Monday, June 25, 2007

Columbia's Wreckage

In today's NY Post the paper reports on the ongoing battle waged by Columbia against its neighbors as it seeks to expand its campus into West Harlem. In today's story the focus is on a small auto mechanic who has been moved by the university and is complaining because he sees the handwriting on the wall: there will be no place for minority businesses when and if the university expands westward.

The Post story also reports on the strong comments on eminent domain from CB#9 chair Reyes-Montblanc. He tells the paper that, "'They won't get one square inch under eminent domain...If the area seems distressed and unoccupied, it's because it belongs to Columbia. They own it and they emptied it out.'"

The ED situation is complicated by the fact that the firm doing the "blight" study for the state, AKRF, is also retained by the university for its environmental review-a conflict of interest that has been brought to the attention of the courts and awaits a ruling shortly. Reyes-Montblanc also chastised the university for its proposed eviction of 132 residential units on the west side of Broadway-something that the university said they have an "unequivocal commitment" to resolving."

There ism, however, nothing unequivocal in the Columbia plan except the university's unbridled pursuit of its own self-interest. If that weren't so then Columbia would be announcing plans foe hundreds of new units of affordable housing for a community that is desperate to stave off further gentrification. Unfortunately, that's a commitment that the university doesn't have the integrity to make.