Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Columbia Held Accountable: Is the LDC Doing its Job?

Tonight, at the Pentecostal Church at 541 West 125th Street, the Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC), will confront the West Harlem Local Development Corporation at a public meeting hosted by the LDC to take input from the community on the Columbia expansion plan. The LDC was set up to negotiate some of the key issues of concern that have been voiced by active members of the neighborhood.

CPC represents an umbrella group made up of many of the most vocal community members who are concerned with tenant and business displacement, and the use of eminent domain to accomplish this for the expanding university. The group will hold a press conference at 6:00pm in front of the church in order to articulate their concerns.

The locals are not only worried about the Columbia development, they are also dismayed by the feeling that the LDC may not be doing its job in negotiating on behalf of the community. As the group's press release states; "Members of the Coalition to Preserve Community will raise a number of issues regarding the accountability of WHLDC."

In particular, the group is incensed that the LDC has not responded more forcefully to Columbia's "it's all or nothing" negotiating stance. In addition, the CPC will be calling for an investigation of any conflicts of interest between elected officials on the LDC and Bill Lynch, recently hired by Columbia to represent the university's interest. It might also call for an investigation of the hiring of Jesse Masyr, a well-known real estate attorney, as the lawyer for an LDC that is supposed to represent the community.

Clearly, the Columbia development is not going to proceed smoothly until there is a more transparent and equitable process put into play. As we have pointed out, the Harvard example of inclusion stands in sharp contrast with Columbia's arrogant and tone deaf response to the local community. It is time for the political leadership of the these communities to take a principled stand on accountable development.