Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Perkins Says Columbia Must Remember Community Concerns

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Perkins Says Columbia Must Remember Community Concerns
By Melissa Repko

Senator Bill Perkins, D-West Harlem, fielded questions from residents within the footprint of Columbia’s proposed expansion zone at the Manhattanville Community Center on Monday night.

At the meeting, Perkins criticized behind-the-scenes negotiations between the city and Columbia and stressed that community concerns must be taken into account as the University’s proposal for a 17-acre campus moves forward.

Perkins emphasized that residents of the area must fight for those who might be displaced from their apartment without their consent. “These are the little people who, in my opinion, may wind up, if not with the right kind of support, being taken advantage of. And we don’t like that, we don’t want that, do we?” he asked a crowd of around 60 people who answered with a loud no.
At a recent meeting, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development laid out two principles to safeguard the rights of tenants, according to Donald Notice, executive director of West Harlem Group Assistance. Notice said HPD and West Harlem Group Assistance pledged to only support a move if 100 percent of tenants agreed to it. The two organizations also agreed to move residents back into buildings currently under construction rather than handing the vacated buildings over to the University.

But Tom DeMott of the Coalition to Preserve Community said that the principles are not in agreement with Community Board 9’s 197-a plan which would force Columbia to integrate itself into the area without displacing tenants. He also said that the 100 percent vote excludes the opinions of the surrounding community. “It may not be our building, but it is our neighborhood,” he said.

Roberto Rosello, a resident of 3289 Broadway, said that the understanding between HPD and West Harlem Group Assistance must be in writing for tenants to stand on it. Perkins agreed and told Notice to send a memo to HPD to confirm the two items in a written document.

Several audience members’ phrasing of comments subtly questioned the backbone of the plan and drew parallels between Perkins’ comments and other political deals they saw as shams—notably Scott Stringer’s recommendation of Columbia’s expansion plan after he emphasized his support of the community.

“What Scott Stringer does is between you and Scott Stringer,” Perkins responded. “This is Bill Perkins here, so I don’t want you to be telling me that because of Scott you are going to judge me with your experience with Scott.”

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