Monday, November 26, 2007

Columbia expansion wins key vote

crain's new york

Columbia expansion wins key vote
November 26. 2007 3:46PM
By: Anne Michaud and Kira Bindrim

The City Planning Commission accepted Columbia's expansion plan, while making expected modifications to the proposal.

Bloomberg News

The City Planning Commission, as expected, approved Columbia University's controversial plan to rezone 17 acres in West Harlem for an arts, business and science campus with modifications to the university’s proposal – crossing the last hurdle before the plan moves to City Council.

10 of the Commission's 12 present members voted in favor of the expansion, with one against. One other abstained, citing a provision in the plan that would allow the university to use eminent domain to acquire land for the expansion.

But the Commission also announced a series of expected modifications, including the elimination of two proposed academic research buildings along Broadway, which will be replaced with university housing and academic facilities. However, the Commission remained mum on the question of eminent domain rather than deny community requests to block the mandate. It also ignored requests from community leaders that Columbia tie its expansion to goodies for the surrounding neighborhood.

Additional alterations include trimming the maximum height for two buildings, adding open space on 125th Street and creating a light manufacturing zone in the area west of Twelfth Avenue. Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said the agency would also continue working with a competing land-use plan from Community Board 9 197-a.

Columbia’s proposal will now move to the City Council for a final vote, marking the culmination of more than four years of work by the university, which has been buying up land and properties in the neighborhood of the campus-to-be and now owns more than 70% of the area. The university wants to spend $7 billion to build as many as 18 towers with classrooms, offices, student housing and laboratory space, which will give it the facilities to compete with other world-class institutions.

Despite community opposition, there was little doubt that the university would get what it wanted, albeit with a few caveats. At the request of Borough President Scott Stringer, Columbia has agreed to endow a $20 million Manhattanville Neighborhood Preservation Fund, which, together with other measures, would preserve or create 1,139 housing units. The school will also provide $4 million to fund an anti-harassment legal assistance program to address indirect residential displacement, according to the Commission. The West Harlem Local Development Corp., which is negotiating a community benefits agreement with Columbia, is said to be asking for another $100 million in housing funds.

After the City Council votes, the university must submit a general project plan to the Empire State Development Corp., which has the final say over whether properties can be taken by eminent domain, against an owner's will.

Reader Comments

On 2007.11.26 03:12 pm, Clifford Sondock, President of the Land Use Institute said:
Columbia University is a private university. Thus, it is Consitutionally inappropriate for the Empire State Development Corp. to use eminent domain on behalf of Columbia University to expand its private university. That being said, the City of New York certainly has the authority to change the zoning; thus, allowing expansion of Columbia University, which would be both appropriate and a favorable event for both Columbia University and New York City's real estate market.The result of a rezoning without eminent domain would likely be a long-term phased expansion of Columbia University's campus and a more ethical and market-based approach.

Reply to this comment » Link to this comment »

On 2007.11.26 11:53 am, bernie martin said:
To keep the 'system' for which over a million people depend on everyday to get to work, sufficient and sustainable funds to budget for long term maintenance has to guarenteed. Otherwise the MTA will not be able to maintain a state of good repair
Reply to this comment » Link to this comment »

No comments: