Friday, August 17, 2007

Dinkins Dissed in Harlem

As the NY Press reported yesterday, and as the NY Daily News reports this morning, former New York mayor David Dinkins, came back home to Harlem only to be booed by residents opposed to the Columbia expansion plan. Dinkins, currently a paid university employee, told the hearing at CBM9 that he supports the use of eminent domain to facilitate the expansion. The former mayor's reception is a strong indication of the depth of the opposition to Columbia's development proposal.

The meeting was heated, with the local community opposition pitted against bus loads of union folks who support the job-generating aspects of the Columbia plan. The tactic was lambasted by CB Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc who told the Press; "'Columbia made a big mistake...They brought in union reps and busload of people from all of the areas of Harlem who are in some sort of program run by or influenced by Mr. Lynch.'

The Lynch in question is none other than Bill Lynch, the $40,000/month man who has been hired to create the impression that there is real community support for the university's development scheme. But, as one Columbia student told the Press concerning the poor reception received by the university, "'Columbia had it coming for them this whole time by excluding the community on every step of the way...Columbia wasn't listening to the community.'" The work of Lynch will not change this basic dynamic.

So now the anti-Columbia resolution goes to the full board for a vote next Monday. It goes without saying that the vote is non-binding but it does, as the Press says, bolster "the board's assertion the West Harlem community doesn't support the school's proposed expansion in the form it now exists." No wonder the Lynchites are trying to make Nick Sprayregen the focal point-anything to take the attention away from how the neighborhood feels about the city's second largest landlord.

That being said, the Columbia Spectator is reporting, as is the City Rooom Blog, that both sides feel that there is still room for compromise. CU spokesman, Robert Kasdin, told the Spectator, "It's not a vote against {the plan}. It's a vote to negotiate." And the Spectator said that, CB9 board chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc supported the idea that both sides would have to give on certain issues and compromise is desirable." We'll just have to see if there is room for good faith here to gain traction.