Sunday, June 03, 2007

Columbia Wins Brownie Points

In today's NY Daily News, the paper editorializes in favor of the plan by Columbia to expand its campus into West Harlem. No shock there. After all, the paper has yet to oppose any development project anywhere in the city, and the level of community opposition or the amount of small business displacement barely makes a dent on its radar (except as fodder for ridicule).

Still, it was a bit disconcerting to read the mischaracterization of the nature of the opposition to the DCP decision to certify Columbia's land use application for a summer review by the local community board. It seems the righteous concern of the locals that the summer review process is underhanded, is seen by the News board as "a descent into the rhetorical gutter
..." Did the News, which had three reporters at Friday's press conference really convey this atmosphere back to their fearless leader at 34th Street?

Couldn't the paper take the time to fairly review and report on the letter that was sent to CPC Chairwoman Burden detailing the reasons for the community board's protest? It would have been nice since there was a Daily News blackout on the press conference itself, leaving readers of the paper to rely on a misleading and tendentious editorial for any "news" about the substance of the community protest.

The editorial goes on to tell its readers that CB#9's protest is "cynical posturing," since "Columbia has met at least forty times with community groups." And this inside information comes from whom? Did the ed board meet with anyone from the community board or the LDC to get their side concerning these wonderful in-depth negotiations?

In the end the News concludes that, "Perhaps, Columbia can do more. The way to find out is through civil negotiations rather than overheated obstructionism." That would indeed be welcome, especially by the folks whose property is about to be taken-something that the editorial somehow fails to mention.

The reality is that once the ULURP process begins meaningful negotiations are made more difficult. Columbia, which has been doing more shucking and ducking than negotiating, needed to have an agreement in principle before any land use application was submitted for certification.

The fact is that there is, as of yet, no common ground between the LDC and the university. And for the next seven months Columbia will be spending more energy on bogarting the community than working out an agreement that is fair to all of the affected stakeholders. If it does fail to negotiate in good faith, than we can expect a good deal of "overheated obstructionism" from the community, and further obscurantism from the News editorial board.