Thursday, December 13, 2007

Columbia Says Eminent Domain Would Not Affect Housing

Columbia Says Eminent Domain Would Not Affect Housing
By BENJAMIN SARLINSpecial to the SunDecember 13, 2007

Seeking to defuse outrage over the threatened use of eminent domain in its planned Harlem expansion, the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, and Vice President Robert Kasdin say they would not use the procedure to acquire residential property.

Local community board residents and members of the City Council, however, are insisting that the option be taken off the table entirely, including its possible use against commercial landowners.

The two sides clashed at a packed hearing in City Hall yesterday, interrupted at times by loud boos and applause, to discuss the planned development. "Under no conditions will Columbia University seek eminent domain with respect to any residential housing," Mr. Kasdin said. "We will not use eviction to further our project."

Council Member Tony Avella, the chairman of the Zoning and Franchises Committee, said he would vote against the Columbia plan unless they "do away with any use of eminent domain."

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, the chairwoman of Community Board 9, which includes the proposed expansion site, said the university must "cease the threat of eminent domain to intimidate owners into selling."

Mr. Kasdin said he believes negotiations would end standoffs between the university and the remaining landowners, which he said comprises three people controlling 10% of the property that would be developed.

One of the owners, Nick Spreyregen, will begin talks with Columbia today about a possible agreement, but said in a phone interview he is "not going to negotiate while eminent domain is still on the table."

Mr. Bollinger told the council that his and Mr. Kasdin's testimony "add up to a sense that we've established some trust between the college and surrounding neighborhoods," a statement that sparked a round of boos and hisses from audience members. Mr. Avella threatened to halt the hearing unless the crowd restrained themselves.

Mayor Dinkins testified in support of Mr. Bollinger's plan, saying that while Columbia's relationship with Harlem has not always been ideal, the proposed expansion "can and will be a good thing for both the university and its Harlem neighbors." Mr. Dinkins added that the plan would bring thousands of new jobs to the area.

NB - This is no news at all, CU announced their desire not to invoke eminent domain on residential buildings months ago. This reproter more than likely wan't even there for even on my better-looking days I have never been taken for a woman. JRM

Dear J. Reyes-Montblanc,
The comments you submitted at The New York Sun are now online. You can view them at:
Warm regards, The The New York Sun staff

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