Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Eminent Grist

As the ESDC charade on the use of eminent domain continues, it appears that, at least according to the NY Sun, that Columbia honcho Lee Bollinger is looking for "conciliation." Nothing in the story, however, indicates the manner in which the university hopes to achieve this laudable goal as landowner Mick Sprayregen (out client) continues to vow to fight the taking of his property: "Facing the prospect of a drawn-out legal battle with at least one private landowner, the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, is seeking conciliation in the final stages of the approval process for Columbia's $6 billion expansion plan."

The opportunity for real conciliation would mean that Columbia would become proactive in entertaining the kind of creative compromise that Sprayregen has proposed to create housing in exchange for his swapping property with the university. Conciliation, he should realize, is not something that can be reached posthumously-a state that would result from the successful effort to use eminent domain in the sole private benefit of Columbia.

The continues presence of former mayor David Dinkins in all of this has become offensive. The fact that this has been, and failed mayor, is actually teaching students-or going through the motions according to reports we've seen-is satire enough; unless he's having students gain insights by learning from his mistakes. Dinkens told the Sun: "Earlier in the day, Mayor Dinkins testified in support of Columbia's plan. He said the opposition to the plan was being fanned by "two or three people, yelling and screaming. That doesn't make it controversy."

It must have been earlier in the day, since any later and Dinkins would have joined Charlie Rangel snoozing on the beach-as the two octogenarians need their beauty rest. To bring someone to testify who's been given a sinecure at the university, only further exposes the tawdry nature of Columbia's land grab. New York's eminent domain law may be in for some real forced change, and the university a long problematic battle: the Sprayregen/Siegal lawsuit is that strong.