Friday, September 07, 2007

No ExSpectorating CU Land Swap

In a follow-up to the post done by the Observer's Matthew Scheurman, the Columbia Spectator has written a more comprehensive story on the proposal by Nick Sprayregen to swap properties with the university in order to build affordable housing. As the paper reports; "For the past three to four months, Sprayregen and his 'advisers,' as he referred to his architects, his lawyer Norman Siegel, and other professionals he is working with, have been creating a new proposal that, while a second choice to holding on to his current property, would give Sprayregen more space and allow Columbia to build a contiguous campus."

While Sprayregen told the Spectator that he feels the almost unanimous opposition to the Columbia plan makes his fight against the use of eminent domain that much more winnable, he's willing to compromise if it means that the community can come out ahead; "As part of Sprayregen's plan, he would build about 1,000 units of housing. A percentage of the units would meet West Harlem residents' standards of affordability, but he does not know exactly how much."

The level of affordability is something that needs to be worked out with the university and the area's elected officials. However, given Columbia's stated desire to help spur affordable housing for West Harlem it isn't a stretch to envision that the university could, through the creation of a housing trust fund- if it really wants to be a major stakeholder in keeping the neighborhood truly diverse- insure the affordability of the great majority of the 1,000 units.

To its credit Columbia, while not commenting on the specifics of the Sprayregen concept, has been responsive to the public appeal of the swap, saying that it was open to negotiation. As university spokeswoman Laverna Fountain told the Spectator; "'We absolutely would talk to him, no questions asked.'"

In the coming weeks, we believe that the Sprayregen Swap will begin to gain more and more adherents, in the community as well as among elected officials and housing advocates. It will because it makes so much sense; and especially if it ends up with the neighborhood getting the affordable housing that the community desparately needs, and the current Columbia expansion plan lacks.