Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Trader Joe Comes to West Harlem

In this morning's NY Sun, the paper reports on the decision by the Bloombergers to support the rezoning initiative of Manhattan BP Scott Stringer. As the Sun says; "The decision by the city was announced in a letter yesterday from commissioner of the Department of City Planning, Amanda Burden, to the president of Manhattan, Scott Stringer, who has been pushing new development and height restrictions. As Columbia's intended new development would transform an area that consists mainly of warehouses and industrial buildings, the planned expansion has already helped to raise land values in the area around the campus footprint, community leaders say."

Can anyone say horse trade here? It certainly appears as if the Bloomberg administration has offered its support for the Stringer plan in exchange for the BP's support of the current Columbia expansion. We can't believe that the support would be unconditional.

If so, this would be a disappointment since we have argued, persuasively we believe, that the Stringer plan is only a good first step, and is certainly no panacea for the kind of displacement impact that the university's expansion will have on the West Harlem community. In fact, if this is the trade than the only thing that the community is getting is the standard major league stand-by-either a "player to be named later,' or the time-honored "future considerations."

It most definitely doesn't compensate for the utter paucity of affordable housing in the existing expansion plan, and we're hopeful that the BP will play a more direct midwife role in a concrete response to the displacement issue, since, as the Sun points out; "With the City Planning Commission scheduled to hold a hearing on the subject next week, the university has yet to reach any agreement with the two major remaining private landholders in the campus footprint. The largest landowner, Nicholas Sprayregen, has put forward a proposal to swap land with Columbia and build hundreds of units of housing across the street, though he has yet to talk with the university about the plan."

It needs to reiterated, especially with the questioning concerning Lee Bollinger's leadership role during the current Ahmadinejad flap, that the CU president has yet to reach out to address the community on the use of eminent domain, and his "my way or the highway" approach may lead to more grief then the university has bargained for here.