This week the NY Sun did a story this week on the efforts of "storage king" Nick Sprayregen to prevent Columbia from heisting his property for its own expansion. There was also a piece in the Village Voice that focused on Nick and his battle. Both articles make much of the fact the Sprayregen has the means at his disposal to fight the university-a fact that shouldn't take away from the righteousness of his fight to keep his own property.
The truth is, however, that there are some folks who are doing everything possible to portray Nick as the rich "interloper," lacking any real concern for the interests of the community. Of course, this attack begs the question of the role of the much richer Columbia-and how much its expansion serves the interests of anyone besides Columbia. At the past few community meetings, however, we have been treated to flyers-given out by some rather homeless looking guys- from a group with no address or phone number. These missives attack Sprayregen; while simultaneously portraying Columbia as the community's white knight.
Anyone want to hazard a guess as to which political consultant-of rather over-inflated reputation-is sponsoring this trash? You'd think that for $40,000 a month one could at least do some actual grass roots organizing, and not some phony effort whose main feature is character assassination. The real community sees through this, and continues to support the fight against the university's use of eminent domain.
Missing in all of this is any attempt to devise a middle ground. In the Sun story Sprayregen tells the paper that he is willing to work with the university and collaborate with the proviso that is property is preserved. Columbia's response is that its buildings must be built to "university specifications," and that "the existing footprints of these private properties don't fit these academic research needs."
Oh, please! There are 18 acres here and, as the Observer points out, Columbia is busy buying up even more land in the neighborhood. There is room for changes to be made, and even executive vice president Robert Kasdin, Columbia's spokesman on this expansion says that, "Columbia is still open to alterations in the plan..."
Well we are going to put the university to the ultimate test of its sincerity-to determine just how much smoke they are all blowing. When we introduce the alteration in the coming weeks, we will see how the university responds-and to what extent is greed transcends the blithely stated spirit of compromise it puts forth to the press.