Monday, November 26, 2007

Columbia's M'Ville Plan Likely to Pass

Columbia's M'Ville Plan Likely to Pass
By Melissa Repko
The New York City Planning Commission will vote on Columbia’s proposal to rezone Manhattanville and Community Board 9’s plan for the area’s future at a meeting today.

The commission’s vote is the second to last step in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a mandatory public review process that CB9’s 197-a and Columbia’s 197-c began in June. The vote—which is expected to favor Columbia—comes after months of heated debate over the University’s plan to expand into the area and the potential use of eminent domain. The area must be rezoned before Columbia can go forward with its plans to build a new campus there.

Indications that the commission will side more with 197-c come primarily from Amanda Burden, the commission’s chair, in a statement two weeks ago in which she stressed the similarities of the two plans’ goals. “We no longer have before us two radically different visions of land use in Manhattanville, but instead two different visions of how Columbia can and should grow in Manhattanville,” she said.

Burden said that the CB9 plan’s “fundamental failing” was that: “It limits the extent and manner in which Columbia can grow. The 197-a Plan promotes an irregular pattern of development which works against a coordinated growth strategy in comparison to the integrated development possible under the Columbia plan.”

She said her department would recommend the approval of the 197-a “with modifications that recognize the importance of accommodating the long term growth of Columbia University.” The Columbia plan, she said, must also undergo some modifications “to make it a better fit in the community.”

CB9 chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc said that he expects both plans to be approved with some changes, but added that he hopes that the commission aligns itself with the 197-a.

“It [Burden’s statement] seemed to be more in favor of 197-c than 197-a,” Reyes-Montblanc said. “One of her last statements was that Columbia has to plan with the community and get closer to the community.”

Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin said that he could not predict the outcome of the commission’s vote.

Burden addressed many of the concerns that arose when CB9 almost unanimously rejected Columbia’s 197-c in August, including the University’s proposal to build a below-grade structure under the campus.

“The Central Below Grade space is one of the most forward-thinking and significant elements of both Phase I and the entire plan, and it facilitates weaving the new Columbia facilities and open space into the fabric of the community,” she said in the statement.

Emphasizing her hope that eminent domain will not be necessary, Burden said, “Approval of the Columbia University plan would not be a vote in favor of eminent domain, and it is altogether possible that Columbia’s plan will be fully realized without eminent domain.”

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