Sunday, May 06, 2007

Columbia's Exceptionalism

In this morning's NY Daily News there is an interesting story on the city's ongoing efforts to build 350,000 new units of affordable housing. As the paper points out, "With New York's housing market squeezed by high demand, city planners are seeking new urban frontiers for residential development."

Deputy Dan captures the Bloomberg zeitgeist when he tells the paper, "What we're doing is scouring the city for opportunities...We can't afford to let transit-accessible areas go undeveloped." Hey Dan, the Broadway local stops at 125Th Street and 137Th Street, and the 18 acres that Columbia University wants to develop all for itself should be considered prime for new housing. Or is Columbia's expansion an exception to the city's stated policy goals?

The essence of the city's new housing plans calls for the building of "high density housing," which means "high rises or voluminous, squat buildings, near transportation hubs." As usual, the debate centers around the need to make as much of the new housing affordable, and just what the term affordable actually means,

What is clear, however, is that Columbia's aim to upscale the West Harlem neighborhood that it is looking to build in, will create an unstoppable gentrification wave that will sweep through the surrounding working class neighborhoods. That is, unless the mayor and his planning minions intervene to alter the university's monolithic, Columbia-centric vision.

If they don't, then the comments of New School urban planner Andrew White will become prophetic: "'If we continue having the super-wealthy coming to buy second and third's going to be extremely difficult for anybody else to live in Manhattan.'" Which, as we have repeatedly pointed out, makes the effort to amend the Columbia expansion scheme all the more essential.