Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Columbia: Can We Talk?

Matt Schuerman's Observer Real Estate Blog has commentary on the CB9 vote the other night against the Columbia expansion. The take on what transpired? That there is still plenty of room to negotiate a compromise that incorporates a good deal of wehat the CB would like to see in the expansion plan. The view is shared by Councilman Jackson who told the Observer; "They laid a framework for negotiation...I'm looking at this with open eyes and an open mind."

What was interesting was the comments of Columbia's executive vice president for facilities, Joseph Ienuso. Mr. Ienuso said that the university was examining whether it could still expand, given that it already controls 85% of the area in question, without the use of eminent domain-a major sticking point for the community. As he said; "That's a good question that's part of the analysis that we will be looking at between the draft (environmental impact statement) and the final EIS."

It seems to us, however, that the major bone of contention will revolve around the issue of affordable housing-something that we have underscored from the very beginning. It appears that the university may be willing to set up some sort of housing trust fund, but the sticking point is where the housing would be built (and if any of the housing would be included in the proposed 18 acre expansion area).

A commitment to affordable housing, at least as it seems to us, should involve a commitment to actual brick and mortar-real housing that's affordable to real people. As President Bollinger told AMNY, the university would like, "to achieve a sense of integration with the surrounding communities...That is important to say, but very difficult to do." A real commitment to housing would be a giant step in the right direction. If CU can figure out how to do this-and we're glad to be of help-than they just might be able to mollify a good proportion of the community.