Monday, November 26, 2007

TODAY: Citizens to Face Down Commission on Columbia's Eminent Domain Abuse

Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2007 08:02:04 EST
Subject: TODAY: Citizens to Face Down Commission on Columbia's Eminent Domain Abuse

"Small lots will support resilience because they allow many people to attend directly to their needs by designing, building, and maintaining their own environment. By ensuring that property remains in many hands, small lots bring important results: many people make many different decisions, thereby ensuring variety in the resulting environment."
--Anne Vernez Moudon in Built for Change

Manhattanville Preservation Alliance
Former Sheffield Farms Stable
3229 Broadway in Old West Harlem
New York, New York 10027

November 26, 2007 Mary Habstritt, 917-709-5291


EVENT: City Planning Commission SPECIAL MEETING on Manhattanville

TIME/DATE: Monday, November 26, 1:00 p.m.

PLACE: Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street, New York, NY

Residents, business owners, members of community organizations, historians, and activists working against eminent domain abuse will gather to bear witness when the City Planning Commission votes on the fate of Manhattanville. If, as expected, the commission votes for Columbia University’s 197-c re-zoning plan and against the Community Board 9’s 197-a development plan, citizen discontent may boil over.

Columbia’s plan will result in the demolition of 17 acres of late 19th- and early 20th-century low-rise industrial buildings now occupied by a wide range of small businesses, artists, and entrepreneurs. In order to obtain the parcels of private property it does not yet own--one of which is the historic Sheffield Farms Stable--it has called upon the Empire State Development Corporation to exercise eminent domain.

Community Board 9, in addition to creating its own plan for more organic development which would preserve the neighborhood’s streetscapes, historic buildings, affordable housing and small businesses, has specifically asked Columbia to take eminent domain off the table as part of its competing plan. Columbia has refused to do so for commercial property, threatening several small businesses

Within the 17 acres, only three historic buildings are to remain intact. These are the Studebaker Building, the Warrant Nash Building, and the West Market Diner. In spite of plans not to demolish these and Prentis Hall, a former dairy, at the edge of the project zone, no legal protections have been required to protect them in the long-term. To make up for demolition of 17 acres, these significant buildings should be designated as New York City landmarks to protect them from future destruction. The Sheffield Farms Stable should additionally be preserved from the wrecking ball.

“Despite the University’s public relations claims that its plan preserves the neighborhood’s historic character, this appears to be an entirely specious assertion inasmuch [as] the plan calls for an expansion area devoid of all but four buildings,” said local historian Eric K. Washington, author of Manhattanville: Heart of Old West Harlem, in earlier testimony before the commission. Rather than preserving the neighborhood’s historic character, he said it was akin to chloroforming it.

The agenda for the special meeting is available online at

The Manhattanville Preservation Alliance is a neighborhood-based organization that seeks to identify, document, and designate historic structures in west Harlem. Manhattanville is undergoing major changes that will dramatically change the face of the neighborhood for those who live, work, and own businesses here. Our aim is to ensure that vital connections to the past are retained, through the preservation, re-use, and rehabilitation of the historic buildings that define the character of our neighborhood.

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