Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ED Seeks Council Viagra

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance
Protecting Neighborhood Business For Over 20 Years
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ED Seeks Council Viagra
In today's NY Sun, the paper reports on the first City Council hearing on the Columbia University expansion plan. In the Sun's take the issue of eminent domain may roil the entire expansion plan: "A fight over the use of eminent domain is shaping up at City Hall, as the City Council approaches a vote on Columbia University's plan to expand its campus by 17 acres in Harlem."

Perhaps, but unfortunately our take is that the taking of people's property will not be the salient issue at play-except for a handful of council members-as the expansion plan gets evaluated during the city council review process. Tony Avella, among all 51 members of the body, is the only council member who is certain to oppose the project on the eminent domain grounds.

The area's local representative, Council member Jackson had this to say to the Sun: "Columbia has said they are willing to negotiate with the remaining land owners," Mr. Jackson said, suggesting that the issue may be resolved without legal action. "I'm hoping that a consensus can be reached." The key here will be the extent to which the university exhibits good faith.

As we stand at this hour there are some discussions going on behind the scenes on a number of key fronts-and they all involve the proposed swap of properties that has been advanced by our client Nick Sprayregen. The swap proposal is important because it addresses some of the key deficiencies of the expansion plan.

With all due respects to the salience of the ED issue, the expansion proposal's most prominent failure lies with its inability to confront-and to mitigate-the issue of direct and indirect displacement; an issue that lies at the heart of the EIS, and is therefore directly correlated to the land use process. What is Columbia doing about the potential displacement of 5,000 local residents?

This is the issue that should concern Messrs Jackson and Dickens, the lawmakers whose constituents will be the ones in the path of the CU bulldozer. And it is precisely, the swap plan that addresses this in at least a partially effective manner. If through the swap, we can build almost 1,000 units of affordable and workforce housing than there will be at least partial mitigation of the gentrifying tsunami that's known as Columbia expansion.

In the next few days, the shape of the negotiations will become clearer, and we will see if the elected officials and the university are able to advance this concept for the good of all of the stakeholders. We're cautiously optimistic.

# posted by Neighborhood Retail Alliance @ 6:59 AM

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