Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Columbering Along

With its consultants under fire, and the local community up in arms, Columbia University is proceeding with its expansion plans as if it has no care in the world. It apparently believes the old maxim: "In politics, clubs are trump."

As the NY Sun reported yesterday, the university played to a sympathetic audience over at the City Planning Commission at Reade Street. The CPC has never had any real interest in actually evaluating land use applications, preferring to rubber stamp whatever the mayor decides he wants. In fact, in over thirty years of watching these appointed folks we've never seen them take any independent stand on anything.

There certainly not going to begin with Columbia; and with the current Chair, the commission's only input on anything is with the aesthetics of a plan. A proposal could be wiping out an entire neighborhood, but if there is enough greenery in the community's demise, than you can count on our city's Burden to wax euphoric.

What makes the current battle interesting is the fact that there are actually two competing plans before the community board. The so-called 197-A plan-a plan backed by CB #9- would delimit what the university could do in the 18 acre site, in particular in regards to the taking of private property: "Central to the 197-a plan is the attempt to block the taking of private land by eminent domain, the potential use of which in West Harlem has riled critics of the project and has been steadfastly and unanimously opposed by Community Board Nine."

Yet Columbia, as the NY Times' City Room blog points out, is still as of yesterday insisting that its expansion is community-friendly. As President Bollinger told the CPC; "Everything we've done has been with the spirit of integrating a campus into a community..." Everything but actually negotiating face-to-face with community residents and property owners.

Clearly, the university's notion of integration differs from that of the community itself: somewhat along the lines of-"We integrated the community in order to save it." This entire matter is headed for a major confrontation and Columbia is whistling past the graveyard..