sánchez of the Bronx, and it was delicious; I never learned the identity of the mysterious stranger.)

. . . Until June 1, 2001, when I had a call from Jerry Kisslinger of Columbia's Office of University Development and Alumni Relations, who recognized the waist-length hair and powerful arm of John Taylor, son of Nürnberg prosecutor and Columbia Law Professor Telford Taylor (who declined to lend his name to a statement signed by most other Law School faculty, which said the student protests exceeded the "allowable limits" of civil disobedience [New York Times, 24 May 1998]). Thanks to both John and his dad!
Aside from the meetings and work details, a concerted effort was made to rifle through the many file cabinets and turn up evidence of covert links with the war machine and defense contractors, large corporations planning to divide up the spoils in Viet Nam, etc, all of which were to be found in abundance. These were photocopied and later published in the East Village underground newspaper, Rat. Some items were picked up by the mainstream press, resulting in some embarrassment among the rich and powerful, which quickly passed.

The First Bust

After a few days, the NYC Tactical Police Force (TPF, of distinctive leather cladding)(f) muscled through the crowd and the rings to form a new inner ring just below our feet as we congregated on the ledges and windowsills. Police on Campus! Academia violated! (A famous photo shows Alma Mater holding a sign, "Raped by Cops".) We fortified the entrances to the occupied buildings, especially through the tunnels, against the expected assault (more about the tunnels HERE). Which, inevitably, came. After the final warning to vacate or be arrested, we discussed (still observing proper parliamentary procedure) whether to resist or go peacefully. Opinion was divided and many variations were proposed. After much discussion, consensus converged on civil-rights-movement-style passive resistance; we would go limp and the police would have to carry us out.

We devoted the final moments to preparations -- the Defense Committee piled furniture up against door, while the rest of us picked up trash, vacuumed, and scrubbed so the President's suite would be left in pristine condition, better than we had found it (except for tape criss-crossed on the window glass and the jimmied file-cabinet locks). Those with pierced earrings took them off (a routine precaution in those days of police actions) and then we formed a 100-person, 10,000-pound clump singing "We Shall Not Be Moved", knowing that we would.

Soon axes were crashing through the door, the barricade was breached, and an army of TPF piled in, first prying apart the singing clump of us, then forming a gauntlet to pass our limp bodies down the corridors, whacking our heads with flashlights along the way, and dragging us by the feet down the marble steps so our heads bounced. Superficial head wounds are harmless but they bleed a lot, and journalists got some terrific photos of us on our way to the paddy wagons waiting on College Walk.

Soon we were in the Tombs [the jail and criminal court building at 100 Centre Street]. I was in a cell with six others including Tom Hayden (one of many luminaries who visited and/or sat in with us -- others included H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael, Charles 37X Kenyatta, I forget who else -- Angela Davis? Che Guevara?). Later, students from the other buildings began to arrive, much bloodier than we were. The students in Math (some of whom -- the ones who weren't killed in the 1970 East 11th Street townhouse explosion -- later went on to the Democratic convention in Chicago, and then formed the Weather Underground) (deep breath...) received less gentle treatment -- one student was thrown from a second-story window and landed on a professor (Jim Shenton), breaking the professor's arm.

In December 2001 I received the following email from Thomas Gucciardi: "My dad, Frank Gucciardi, was a cop during the riots. He was paralyzed from the waist down for 3 years. (A student jumped off a building into the crowd) He has had a miraculous recovery & still enjoys a fairly active life. I just found your site & commend you on it. My dad till this day loved his job & he does understand the students uprising. He holds no grudges at all for what the students did to him at 34 years of age & having 3 children. Thank you for your website." Later Thomas sent copies of newspaper clippings that told how Patrolman Gucciardi had been inured when an unidentified white student jumped from the balcony of Hamilton Hall, landing on the officer's back as he bent over to pick up his hat, and of the operations on his spine over the next several years.

A series of articles by columnist Martin Gershen in the NY Times, the Long Island Press, and other papers, followed his progress and gained national attention. Also injured was Officer Bernard Wease, kicked in the chest by a student in Fayerweather Hall while giving the vacate-or-be-arrested order, causing damage to his heart.

While an article in the LA Times, 9 September 1969, quotes Mayor Lindsay as acknowledging that some police used "excessive force" and states that "news reports quoted witnesses as having seen nonuniformed policemen punching and kicking both male and female students... one blond girl was said to have been beaten unconscious on the sidewalk in front of Avery Hall... a boy left writhing in front of Ferris Booth Hall with his nose smashed...", the only two
injuries serious enough to require prolonged hospitalization were to Officers Gucciardi and Wease.
Many of the later arrivals to the Tombs were bystanders. All hell had broken loose after we left, with mounted police charging through the crowds on South Field, swinging their "batons" at all nearby heads like rampaging Cossacks (NEED PHOTO). Subsequent investigative commissions called it a "police riot." The combat spilled out to Broadway and down the side streets towards Riverside Park, horses galloping after fleeing pedestrians -- it must have been quite a sight (too bad I missed it), and it was a "radicalizing experience" for many former sideliners. Ed Kent (UTS BD 1959, Columbia PhD 1965, currently professor of moral / political / legal philosophy at Brooklyn College, CUNY) recalls:

I made sure that I put on a coat and tie -- it was about 1 a.m. and I had been alerted by a colleague at Hunter who had heard the bust was imminent. I then joined the cop assigned to the gate who was entirely sympathetic to the students and we watched with horror as the cops beat up kids that had come out of their dorms to find out what all the ruckus was about (Those occupying buildings had been taken out through the tunnels earlier.). I will never forget one small sized student being chased by a group of cops with clubs intent on beating him up -- he finally took refuge on top of a car where he tried to avoid their swings. They finally knocked him off and pounced with their clubs. The next day many faculty and students were treated for head and other injuries -- all of them innocent of any connection with the actual building occupations.

Incidentally at the Cox hearings I heard the dean [Henry Coleman] who had supposedly been imprisoned by the students in Hamilton admit in response to a question by Anthony Amsterdam that he had in fact been ordered by the President to remain in his office and had been treated with entire courtesy by the students throughout and could have unlocked his office door (and relocked it to protect student records) and left at any time. This was given as the excuse for the police action and Sidney Hook refused to take it out of his book account (I got his galleys to pre-view) although I personally drew his attention to his
mis-reporting there. Hook had become very right wing by then.

Meanwhile, back in jail... Escorting a group of incoming wounded was a fellow worker from Butler Library, now wearing a badge. In Butler, posing as a student library assistant, he had been trying to recruit us to "blow stuff up". Luckily he had been an inspiration to no one, but the episode served well for many years in discussions of leftist paranoia. The librarians, to their credit, were shocked to learn they had hired an agent provocateur and fired him immediately, not so very inhumane considering his better-paying day job.

Some 700 people were arrested that night, a logistical nightmare, involving at least 20 precincts and much transportation. We were arraigned and released over the next day or two, with court dates set that would stretch for years into the future, a story in itself. Back on campus... what a mess! The morning's newspapers were full of it. The Times ran a front-page story with a photo of a police officer standing in the President's Office, which was a total wreck (mean-spirited graffiti sprayed on the walls, bookshelves toppled, etc), gesturing sorrowfully towards a mound of mangled books, a forlorn tear in his eye: "The world's knowledge was in those books...". Ironic because it was not us who made the mess and sprayed the graffiti! We caught the author of the story on campus and asked why he had written such dreck when he had been witness to the whole episode -- he freely admitted it was a pack of lies and recommended we complain to his boss (a Columbia trustee). Luckily for posterity, whoever wrecked the office after we left overlooked the Rembrandt.

The Second and Third Busts

In the following weeks, regular classes were replaced by "Liberation classes" on the lawns (NEED PHOTO). There were no grades that year. Picket lines were thrown up in front of every building. The Grateful Dead played on Ferris Booth terrace. A student batallion marched up Amsterdam Avenue to City College to make noise and "link up". Organizers for progressive labor unions began circulating pledge cards among supporting staff (this cost me my Butler Library job). A contingent from the French student/worker uprising handed out those famous posters (unfortunately printed on cheap paper, now disintegrated) from the "Ex-Ecole des Beaux Arts", and we also had visits from student representatives of many of the other universities that followed Columbia's energetic lead that year, who raised clenched fists and gave rousing speeches. (Later some of us visited other student uprisings in progress, notably in Mexico City, where police and military actions made the Columbia arrests look like a lovefest.)

Community issues loomed large -- an apartment building on 114th Street was the scene of a second occupation a couple weeks later, in which several hundred of the newly radicalized onlookers from South Field took part and were promptly arrested (I don't recall exactly what the issue was, but housing has always been a touchy topic at Columbia). On May 22nd, sensing no movement in the administration on the issues of the strike, we went back into Hamilton (déjà vu was the rallying cry). This time the police were summoned onto campus without hesitation, and back we all went to jail (there were 1100 arrests in all). By now it was like commuting. Again, campus erupted after we left -- this time, 15-foot-high barricades were erected at the main gates and set ablaze (NEED PHOTO), windows were smashed, cars crushed, crowds surged back and forth, and many heads were bashed -- most of them attached to innocent bystanders. As in the first bust, the police also did a fair amount of mischief aimed at discrediting the strikers.

Commencement and Beyond

The year ended with most of the Class of '68 walking out of graduation, which was at Saint John's that year, on a prearranged signal -- students carried radios under their gowns and walked out when WKCR played "The Times They Are A'Changin'" -- to a countercommencement on Low Plaza, accompanied by loud rock music, and from there to Morningside Park for a big picnic that turned out rather well.

At Columbia, classified war research was halted, the gym was canceled, ROTC left campus, military and CIA recruiting stopped, and (not that anybody asked for it) the Senate was established. Robert Kennedy, the antiwar presidential candidate, was killed in June 1968, and later that month the French uprising was "voted away" in a national referendum. Mexican students and supporters and bystanders were slaughtered wholesale in October, in La Noche de Tlatelolco. Columbia antiwar rallies continued, and large Columbia contingents chartered buses for the huge demonstrations in Washington, of which there were to be far too many -- the war dragged on for another seven years. To this day, I don't know if all the antiwar activities combined had as much affect as the Vietnamese figuring out how to shoot down the American B-52s that were carpet-bombing their cities.

The Cox commission produced a report on the disturbances. Springtime building occupations continued for the next few years, but eventually were replaced by disco. Then came the 80s and 90s: the rich became richer at the expense of everyone else; organized labor was squashed; most real jobs were exported; drugs and greed ruled; social awareness was replaced by political correctness, student activism by ambition, and real work by sitting in front of a PC clicking on investments.

After a semester's suspension and dozens of court appearances (but no hard time -- thanks National Lawyers Guild!), I received my BA in 1970, held a number of odd jobs (taxi driver, etc; nobody pays you to save the world), and eventually wound up back at Columbia getting a graduate degree in computer science and working in what was called the Computer Center, where I still work today. And now, thanks to the Information Age, the Computer Center has been absorbed by the University Library and I suppose that brings us full circle(g).

Much can be said (and has been!) about the strike's effects on Columbia University. Of course it hurt the University in many ways -- applications, endowment, contracts & grants, gifts, and so on. It took at least 20 years to fully recover. Perhaps it strengthened the University in other ways, who knows.

Most press accounts of the time focus on the strike leaders, their affiliations and temperaments and hairstyles, but honestly, I don't recall them being a major force, except on the first night when they decided the white students should leave Hamilton Hall. They certainly didn't choreograph the events after that. Actions were either taken spontaneously, or discussed to death by EVERYBODY until consensus was reached, in the manner of the day (and night!). In Low library, leadership meant nothing more than fairly moderating the open discussion and applying Robert's Rules -- a process not nearly as interesting to the media as sound bites from high-profile personalities.

I never felt the strike was motivated primarily by antipathy towards Columbia. After all, students came here voluntarily and received good educations (often obtaining their introduction to radical thought from their own professors) and -- even in those days -- the student body, if not faculty and administration, was among the most diverse anywhere. Community relations were not all bad: many of us were Project Double Discovery counselors or involved in various Columbia-sponsored Harlem community action projects.

Rather, it was a case of students doing the best they could in the place where they were to stop the war in Viet Nam and fight racism at home, just as they hoped others would do in other places: in the streets, factories, offices, other universities, the military itself, the court of world opinion, and finally in the seats of government. Whether this was the best way to do it is debatable, but it is clear that the more polite methods of previous years were not working, and every DAY that passed cost 2000 lives in Southeast Asia. So to the extent that the Columbia strike hastened the end of the war, it was worthwhile. As to racism and community relations, it's not my place to judge.



23 April 1968
Occupation of gym site, occupation of Hamilton Hall

24 April 1968
Occupation of Low Library

26-28 April 1968
Occupation of Math, Avery, Fayerweather

30 April 1968
712 building occupiers and bystanders arrested

6 May 1968
University reopened, students boycott classes

17 May 1968
117 arrested at 114th Street SRO

21 May 1968
138 arrested in "Hamilton II" + bystanders

4 June 1968
Counter-commencement on Low Plaza.

BPP Black Panther Party
CORE Congress Of Racial Equality (then);
............ Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (now)
IDA Institute for Defense Analyses
PL (PLP) Progressive Labor Party
ROTC Reserve Officers Training Corps
SAS Students Afro-American Society
SDS Students for a Democratic Society
SNCC Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
SRO Single Room Occupancy
SWP Socialist Workers Party
TPF Tactical Police Force
WKCR The Columbia student-run radio station
YAWF Youth Against War and Fascism
YCL Young Communist League
YSA Young Socialist Alliance

a. Publication of the Columbia Librarian issue, Volume XXVII Numbers 1-2, was delayed until Fall-Winter 1999.

b. Big demonstrations and other actions in 1967 persuaded Columbia's administration to stop turning over class rank lists to Selective Service, in defiance of US policy, if not law. Fast forward 35 years to when Columbia announced plans to send regular reports about each foreign student to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (not just residence and visa status but also detailed academic information) and not a peep was heard from anybody. In the intervening years Columbia had often refused to provide information such as students' reading preferences to the FBI as a matter of principle, even without student prodding.

c. These things are not intrinsically bad; you have to take them in context. For example, see the 1940s section of my Computing at Columbia Timeline. It's one thing to fight Fascism and genocide (if that's what we were doing) but Viet Nam was something else again, and Columbia was tied to the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) which conducted classified war and weapons research for the Pentagon, e.g. on the "automated battlefield" and defoliation. Six weeks prior to the Columbia strike, a petition bearing nearly 2000 signatures calling on Columbia to cease classified war research was brought to the President's office; the University responded by placing the students who presented it on disciplinary probation.
d. The Times managing editors were also Columbia Trustees.

e. Press and photographers were allowed into the President's office the first day, when it was messy, and this was the only view the public had (most famously from the May 10th Life issue).
The mainstream press was barred after that because of their fixation on silliness, like the student who was smoking the President's cigars, rather than the issues of the strike.

f. In retrospect, perhaps the leather-clad police were not TPF after all, but a detachment of motorcycle police brought in temporarily until the TPF arrived.

g. Nothing lasts forever. In 2005, academic computing was severed from the Libraries and rejoined to administrative computing.

1. Naison, Mark D., White Boy: A Memoir, Temple University Press, Philadelphia (2002). This book includes the most vivid, accurate, and honest account of the Columbia scene in the 1960s that I have encountered. By focusing on the painful racial issues behind the events of 1968, it shows not just what happened, but why, and it captures the passions, stresses, sights, sounds, and smells of that time and place like nothing else I've read.

2. Who Rules Columbia?, North American Congress on Latin America, 475 Riverside Drive, NYC (1970). "If you depended on major media, all you knew about Columbia University in 1968 was that Mark Rudd, SDS, and some long-haired students became spontaneously restless. In fact, a major study of Columbia's role in the community and in the world was produced by these students. This is NACLA's reprint of the original 1968 edition. 'Strawberry Statement' is cute, but here's the beef." (NameBase, A Cumulative Index of Books and Clippings)

3. McCaughey, Robert A., Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University, Columbia University Press (2003), esp. Chapter 15: "Riding the Whirlwind: Columbia '68".
Ballentine Books, New York (2004), esp. Chapters 11 and 20.

Third World Newsreel (TWN), Columbia Revolt (1968, film, 50 minutes): [ Part I ] [ Part II ] [ From TWN ] [ Roz Payne's Newsreel Archives ]

Dohrn, Bernadine,
Interview by Bob Feldman, Ziff-Davis Z-Magazine, May 1998.

Dohrn, Bernadine,
Monthly Review: MR Zine, 27 July 2005.

Harris, Marvin,
The Nation, 10 June 1968, pp.757-763.

Gillies, Kevin,
Vancouver Magazine, November 1998.

Karaganis, Joseph,
21st Century 4.1 (Spring 1999), Columbia University.

Erickson, Christian W.,
University of California at Davis, 1999.

McCaughey, Robert A.,
Columbia '68: A Near Thing,Barnard College, Columbia University, 1999.
Barnard Electronic Archive and Teaching Laboratory.

Auerbach, Shane,
Jul-Aug 2004 (PDF).

Long, Tony,
25 May 2006.

1960s Home Page,
Scott David Atwell, Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan.
Columbia University protests of 1968, Wikipedia.

[ Top ]

Frank da Cruz / / Columbia University 1968 / Apr 1998. Most recent update: Fri Feb 2 10:53:57 2007

Columbia University 1968 Buttons

Left to right:
The original 1968 Strike button. These were gathered up hurriedly from some other strike elsewhere (obscured by black magic marker).

A Columbia SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) button.
The small red button warn by plainclothes and undercover police to identify themselves to one another during the first arrest (to avoid clubbing each other). In subsequent arrests, students wore them too.

The Strike If We Must button appeared after the first arrest, while talks went on in various forums over what would be done about the students' demands, punishing the students, gym construction, and so on. It was worn by moderates sympathetic to those already striking. Eventually there was a second building occupation and mass arrests.

A Local 1199 button, emblematic of the kind of widespread organizing that took place in the wake of the strike (in this case, for a diverse, then-progressive labor union).

John O'Brien, who was present at the Columbia events of 1968 and who is an authority on progressive political buttons, reported in May 2003:
The first button with the black ink over the rest of the wording (white and red color) only showing "Strike" is a Vietnam Peace button issued by the Student Mobilization Committee (SMC) for the April 26th Strike held in 1968 around the U. S. against the Vietnam War.

The little red button was issued in Dec. 1967 for the "Stop The Draft Week" protests at the Whitehall Induction Center. It was issued by the YSA [Young Socialists Alliance] in response to the NYC Police Department having a larger red button made to identify the many hundreds of plain clothes police around that week of daily protests to "shut down the induction center".
There was a later larger version made that was sold by the YSA in 1970-1973.

Here's a larger assortment of buttons from 1968-72:
The photo above was reduced a bit to fit the typical web-browser window. CLICK HERE to view the slightly larger original (228K). Yes, that's a genuine IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, "Wobblies") button below Nixon's chin. The Panther 21 were the local counterpart of the Chicago 7 (21 Black Panthers accused of plotting to blow up Macy's, eventually acquitted); shown on the button at upper right are Panther founders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton ("Free Huey!"). The Panthers were a regular fixture at the Columbia gate (as were the Young Lords), selling literature and recruiting. Angela Davis was accused of complicity in the 1970 courtoom escape attempt of George Jackson (author of Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson) in which the judge was killed; she was acquitted too and is now on the faculty at UC Santa Cruz ("the only professor who was once on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list"). George Jackson was killed in prison in 1971. Huey P Newton was killed in 1989. Malcom X, by the way, was killed in 1965 in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, now a Columbia biotech research building (Columbia restored and preserved the historic facade and built the new facility behind it).

Frank da Cruz / / Columbia University 1968 / Jun 2001 - May 2003

Columbia plan ‘rigged’? Three claim Harlem community pact talks with school skewed by pols

From: "Ruth Eisenberg"
To: "Jordi Reyes-Montblanc" ,
Subject: Metro for Friday
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 12:09:41 -0500


Columbia plan ‘rigged’?
Three claim Harlem community pact talks with school skewed by pols
by patrick arden / metro new york

city hall. Three members of the team negotiating a community benefits agreement with Columbia University over its proposed expansion resigned on Thursday, claiming a “closed door” process had been “rigged” in favor of the school.

The bad blood is hardly surprising. West Harlem’s community board came up with a competing development plan, which opposes Columbia’s use of eminent domain, yet it set up a local development corporation to negotiate a CBA with the university.

That might seem like playing both sides, but LDC president Pat Jones believes the neighborhood had no choice.

“Without any intervention, the community gets no benefit,” said Jones. “This a private project for Columbia by Columbia.”

When the LDC was formed 19 months ago, members agreed to give seats to local politicians in 2008 to enforce the pact after it was finalized. But that’s when things began to go wrong, according to Tom DeMott and Nick Sprayregen, who both quit the LDC yesterday. In the summer of ’06, they were invited to the offices of Rep. Charles Rangel.

“He pounded his fist on the table and said there was no way he was going to make an agreement without being involved,” Sprayregen recalled. Now 9 of 28 seats on the LDC are occupied by representatives of elected officials.

Politicians have played a role in drafting CBAs here, though the results have been troubling. Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion oversaw a pact for Yankee Stadium that was purely a deal between the team and four elected officials.

This week the city’s planning commission sent both Columbia’s and the community’s proposals to the City Council. Sprayregen wondered how local Councilman Robert Jackson could consider voting while his representative on the LDC is negotiating a CBA.

Jackson’s rep, Susan Russell, did not respond to a request for comment. But in July she tried to remove Sprayregen from the LDC, claiming that he, as the area’s largest property holder, had a conflict of interest. Sprayregen believed the politicians are acting in Columbia’s interest.

“They basically hijacked the process,” he said. “At the 11th hour, they’ll say, ‘This is the best we can do. You better accept it.’”


Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 11:57:01 -0800 (PST)
From: "Anne Z. Whitman"
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"

Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 13:19:41 -0500 (EST)
From: "Raul Rothblatt"
To: whitmananne


Dear Anne,

This is an exciting development in our effort to promote Brooklyn by celebrating our proud history at the site it took place.

Raul Rothblatt
Communications Director
227 Duffield Street

Press Release


When: Monday December 3, 2007, 12 PM

Where: 227 Duffield Street
(between Fulton & Willoughby Streets in Brooklyn)

Invited Speakers:
Councilmembers Charles Barron, Letitia James, Tony Avella, John Liu; Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, US Congressional Representative Yvette Clarke, Assembly Representative Joseph Lentol; Rev. Clinton Miller, Rev. Dyson, Joy Chatel, Families United For Racial and Economic Equality, Jennifer Levy Esq., Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, Lewis Greenstein, Raul Rothblatt, Christabel Gough, Jim Driscoll, Richard Hourahan, and others.

What: Press Conference

Brooklyn, NY 11/29/07 - In settlement of a lawsuit filed by Joy Chatel and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) the City has pledged that it will not use eminent domain to condemn 227 Duffield. The property has been the subject of controversy since 2004 when the City announced that it intended to take the property by eminent domain as part of their Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan. The Downtown Brooklyn Plan is a massive redevelopment plan based on a rezoning of the area in 2004. The plan calls for over 4 million square feet of new retail, commercial and luxury housing in the middle of a historically low-income community.

On January 7, 2004, Joy Chatel, an owner of 227 Duffield Street was given a notice informing her that her home would be taken by eminent domain and demolished to make way for a new parking lot. Many believe that her home was a station on the Underground Railroad and a vital cultural treasure that should be preserved. The Underground Railroad was the network of people and places in which fugitive slaves sought refuge when escaping from the plantation system in the South.

The home, built in 1848, was owned by Thomas and Harriet Lee-Truesdell, prominent abolitionists of that era. Their role in the abolitionist movement, coupled with their relationships with other active abolitionists in Downtown Brooklyn, led the City's own researchers to conclude that the property was "quite possibly" linked to the Underground Railroad and the majority of historians commissioned by the City to review its research advocated for the home's preservation. Despite this historical documentation and the presence of several unexplainable architectural abnormalities in the sub-basements from 227-235 Duffield St, the City of New York initially concluded that the home's historic significance did not warrant its preservation. In response to litigation and years of advocacy on the part of those who support preserving the property, the City has agreed to re-draw its plans for Downtown Brooklyn so that the condemnation of 227 Duffield will not be necessary.

"I want to thank the Mayor for listening to our plea," Joy Chatel, an owner of 227 Duffield Street said, "My vision is to continue the Cultural Center and Museum my daughter and I started years ago; so all people home and abroad can benefit from the rich history downtown Brooklyn has to offer. I am also thankful to the many people who have gone to great lengths to make sure that this vision comes to fruition."

"So many of us in the community did not want to see the Underground Railroad become an underground parking lot," said Randy Leigh, area resident and FUREE board member. "Too much of our history has already been lost, and we know the City did the right thing by listening to the community and protecting our history. "

The suit was brought by Jennifer Levy of South Brooklyn Legal Services who says: "I commend the City for their flexibility. They have shown that it is possible to do development thoughtfully, in a manner that is responsive to community concerns, and with an eye to preserving our history."

Tours of the home will be given on request. Contact Raul for more info.

Ex-LDC Members Rally at City Hall

Ex-LDC Members Rally at City Hall
By Daniel Amzallag

Members and supporters of the Coalition to Preserve Community rallied at City Hall Thursday to protest practices of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation regarding Columbia’s proposed expansion into Manhattanville.

The press conference followed the resignations of Tom DeMott, CC ’80, Luisa Henriques, and Nick Sprayregen from the LDC, a nonprofit organization created to develop a community benefits agreement with Columbia regarding the expansion.

DeMott and Sprayregen criticized what they described as secrecy in the LDC’s dealings. LDC Board members are unable to report what occurs in closed negotiation sessions as part of a “gag order,” DeMott said. “Unfortunately, side deals are happening all over the place, and many members of committees aren’t even aware about the negotiating that’s going on,” said Cynthia Doty, a member of the Coalition to Preserve Community.

But LDC member Maritta Dunn argued that negotiations necessitate closed meetings. “Inside the LDC, information has always been shared, so I don’t know what more anyone can ask for.
Each member is responsible to report back to the constituency that we represent,” she said.

“The WHLDC has held open forums, convened public sessions of its weekly general meetings and included many community members in its working groups to ensure that the public is kept informed and community feedback is obtained,” said a LDC statement released on Thursday.

Nearly all the rally’s speakers condemned Columbia’s threat to use eminent domain, which Dunn said “the community in total has been against.”

“At a minimum the City Council should say to Columbia, ‘Your current plan will be rejected unless you tell us at a minimum no eminent domain,” said Norman Siegel, a civil rights attorney representing businesses in the expansion footprint. “No business, no resident should ever be displaced in order to vie the property to a private entity.”

“It’s an absolute disgrace that we are abusing the eminent domain process, which is supposed to be to take people’s property under the very best of reasons,” City Council Member Tony Avella, D-Queens, said after the press conference. “But to take it to give to a developer to make millions upon millions of dollars is unconscionable, unconstitutional, and disgraceful.”

The University has said that it hopes to accomplish its expansion without the use of eminent domain, but is unwilling to take it off the table.

Speakers at the rally emphasized their dismay with local elected officials, a grievance which DeMott and Sprayregen have cited as a reason for their resignations. “What was started as a board strictly of members of the community was transformed into one that included representatives from every politician that could get their hands into it,” said Sprayregen, who is second largest private property owner in the expansion footprint after Columbia. “The political representatives have effectively co-opted the board.”

Elected officials currently make up nine out of 28 members of the LDC.

“We’ve assured them [local elected officials] that they will not be able to dodge this issue—it will stick to them like Teflon,” Nellie Bailey, president of the Harlem Tenants Council, said. “They will become the Columbia University Teflon kings and queens of this expansion.”

But local politicians on the LDC are necessary to enforce its ultimate decision, Dunn said. “The politicians that are on the LDC are the politicians elected by the local community. We elected them to represent us—they didn’t come from outer space,” she said. “Most of the politicians have been reelected several terms, and if they’re new it’s because of term limits, not because of poor performance.”

Dan Amzallag can be reached at

Eminent domain day at City Hall

Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 07:31:09 -0800 (PST)
From: "Anne Z. Whitman"
Subject: Fwd: Story: Eminent domain day at City Hall
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"

Note: forwarded message attached.


Eminent domain day at City Hall
by patrick arden / metro new york
> email this to a friend
NOV 30, 2007

CITY HALL. Eminent domain was the topic du jour Thursday, as protests here over the Atlantic Yards and Columbia expansion projects were quickly followed by a hearing on the city’s Willets Point redevelopment plan.

Queens Councilman Tony Avella believes eminent domain abuse will be a big issue in the 2009 election.

“We’re talking about three neighborhoods in three different boroughs,” said Avella, one of only two declared candidates for mayor (the other is U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner).

“It’s a fundamental American right to your own piece of property and your own business,” he said. “How can the city say, ‘We need your property, not for a school or a highway but for some rich guy so he can build a project to make more money’? It’s horrendous, and the risk is becoming more evident. If it happened to them, it can happen to you.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Unions: Redevelopment projects should have affordable housing guarantees"


Unions: Redevelopment projects should have affordable housing guarantees
Thursday, November 29th 2007, 4:00 AM

The city's major union leaders have secretly approved a new campaign to block future redevelopment projects in the city unless each includes tough new livable wage and affordable housing guarantees, the Daily News has learned.

The first salvo in the campaign will be fired Wednesday afternoon when hundreds of union members are expected to pack a City Council committee hearing to challenge the proposed $3 billion retail, entertainment and residential megaproject in Willets Point, Queens.

At that hearing, leaders of the city's Central Labor Council, the umbrella organization for 400 unions with 1.5 million members, will announce they want livable wage clauses required of all developers, owners and tenants connected to any new project where city rezoning is necessary.

Ever since the heyday of master builder Robert Moses, the city's labor unions have routinely backed the real estate industry's big development projects as a source of construction jobs.
Now, organized labor and the real estate industry could be on a collision course.

Construction union leaders are angry that the city has allowed hundreds of nonunion projects to flourish in the outer boroughs while assuring union jobs only on the biggest projects.

"[Mayor] Bloomberg and [Deputy Mayor Daniel] Doctoroff are upzoning dozens of neighborhoods all over town," one top union leader said. "They're creating huge windfalls for developers, trading air rights all over the place that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, our union members can't even afford to live in this city anymore. This has to stop."
The labor group's executive council met repeatedly over the past few weeks to work out details of the new campaign. Members include Ed Ott, director of the council; Randi Weingarten of the teachers union; Mike Fishman of Local 32BJ of the service employees union; Lillian Roberts of District Council 37 and Peter Ward of the hotel workers.

"I've never seen the labor movement so united on an issue as we are on this one," said another labor official, who asked not to be identified because the campaign has been kept secret until now.

A delegation from the Central Labor Council met recently with Bloomberg, Doctoroff and their top aides to warn them of organized labor's new policy. The group has also met with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).

If they can't reach agreement with City Hall and the City Council, the union chiefs say, they will launch a major public relations campaign, mobilize their members to attend City Council hearings and gear up to elect new candidates in the 2009 municipal elections who support the campaign.

Among the reforms the labor leaders want are major changes to the city's zoning laws, greater transparency in development projects and stronger teeth in the city's land review procedures, known as ULURP.

In the Willets Point project near Shea Stadium, the city's Economic Development Corp. has sought to buy up dozens of auto junkyards on the site and remove all the current property owners even before a rezoning plan is approved by the City Council and before a concrete redevelopment project is in place.

Since rezoning is the only part of the process in which the Council has a major say over big projects, union leaders want details of any labor standards spelled out before any such rezoning occurs.

The union leaders say they will be paying close attention to rezoning issues, something they have never done.

In a city like New York, where huge fortunes are being amassed in a Houdini-like manner by the sudden availability of new air rights, it's time that workers have a chance to share in that wealth, they say.

As part of the campaign, they will seek special zoning requirements for any new hotel construction as a way to prevent the spread of nonunion boutique hotels that have sprouted around the city in recent years.

"We're opening a whole new front in labor's fight for a decent standard of living," said another union leader.

amerock Nov 29, 2007 7:27:56 AM The last few months have been giving me a renewed pride in my union afiliation. I hope this trend continues and blue collar NYers can once again afford to live in the neighborhoods that are built with our sweat.

Frunkus Nov 29, 2007 6:59:23 PM We are not living in the 1920's anymore, the unions are like polio, they were a problem back then, but not so much now. Let the free market decided.

Three Members Resign From LDC

Three Members Resign From LDC
By Daniel Amzallag

Three members of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation announced their resignation Wednesday night, citing a lack of progress and corruption among local elected officials.

The resignation of Tom DeMott, CC ’80, Nick Sprayregen, and Luisa Henriquez—who have all been outspoken activists against Columbia’s proposed Manhattanville expansion—from the LDC, a non-profit organization created to develop a community benefits agreement with Columbia, comes days after a City Planning Commission decision approving the expansion’s rezoning plan. The plan must now be approved by the New York City Council, as part of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

“I feel that I cannot be part of a group that is negotiating with Columbia in a way that does not truly represent the wishes of those whom we represent,” said Sprayregen, who is also the largest private property owner after Columbia in the expansion footprint. “We have tried from the inside to steer things right, but we have been unable to do so. Now perhaps from the outside we can draw more attention to how corrupt this has become.”

Susan Russell, an officer of the LDC and chief of staff for City Council member Robert Jackson, D-West Harlem, expressed surprise and disappointment with the resignations. “They’re trying to make us look bad to make their point, but the fact is this local development corporation is a very excellent and hardworking body. We’re completing our mission to so many people,” she said.

“People always have different opinions about what’s in the best interests of the community, but for them to be disparaging this body ... is very unfortunate, and they are using this for their own political ends,” she added.

Henriquez, a resident of the expansion zone, cited a lack of transparency in the LDC as the reason for her resignation. “They are showing one thing in the meeting, we see one thing, and we hear other things,” she said. “They’re supposed to make meetings with the public, make a forum, and let the community know what’s going on. They haven’t done that, and they’re supposed to.”

Russell, who led an effort to oust Sprayregen from the board this summer, defended the practice of involving a limited number of people in negotiations. “It’s not like people are trying to exclude others, but there has to be a certain level of practicality there,” she said. “Everyone on that board is absolutely dedicated to this community, and I can say that without hesitation.”
DeMott, of the Coalition to Preserve Community, and Sprayregen pointed to problems they described with elected officials who serve on the LDC. Politicians have been working to “streamline” approval of rezoning regardless of effects to the community, DeMott said. “They were basically more interested in being friends of Columbia and big developers than they were in truly representing the community,” Sprayregen said.

Many of the elected officials on the board have conflicts of interest with the LDC’s objectives, Sprayregen said. He pointed to Jackson, whom Russell represents on the LDC, who as a council member has decision-making power over ULURP. “He’s serving two masters. You just can’t do it. It’s not right, it’s not ethical, and it doesn’t make sense,” Sprayregen said. Sprayregen also cited conflicts of interest concerning Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who in September endorsed Columbia’s plan after the University committed $20 million toward affordable housing and $11.25 million for the upkeep of the West Harlem Waterfront Park.

But the LDC consulted the City Council, the city’s conflict of interest board, and the counsels of numerous politicians before forming, and was declared appropriate because of its advisory function, Russell said. “We’ve done all the right things, we’ve taken all the appropriate steps. We’re about following rules, it’s what we do,” she said.

DeMott said he now aims to lobby the City Council to reject Columbia’s expansion plan in addition to urging Columbia donors not to give funds for the expansion. “We are very firm and clear in our conviction that we’re going to stop this plan where it comes. We’ll be out in front of the bulldozers, but before that happens, we will make sure that those who are thinking of contributing to this expansion plan will have second thoughts,” he said.

Columbia spokeswoman La-Verna Fountain declined to comment.

“We’re working hard. We really need to stay focused on our work,” Russell said. “I don’t believe that I in my work or the rest of the board for that matter can be distracted [by the resignations] in whatever we’re trying to accomplish.”

Daniel Amzallag can be reached at

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Law and Order Remixed

Published on The Cornell Daily Sun (
Law and Order Remixed
Created Nov 28 2007 - 12:01am

The Ivy League has historically symbolized the pinnacle of academic discourse and intellectual curiosity.

But if you’ve scanned the Ivy dailies or chatted with friends from other schools over Thanksgiving Break, you might have noticed that everyday life at least one member of the Elite Eight is starting to look more and more like an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

The University of Pennsylvania community has long endured a tidal wave of robberies, shootings, thefts and even murder. On Monday, the school received national media attention when tenured economics professor Rafael Robb pleaded guilty to manslaughter for bludgeoning his wife to death last Christmas and trying to cover it up as a robbery. As if that wasn’t enough, on Saturday night, gunshots rang out at a club located just blocks away from the Penn campus gates.

Columbia University has also seen its fair share of violence during the past year. Earlier this fall, four students were robbed at knifepoint while walking near Riverside Park. Additionally, this past April, a man was apprehended after raping and torturing a Columbia journalism student at her off-campus apartment.

As much as Cornellians complain about Ithaca, the truth is that our rural location gives us a sense of security to walk around late at night. According to the Clery Report, an annual publication with current crime statistics at colleges and universities, between 2004 to 2006, 151 accounts of burglary were reported on and off Cornell’s campus. At Penn, the reported figure was 221. While Dartmouth — a school with a comparable location to Cornell — reported 38 accounts of sexual offenses and aggravated assaults on and off-campus during the same time period, Cornell reported 24.

Cornell students are fortunate to be surrounded by more Blue Light phones than intimidating security guards with florescent vests. However, the threat of serious acts of violence is still ever-present, which is one reason why the University Assembly unanimously supported revising the Campus Code of Conduct in mid-November to extend the powers of the J.A. to serious off-campus offenses.

It is imperative for the University to protect its students. But it’s also detrimental to spend years deliberating the Code when time and resources can be put towards other ways of keeping campus safe. Rather than expending its energy on punitive measures once crimes have already been committed, Cornell could better serve its students by trying to prevent such acts in the first place. Strengthening the power of the J.A. to punish students will not create a safer campus environment — it will only widen the gap between undergraduates and administrators.

As Cornell continues to think about the best ways of keeping campus safe, it must recognize that criminality is different here than at its peer schools in West Philadelphia and Morningside Heights. Focusing on punitive rather than preventative measures is not the right approach to addressing crime at Cornell.

CB9 Responds to 125th Street Rezoning Proposal

Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2007 08:30:11 -0500
Savona Bailey-McClain thought you would like to see this page from the Columbia Spectator web site.

Message from Sender:
Fair article. Please share with others. Our voices are being heard. Savona

CB9 Responds to 125th Street Rezoning Proposal by jdavisson
Click here to read more on our site

CB9 Responds to 125th Street Rezoning Proposal
By Betsy Morais

After a Department of City Planning presentation on plans to rezone 125th Street, Community Board 9 responded with its own recommendations for land use Monday evening.

The meeting was originally scheduled to be a public hearing and committee vote on City Planning’s 125th Street proposal, as mandated by the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. CB9 held an information session instead because board members sought more time to scrutinize the commission’s plan. Community Boards 10 and 11, also involved in the rezoning, have already devoted much attention to the issue.

“125th Street is going to be a larger mess tomorrow than it is today. City Planning has got to realize that planning is about more than rezoning,” CB9 member Walter South said.

The meeting began with a Power-Point presentation by City Planning representative Edwin Marshall that outlined the agency’s plan, focusing particularly on how it would impact the CB9 area. The proposal, which began public review in October, is part of the Bloomberg administration’s citywide economic-development project. According to City Planning, it seeks to “sustain the ongoing revitalization of 125th Street as a unique Manhattan Main Street, enhance its regional business-district character, and reinforce the street’s premier arts, culture, and entertainment-destination identity.”

The plan requires buildings to have active ground-floor retail space to encourage local commerce and calls for the establishment of a Special Zoning District which would allow City Planning to tailor building form, control density, and regulate usage.

But the board expressed concern about the coverage area of the plan, which only goes as far west as Broadway.

CB9 member Savona Bailey McClain responded to the City Planning presentation with a set of recommendations, voicing the board’s desire to extend rezoning all the way to the Hudson River and across 12th Avenue. Elements of the city’s rezoning design “stifle development in our community,” McClain explained.

The recommendations also called for inclusion of West Harlem’s New Amsterdam District, which was omitted from the city’s rezoning outline. This is crucial, McClain explained, “so Columbia will not be the only economic engine. We want some independence.”

Marshall explained that the city had not put the New Amsterdam District in the plan because the commission was waiting for CB9 to complete its 197-a rezoning proposal. But he added, “We all agree—it needs to be looked at.”

McClain also addressed the issue of affordable housing—the board expressed dissatisfaction with the city’s guideline that 20 percent of new housing should be affordable—and encouraged the cultivation of economic and artistic growth in West Harlem.

Yet in the wake of Monday’s City Planning Commission vote on both CB9’s and Columbia’s Manhattanville rezoning plans, board members seemed more in the mood to question the CPC than to analyze the details of their recommendations.

After the 125th Street discussion came to a close, CB9 Second Vice-Chair Patricia Jones and planning advisor Ron Schiffman reported on their afternoon at the CPC. “There was a victory today, but it was buried in a lack of appreciation and a lack of concern for the people in this community,” Schiffman said.

Of the Columbia plan, he added, “It’s almost like asking the fox to design the chicken coops.”

Betsy Morais can be reached at

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Clubbed to Death

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Clubbed to Death
Modern-day Cotton Club faces some unsettling developments
by Erik Shilling
November 27th, 2007 4:46 PM

Not (quite) as white as the original
Elena Dahl

The Cotton Club isn't what it used to be—it isn't even where it used to be—but the current one is now older than the famous one at 142nd and Lenox, which closed in 1940. Also, people of color can go to the current one; several nights a week, crowds (of mostly tourists) show up at John Beatty's joint at 125th Street and Twelfth Avenue to listen to tunes and buy nostalgia.

At least, they can for now. Columbia University covets the club's land for expansion into Manhattanville above 125th. The odds may be against Beatty. Community Board 9 didn't declare the club historic in its 197(a) plan, which lays out the priorities for the West Harlem district, and Michael Novielli, a Columbia University spokesman, notes: "This Cotton Club on 125th Street and Twelfth Avenue should not be confused with the original—and historic—Cotton Club."

Beatty says Columbia first contacted him about a year ago to test his willingness to sell. He turned them down then, he says, and he'll turn them down again if they ask. "Under no circumstances will I sell," says Beatty, who already has a succession plan in place. "I want it to go down in history, go down through my family. That's the American way, right?"

He promises war: "What do you mean, 'not historic'? I'll have Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson. . . . They'll get a big fight, a big fight. Columbia's crazy."

When the school first approached Beatty, he says, its officials told him they were afraid he would sell out to a strip joint. "My theory," says Beatty, "is Columbia doesn't want any black folks in Harlem. But what Columbia doesn't understand is that 85 percent of my business is white." (Novielli won't comment, saying that it's Columbia's policy not to discuss current or future land deals.)

In the meantime, Beatty's planning for the future. "My grandson Tajh will take it over," he says. "My other grandson, Malik, will be his partner. He's 10." Tajh, 18, attends business college in Westchester and works at the Cotton Club on some weekends, while Malik buses plates and glasses on some nights.

On a recent Saturday night, the club showed no signs of slowing. A six-piece band played originals and old Motown hits to a packed house.

"Philly, Washington—is anyone here from New York?" singer Pam Cornelius asked, to laughter. (Probably no one but the 25 employees on hand are from the city; three tour buses are parked outside.)

Inside the reincarnated hot spot, Beatty was reminiscing. "I opened it when I was 40 years old," he said. "It was my dream." Now 70, Beatty opens up only when he's there, usually Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays. He'll open with as few as 30 reservations, and when there aren't 30, he keeps it closed. But when it's open, Beatty can be found sitting near the door by the memorabilia for sale: ashtrays for $5, T-shirts for $20, leather jackets for $150. Snapping it up are tourists from all over the world, like the Czechs and Japanese who came on a recent Monday for an evening of swing.

OK, so it's not the original Cotton Club. But pictures of Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington line the walls. On Saturday nights, waitresses, doormen, and Beatty himself don tuxedos, and coats are checked at the door. Cornelius and the six-piece band run through a menagerie of songs, heavy on the golden age of big bands. A buffet dinner of fried chicken, corn bread, and salad is served.

"My type of business doesn't change," says Beatty. Unless the bulldozers show up.

send a letter to the editor,shilling,78488,2.html

Letter to the Editor

A very good and timely article But I would clarify a couple of points.

CB9M does not Landmark buildings but it does recommends buildings to be Landmarked if the owners asks us and the criteria for Landmarking is met.

The Cotton Club for over 30 years has been a bright spot in WestSide Harlem particularly the area of Manhattanville at 125th Street and 12th Avenue.

CB9M would be proud to recommend Landmarking if Mr. Beatty so requests from our Landmarks Committee.

CB9M stands firmly with any owner that refuses to sell to Columbia University. In fact we have issued a Resolution which is now Board Policy to the effect that CB9M OPPOSES EMINENT DOMAIN, the taking of property from a private owner to be given to another private owner.

Columbia University is a private entity and although a "not-for'profit" it is not a Public Benefits organization in as much as it takes $60-$70K/year to send your child to CU for an undergraduate degree.

Thank you for the coverture.

J. Reyes-Montblanc
Community Board 9 Manhattan
565 West 125th Street 10027

Serving: WestSide Harlem:
............. * Mornignside Heights * Manhattanville * Hamilton Heights *