Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Columbia's Evictions

At last night's West Harlem LDC meeting the community confronted the negotiating designee about its purported failure to draw the line on the use of eminent domain. As the NY Sun reports, numerous speakers told the LDC that it should stand up for the area's local businesses.

Not everyone agreed, however. As the paper says Susan Russell, chief of staff to Councilman Robert Jackson, wondered "Where would it leave the community if we didn't negotiate?" This is, as we would say, a false dichotomy since it isn't necessarily an either or situation. But we could also point out that the position of Ms. Russell presupposes that her boss doesn't have the power to take a principled stand against aspects of the Columbia plan that he and the community might find objectionable.

We would disagree. If Bob Jackson draws a line in the sand on, let's say, affordable housing, we believe that he should be able to create a formidable coalition of his colleagues in opposition to Columbia, indicating to the university that it would need to change course. Russell's position, however, seems to cede all of the power to Columbia, indicating that if the LDC doesn't negotiate (beg nicely?) it will get nothing. You simply can't negotiate from a position of weakness, which is precisely what Russell (and the LDC?) seems to be doing.