In spite of a virulent and scurrilous effort to assassinate the character of Nick Sprayregen, a campaign that was a prelude to the effort to remove him from the board of the West Harlem LDC, the attempt to dump Columbia's chief opponent from the local group ended in failure the other night. As the Observer pointed out, the effort was spearheaded by Susan Russell, a key aid to Councilman Robert Jackson. Russell has been trying for months to have Sprayregen removed, actions that raise questions over her impartiality in the entire land use matter.
The reason for suspicion here lies with the fact that it is the university-and certainly not anyone in the community-that stands to benefit most from Nick's removal. The suspicion is increased because of the actions of the councilman himself, who went out of his way to praise Columbia for its putative magnanimity in declaring that it wouldn't seek to invoke the use of eminent domain to evict low-income tenants from the expansion footprint. This faux benevolence masked the fact the the university was still moving forward with its plan to relocate the tenants-against their wishes and without any direct discussions with them.
The underlying deceitfulness of all this is underscored and exacerbated by the down-and-dirty campaign being waged by Bill Lynch-formerly known as a progressive-and his partner in crime, the publicist to the stars, Ken Sunshine. The dissemination of scurrilous flyers is this pairs first attempt to make race and class-but not Columbia- the issue in the land use battle. This is necessary because a close look at the facts of the expansion-and its impact on the community-would not place Columbia-the second biggest landlord in the city-in the best light.
This is a mega real estate deal with a great deal of backroom dealing. After all, when you have Columbia, and the state agency that is empowered to determine whether Sprayregen's property is "blighted" sharing the same consultant, even the obtuse can see the foundation of collusion that characterizes this expansion.
Normally when confronted with this kind of a deal we observe that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Given who's advising Columbia, however, we think that the opposite is the case here. Sunlight, perhaps, but Sunshine-and all that goes with him- needs to be expunged with real a disinfectant if a real community-friendly expansion is to move forward..