Friday, August 10, 2007

Columbia and the "Outsiders"

As we approach the first community board deliberation over the Columbia expansion plan-a vote is scheduled for August, 20th-we can begin to see how the university is desperately trying to tarnish its opponents in order to deflect attention away from the fatal flaws in its vision for a total gentrification of West Harlem.

The diversionary tactics involve organizing the booty capitalists, and stigmatizing Nick Sprayregen, Columbia's bete noir in the expansion battle. As one of Bill Lynch's minions told the Columbia Spectator; "'There are people who are for this, and those people need to get their voice heard.'" Perhaps so, but none of these Columbia aficionados are the residents of the Till houses who are being evicted.

There was once a time when folks like Bill Lynch would have been on the front lines in defense of these tenants, but at $40,000 a month Lynch's priorities have been dramatically altered. As Tom Lehrer remarked about the shifting allegiances of the rocket scientist Werner Von Braun: "A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience. Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down. That's not my department, says Werner Von Braun."

Race baiting, however, is apparently harder to jettison. Enter Mr. Sprayregen who is, according to one of the Lynchites, "a wealthy developer from Westchester" trying to make believe that he represents the community when it should be clear that he's only interested in making a buck. And this is from a firm making an ill-deserved 40 grand a month while representing an institution that sees the eviction of low income tenants as in the community interest?

Will not Columbia's lion eyes be struck blind? Lost in this bit of sleight-of-hand is the inconvenient existence of a real community organization-CPC-representing scores of local groups and vehemently opposed to the university's solipsistic vision. Instead the lying Lynchers, in a blatant attempt to change the subject to Nick, try to fob off the following disinformation: "Wardally {Lynch acolyte Kevin} said the goal was to 'let them know who the opposition in this case really is.'"

Well, the flyers they're giving out don't point out the Columbia expansion is opposed by all of these community folks. No way. So Lynch doesn't really want to inform, so much as to divert attention and misinform. And the phony first amendment scholar who presides over this once great university has the gall, while trying to distance the university from Lynch'e gutter tactics, to call Sprayregen-a community business owner for over thirty years-an "outsider."

The blatant hypocrisy of these tactics have done little, however, to move the hearts and minds of the community. Oh yes, we almost forgot. There is a community board that is on record strenuously opposed to the Columbia land grab. Did Nick Sprayregen suborn all of those folks on CB9 who unanimously voted in favor of the 197-a plan?

And, as Crains In$ider reports this morning, the local board is more than likely to reject the university plan when the board takes it up later this month. These are the facts on the ground in West Harlem, and no astro-turf effort will change them.

But Lynch needs to be careful here. His efforts to stigmatize can easily turn around and bite him on his ample behind-he's opened a Pandora's Box. No one's going to sit back here and turn the other cheek. When the counterattack begins all of those who are on, or who are looking to get on, the Columbia gravy train will be exposed for the self-serving double dealers that they are. And when the larger community gets this message, there are certain elected officials who will soon see the handwriting on the wall.