Thursday, July 12, 2007

Columbia Slam-Dunked

In what has to be considered an enormous slap in the face, and a further indication of the depth of community antagonism to the Columbia expansion proposal, CB#9's land use committee unanimously approved an alternative proposal for the 18 acres that the university is looking to expand into. As the Columbia Spectator reports, "Over 400 CB9 members, West Harlem business owners and residents, Columbia students, and locally elected officials, crowded into the community center of the Manhattanville public houses to express their support of the plan...One by one, 50 people took the microphone and expressed distrust of and disdain for Columbia's expansion plan..."

Importantly, the 197-a plan, as it is called, would insure that the area be used for the creation of affordable housing-something that is totally absent in the Columbia proposal. As the Spectator reports elsewhere, the Columbia DEIS indicates pretty clearly that their expansion will cause considerable primary as well as secondary displacement.

In addition, the "bedrock" of the community plan, in the words of one local resident, is the prohibition against the use of eminent domain. Of all of the area's elected officials, however, only State Senator Bill Perkins came down to personally support the community alternative-raising questions among those present about where their electeds were standing on all of this.

Still, the community turn out was impressive, and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out as it becomes clearer and clearer that the Columbia expansion-much like the mayor's congestion pricing scheme-has elite support but not any grass roots love.