Monday, March 19, 2007

Ienuso Presents Columbia's Plans for Morningside to CB9 - Board Airs Its Concerns About Neighborhood Development

Ienuso Presents Columbia's Plans for Morningside to CB9
Board Airs Its Concerns About Neighborhood Development

By Alexander Peacocke
Issue date: 3/19/07 Section: News

Correction Appended

Discussion of development in Morningside Heights punctuated the monthly meeting of Manhattan's Community Board 9, held last Thursday night.
Joseph Ienuso, executive vice president of Columbia University Facilities, opened the meeting by presenting information on upcoming Columbia developments in and around Morningside Heights.
"We thought it would be a good idea to make sure you were all aware [of the projects]," Ienuso said. In his address to the assembled board members, Ienuso discussed the proposed changes to McVickar Hall on 113th Street, Knox Hall at Union Theological Seminary, developments to the top of Jerome Green Hall, and the Northwest Corner project.
Initially, some board members were concerned that the University intended to use explosives in the excavation of the Northwest Corner project, a science building set to be constructed where the tennis courts north of Dodge are currently located. While Ienuso said that the University's plan did not specifically call for the use of explosives, he did not rule out the possibility of their use.
"If there is a need for explosives, we would let the community board know," he said.
The meeting also featured addresses from several local activists speaking out against Columbia's Manhattanville expansion plans.
"We are winning the battle against Columbia's plan," Coalition to Preserve Community member Tom Kappner said. He alleged that under Columbia's plan, 4,000 jobs in the proposed area of expansion would be lost.
"We have to keep the WHLDC [West Harlem Development Corporation] on its toes," he added, referring to the group that is negotiating a community benefits agreement with Columbia.
"Its important for us to pose these questions to Columbia University, because it's a bizarre premise they are basing this [expansion] on," said Harlemite Michael Adams, referring to the University's presumption in a document prepared for the state that the area is blighted.
He also disputed claims that West Harlem property owners who have refused to sell to Columbia are simply trying to "extort" money out of the University. "This is what's known as compromise," he said.
CPC leader Tom DeMott took issue with University President Lee Bollinger's language during his appearance on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show on March 8, claiming that his use of the word "outsiders" in reference to Manhattanville business owners, represented the views of the University.
"The Columbia University Business School should be finding a way to help [West Harlem businesses]," he said.
At the meeting, Kim Russell, speaking on behalf of a group of tenants in apartment buildings owned by the Pinnacle Group, also announced the tenants had retained the law firm of Jenner & Block to file a class action lawsuit against the landlord. She said that the tenants would soon be proceeding with the what she called a "very important lawsuit."

CORRECTION: The headline on the original version of this article incorrectly characterized the subject of Ienuso's presentation. He was talking about development in Morningside Heights, not about Manhattanville.

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