In this morning's NY Times, the Public Lives column focuses on the resistance to Columbia's expansion by our intrepid client Nick Sprayregen. As Nick tells the paper, “I would have never thought four years ago that I would get involved in a civil rights issue; I had never before considered myself as part of a minority that was being stamped upon.” He does now. “This is about the powerful growing more powerful at the expense of those who have less. Columbia is not a public university; what they’re doing by threatening to use eminent domain is as unethical from a business perspective as anything I’ve ever come across. Property rights abuse is running rampant, but what’s unique in this instance is that eminent domain always seems to be used against the down-and-out, people who can’t afford to fight back in a meaningful way. I can. But I think it’s anti-American that I’m probably on the losing side.”
Ironically, the recent City Council vote for the expansion plan has actually generated a great deal more support for the compromise swap proposal that Sprayregen has proffered to the university. Without going into great detail, since negotiations are delicate at this stage, everyone who has stood against Nick now is looking to become part of a compromise that avoids the battle that Nick is ready to wage.
And it only makes a great deal of sense, since it will create the kind of win-win situation that will do much to reduce the acrimony that the expansion plan has created. In the next few weeks, as the details of the plan emerge, we foresee a coming together of the sides that will allow Sprayregen to stay in West Harlem; and enable hundreds of local families to find affordable housing as well.