Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Columbia Contraction

In what appears to be another strong example of the dissent that the Columbia expansion plan has generated, the Office of Manhattan Borough President has indicated that it may well oppose the university's proposal if some significant adjustments aren't made. As the Spectator is reporting: "A representative for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said Friday night that unless significant modifications were made, Stringer would vote to reject Columbia’s proposed Manhattanville expansion."

The apparent dissatisfaction of BP Stringer comes on the heels of CB9's almost unanimous rejection of the university's proposal last month. Clearly, some major alterations are going to need to be made here if the university is to successfully navigate the ULURP process. This is something that Columbia now looks like it is finally recognizing. As the Spectator observes: "Columbia officials have signaled that they are willing to make concessions to gain approval for the project. “I anticipate over the coming months concerns that have been raised will be addressed, and a satisfactory outcome will be arrived at,” said Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin."

The Stringer opposition comes from the BP's awareness that Columbia's expansion will likely have a significantly negative effect on the ability of the existing neighborhood residents to remain in the community that they live in. As Stringer's land use chief told the Spectator, referring to the Stringer special district zoning proposal, the CU plan would displace thousands of local residents: "Borelli said the special district aimed to “preserve the existing physical and social character of West Harlem” and “address the potentially negative secondary impacts that large scale development and other real estate pressures would otherwise have on the community.”

All of which should give the Sprayregen Swap some additional momentum. This is the plan that the area's leading property owner has proposed that would allow for the building of a large number of affordable housing units, while at the same time permitting Sprayregen to retain certain of his property rights in the neighborhood that he has helped stabilize for the past thirty years.

Now we all await the proactive response of Columbia. Will they be able to walk the walk? Will Bill Lynch become useful, earning his enormous retainer? These and other questions will be on the agenda tomorrow when the BP holds his land use hearing at City College. Stay tuned.