In yesterday's NY Daily News the paper's Errol Louis writes an epitaph for Develop Don't Destroy, the group that has tried to stop the Atlantic Yards project. In his column Louis points out that Daniel Goldstein, DDD's leader, is a relative newcomer to the area and his opposition is standing in the way of a myriad of benefits that could accrue to other less fortunate citizens of the Prospect Heights neighborhood.
Louis particularly objects to the David vs. Goliath narrative that opponents have promoted: "What might have once appeared to be a David-Goliath struggle of a few courageous Brooklynites fighting against a big, bad developer is actually a small group of Davids harming the interests of a thousand other Davids - fellow Brooklynites desperate for the 2,000-plus units of affordable housing that the development would provide."
Which brings us to the comparison between the two major eminent domain fights in the city-Atlantic Yards and Columbia. Our position is obviously biased by the fact that we have and continue to work for FCRC on the Nets coming to Brooklyn-something that we've always seen as meritorious. That being said, the use of the state power to take people's property should always be seen as problematic and, as we have commented, shouldn't be done without really good cause.
What strikes us about Columbia, in contrast with the FCRC efforts, is the almost total lack of engagement with the West Harlem community-and its leading business owner Nick Sprayregen. On top of this, there appears to be little community benefit on the table, certainly nothing that approaches the kind of affordable housing deal that was crafted in Brooklyn. Columbia seems to feel that its expansion, and its expansion alone, is something that should generate the concomitant community obeisance. "Just be thankful that we're here", seems to underscore the university's rhetoric.
The major issue all over the city is affordable housing-for the middle class as well as for the poor. There is no question that CU's expansion should be stymied if the university is unable to devise some concrete effort in this area. All of the community's elected officials should be four square behind this bedrock principle.