Friday, December 14, 2007

Swap Stories

In the first meeting with Columbia, West Harlem property owner (and our client) Nick Sprayregen outlined the proposed swap he's been working on that would allow him to retain ownership of his properties in exchange for a move into space owned by the university across Broadway. Without revealing any details, the initial encounter was "productive," and in all likelihood further discussions will be held next week.

Clearly, the swap plan has gotten every one's attention. As the Spectator reports: "Sprayregen has yet to negotiate with Columbia directly, but has come up with a land swap plan that he raised during the hearing. The swap would offer desired buildings to Columbia so the University would not have to use eminent domain to acquire them. Jackson offered his assistance to Sprayregen and Siegel to promote the idea of a property swap, but criticized them for not bringing the plan to him directly."

The main point here is that Jackson, someone who has until this point indicated no real public sympathy for Sprayregen or grass roots community concerns, clearly understands the way in which the swap idea has any number of community benefits-while at the same time giving the university and the council legitimate public interest cover.

In his statements at the hearing Jackson, as well as Council member Dickens, made it clear that Columbia needed to do more-particularly in the crucial area of affordable housing: "City Councilman Robert Jackson, D-Washington Heights, and City Councilwoman Inez Dickens, D-Harlem, raised questions about what Columbia has done to meet the needs of the community, particularly regarding affordable housing. Kasdin explained that the University is committed to providing housing for residents in Manhattanville, especially for those in the CB9 district."

Enter Sprayregen and labor with a plan that addresses the housing issue, but in addition, removes potential legal roadblocks to a full speed ahead for the university and all of its construction jobs. The timing is indeed right.