Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Columbia expansion heads to City Council

From: "Ruth Eisenberg"
To: "Jordi Reyes-Montblanc"
Subject: From NY Metro
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2007 12:24:52 -0500

Columbia expansion heads to City Council
by metro / ap / metro new york
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NOV 27, 2007

LOWER MANHATTAN. In a hearing packed with chanting protesters, the city’s planning commission approved rival proposals yesterday for Columbia University to acquire a tract of West Harlem to expand its cramped campus with new laboratories, housing and other facilities.

Ten of the 12 board members voted to send both plans to the City Council for a hearing next month and a final vote in January.

Officials said it would be up to the council to reconcile remaining differences in the Columbia proposal and the residents’ plan, which originally had sought to prevent what its sponsors called a dire threat to one of Manhattan’s oldest working-class, low-income neighborhoods.

Planning commission chair Amanda Burden said Columbia’s proposal had been significantly modified “to ensure that the university’s expansion and future development ... better respects and reflects neighborhood scale and character.”

Even so, project foes vowed to keep fighting.

“We just witnessed, in that room, an indication of the kind of sell-out politics that’s going on in developments all over the city,” said Tom DeMott, of the Coalition to Preserve Community, after the hearing. “In our neighborhood in West Harlem, we are now looking at an eviction plan. Plain and simple. One that is supported by the powers that be.”

Columbia’s $7 billion proposal would build new residential and academic buildings to expand space for science labs and business schools, while razing neighborhood apartments, warehouses and shops.

“We are grateful that the City Planning Commission ... has given such careful consideration to how our proposal can be improved and move forward in the best interests of both the University and the local community,” said Columbia President Lee Bollinger.

Columbia’s expansion has met significant opposition from students, some of whom held a hunger strike this month to halt the project.

“We know that the school can expand in a different way,” said Columbia student Victoria Ruiz. “It’s not acting like a school, it’s acting like a corporation. And students did not agree to attend a corporation.”


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