Thursday, December 13, 2007

Columbia expansion opposed in heated hearing

Columbia expansion opposed in heated hearing
By David Freedlander,
amNewYork Staff Writer
More stories
December 13, 2007

Opponents and backers of Columbia's planned expansion into Manhattanville took their fight to City Hall Wednesday in a packed and tense public hearing. "We will be here for as long as it takes," said Tony Avella, chair of the City Council's Zoning Committee, told the hundreds of people who filled the gallery for the mid-day session that stretched on for more than six hours of testimony from both sides of the battles.
"This is the people's house. We will make sure everybody has a right to be heard," Avella said.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger stressed the central role the university plays in the life of New York City and the nation, stressing that it's vital for the campus to expand into 17-acres of Manhattanville to build research labs and student housing.

"Through the university so much of what we value in American life was derived," he said. "This is an extremely important institution. It's health and future depends on having the space to do the kind of work we have to do."
Community board members and representatives from other area groups said Columbia's expansion would displace longtime residents and destroy the neighborhood's historic character.
"The issue was not whether Columbia should expand but how they should expand," said Patricia Jones, chairwoman of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation.
Although Columbia's plan has already passed the City Planning Commission and is widely expected to pass the Council, yesterday's hearing was not without discord.
Although Bollinger testified, Columbia would not use eminent domain against residential properties, Avella said he wanted similar commitments made for commercial properties.
"I stand with you," he told the plan's opponents. "I'm not going to support a form of the Columbia plan with any kind of eminent domain."
Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), meanwhile was a little more forthcoming when he interrupted Avella."Be vigilant in this process," Barron said. "Their history has shown that they can not be trusted."
A second public hearing is slated for January.

No comments: