Without a doubt, the Columbia expansion plan will be a boon to property owners around the proposed footprint of the new campus. This was brought home a few months ago when the Manhattan Institute's Julia Vitullo-Martin observed how the university's expansion would "spike" West Harlem's real estate prices.
Which is the key point that we have been making all along. The expansion will have a disparate impact on folks in the community; some of the people who are fortunate enough to own property will find that, "Columbia is going to make a whole lot of people in Harlem very happy." While others, such as Luisa Henriquez, who is one of the 400 or so tenants who will be uprooted by the expansion, will be victimized; "We do not want to be moved out...Columbia moving in is a bad thing because Columbia isn't willing to share. They want everything."
What all of this underscores is the need to mitigate through collaboration. The current Columbia plan, one that is bereft of any affordable housing, needs to be modified. There is no reason why Ms. Henriquez needs to be uprooted from her neighborhood, or why thousands of other Harlem residents should be pushed out of their apartments as rents rise post development.
In order to do this, the current application needs to be withdrawn and a plan to build affordable housing needs to be added to the proposal. We have already said that the largest property owner in the Columbia footprint is on board for this modification, and he is willing to play a major role in the housing development. The Columbia-centric plan must be held in abeyance and a better concept, one that is more West Harlem friendly, needs to be brought forth.