Monday, December 17, 2007

Columbia Enters Talks with Manhattanville Land Owner

Columbia Enters Talks with Manhattanville Land Owner
By Betsy Morais

Columbia began introductory negotiations Thursday for a land swap with Nick Sprayregen, the largest property owner in the footprint of the university’s Manhattanville expansion plan.

Tuck-It-Away Associates President Sprayregen has introduced his proposal for a land swap with Columbia on numerous occasions—in the press, in a letter to the Empire State Development Corporation, and at a City Council hearing Wednesday—but this was the first direct contact he or his lawyer, Norman Siegel, have had with the university in three years.

Sprayregen offered to trade three of his properties on the west side of Broadway, where Columbia seeks to build its Manhattanville campus, for university-owned buildings on the east side. Although said Sprayregen would prefer to maintain ownership of 3261 Broadway, 614 W. 131st St., and 655 W. 125th St., he believes his compromise is a more desirable alternative than potential eviction by eminent domain.

According to Siegel, he and Sprayregen met for about 50 minutes with Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, Columbia lobbyist Bill Lynch—creator of the Coalition for the Future of Manhattanville, and a lawyer for the university. They discussed the land swap in “general terms,” Siegel explained, who described the meeting as “pleasant.”

“I’m sure we’ll talk in the near future,” Siegel said, at which point Sprayregen will outline his property trade proposal in further detail.

Columbia spokesperson LaVerna Fountain declined to discuss the status of the University’s negotiations with Sprayregen and Siegel, but said in a statement, “Our goal has always been to reach successful agreements with all property owners within the 17 acres of the proposed expansion zone.”

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