Monday, February 9, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 10

In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a

report

, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:


"(June 4, 2014) The District Attorney's Criminal Enterprise Unit and the NYPD's Gang Division conduct the largest 'gang raid' in the history of New York City. The operation uses four years of investigative work, nearly a hundred million dollars, and thousands of hours of surveillance observation to indict 103 teenagers and young adults for charges of conspiracy and assault. The defendants are all residents of the Grant and Manhattanville public housing projects, in the immediate vicinity of Columbia University. In actuality, the indicted are not members of formal gangs. Rather they are either involved or loosely affiliated in a violent inter-project rivalry that claimed two lives from 2011-2014. For years parents had organized to find community-based solutions to problems in their neighborhood, from family brokered truces, job counseling, school reform, and the construction of a welcoming playground and community center. They are dismayed to learn that all the while the city had spent millions spying on their children to criminalize even the most tenuous connection to the violence.
  
"In an open letter to University affiliates, Vice President of Columbia Public Safety, James McShane, celebrates the raids as a moment of progress for West Harlem. He claims that the affair is the result of a `long-term collaboration between local law enforcement agencies.'. What this means precisely, is left unclear. McShane himself has deep ties to the NYPD, having held positions of leadership in four different precincts in the Bronx. During the 1990’s, he was also on the staff of then Deputy Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (one of the masterminds of stop-and-frisk, and later head Commissioner of the NYPD under Mayor Bloomberg). 
In addition, McShane promises in his letter that the University will significantly increase its surveillance and patrol operations throughout Manhattanville. This initiative is to include plain clothed police squads, sky watchtowers, `an extensive system of video cameras,' and an escort service for Columbia students. The document does not so much as mention the hardships endured by local families. Nor does it reveal that the University is responsible for robbing West Harlem of thousands of employment opportunities, on a site immediately across from Manhattanville Houses. Manhattanville public housing, much like the rest of the New York City Housing Authority, suffers from a 27% unemployment rate. When neighborhood parents critique the city's strategies in addressing issues of criminal justice, Columbia offers more of the same, only on an expanded scale....Columbia’s Public Safety Program collaborated with the NYPD as they finished their multi-million dollar surveillance operation to formulate the last of their criminal indictments...."  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 9

In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a 

report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:


".....(January 2014) Bill De Blasio is elected as New York's 109th mayor, inheriting a 46% poverty rate, homeless shelters swelling with over 50,000 people in need, 9,000 incarcerated on Riker's Island prison without formal charges, working class communities coming apart at the seams under the weight of gentrification, and a city budget that invests twice as much in police equipment than it does in combined welfare services.... To the surprise of much of his voting base, the new mayor appoints Bill Bratton as Police Commissioner, whose aggressive policies of 'pre-emptive policing' during the Giuliani administration laid the foundations for 'stop and frisk'.
  
"(Spring 2014) The first scaffoldings of Columbia’s new campus are erected on the Manhattanville expansion site.
  
"(May 2014) Bill De Blasio releases the city's proposal to combat the crisis in affordable housing. Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan, introduces new tax-exemptions and low-interest rates for developers....From the perspective of Manhattanville, the plan has little to offer. What the neighborhood needs in terms of housing policy is the protection of tenants living in apartment complexes that have already been built....De Blasio's proposal....neglects the crisis of corporate subsumption in many previously existing housing infrastructures...."  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project-- Part 8

In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:


"(December 8, 2011) Jeff Mays of DNAinfo reports that Columbia has allocated nearly half of the $700,000 dollars actualized in the Community Benefits Agreement since 2009 to pay private consultants with close connections to New York politicians publicaly supporting the University’s expansion. In an interview with Mays, Community Board 9 member Walter South calls out Columbia’s corruption: `They’ve paid these people $300,000 dollars, and what do we have to show for it? The money should go for community improvement, not hiring the politically connected.'..... 
In response, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman conducts an investigation of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation....
 
"(March 22, 2012) 69-year old construction worker Juan Ruiz is killed while helping to demolish a century-old warehouse on Columbia’s expansion site. While clearing fragments from the building, he is fatally struck by a beam which has not been sufficiently secured. 60year old King Range, and 30-year old Sakim Kirby are buried in rubble, but extracted quickly enough to survive, although with near-crippling injuries.... 
 
"(March 24, 2012) 'Students Against Columbia University Displacement' and 'The Coalition to Preserve Community' stage a week long occupation of one of the last buildings standing on the expansion site, with the aim of condemning unsafe working conditions and the University’s negligence in fulfilling the Community Benefits Agreement. Their efforts lead to valuable dialogues between Columbia students and neighborhood tenants (dialogues without which this document would have never been written), but fail to win the serious attention of the University administration...." 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 7


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:
"(January 21, 2009) In a last effort to turn the tide, the two remaining business on Columbia's future expansion site - a Tuck-it-away storage facility owned by Nick Spreyregen, and a gas station owned by Gurnam and Parminder Singh - file individual law suits challenging the designation of blight, and the invocation of eminent domain. The Supreme Court rules in their favor. Justice Chatterson remarks that `the blight designation in the instant case is mere sophistry. It was utilized by ESDC years after the scheme was hatched to justify the employment of eminent domain but this project has always primarily concerned a massive capital project for Columbia.'. The ESDC challenges the ruling at the level of the New York State Court of Appeals....There Judge Carmen Ciparick decides in favor of Columbia....Columbia overcomes the last juridical hurdle in their pursuit of eminent domain....  
"(June 2010) Gentrification throughout greater Harlem reaches unprecedented levels. During this summer, Harlem loses its African American majority.... 
"(December 2010) [Columbia University] President Bollinger assumes the position of Chairman of the Board at New York State's Federal Reserve Bank, where he will remain until December of 2012.  
"(January 2011) The demolition of the expansion site begins...."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 6


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:
"...(November 7, 2007) The Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification commences a hunger strike, led by Bryan Mercer (CC ’07), Emilie Rosenblatt (CC '08), Victoria Ruiz (CC'09), Aretha Choi (BC '10), and Sam Barron (BC '10). They are inspired by the hunger strike of April 1996, which, along with an occupation of Hamilton Hall, eventually led to the opening of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER). The strikers’ hope to call attention to corrupt practices behind Columbia’s pursuit of eminent domain, and foment political opposition to the coercive nature of the expansion project. On November 11th, after four days of continuous neglect by the Columbia administration, the Coalition to Preserve Community calls on SCEG to end the hunger strike, out of concern for the health of the students involved.  
"(November 26, 2007) Despite the grievances expressed by Community Board 9, the New York City Planning Commission approves Columbia's Plan 197-c to rezone large swaths of Manhattanville, and exercise eminent domain on the 17-acre lot between 125th and 133rd street. The commission’s refusal to represent the interests of residents in Community Board 9 illuminates their financial and political ties to the corporate real estate sector. Natasha Florentino and Tamara Gubernat analyze this relationship in their 2008 documentary, Rezoning Harlem. In an effort to placate the public outcry of West Harlem tenants, the commission demands that Columbia University dedicate $20 million dollars to fund affordable housing for those who suffer indirect displacement (who are priced out of buildings surrounding Columbia's expansion)...
"(December 12, 2007) Mercedes Narciso, the leading planner behind the 197-a document, testifies at the City Council against the removal of eminent domain restrictions, and affordable housing regulations in Manhattanville:  
"`We urge the City Council to correct this serious omission. Passing the 197-a plan without these provisions will not only substantially change the neighborhood without regard to the needs of the community; it also sets a dangerous precedent in which powerful interests can invalidate plans created by citizens under the City Charter … Residents of this community have invested years of their lives crafting a plan for their future. The City Council must take decisive action to realize the City Charter’s promise of a meaningful role for citizens in shaping the future of their communities'. .... 
"(October 8, 2008) Elizabeth Dwoskin publishes an article for the Village Voice, which reveals that Columbia Professor and leading geophysicist Klaus Jacob had been systematically ignored by the University administration when criticizing the environmental impact of their proposed expansion plan. As part of their justification for the use of eminent domain, since 2003 Columbia had cited their intention to build biochemical research facilities in an 80-foot basement below the main Manhattanville campus. According to Professor Jacob, the 125th street corridor is both a flood plain and an active fault line, that could put students and residents in danger if it were to house subterranean chemical research labs. In 2014, Columbia will drop their digging aspirations, suggesting that the whole idea may have just been a ploy to better their chances of acquiring eminent domain rights. Instead, they decide to raise the height of the buildings on the new-campus to free up the desired space.  
"(December 18, 2008) The ESDC formally announces the employment of eminent domain to remove the remaining property owners from Columbia's expansion site...."  





Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 5


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report notes:
"(September 2006) The ESDC hires Alee King Rosen and Flemming (AKRF), the same company Columbia contracted to coordinate their expansion, to conduct a ‘neighborhood conditions study’ in Manhattanville. AKRF, in turn, subcontracts Thornton Tomasetti, Inc., a structural engineering enterprise, to actually carry out the details of the investigation. The Chairman of the Tomasetti firm is Richard Tomasetti, Adjunct Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at Columbia University. In this dizzying web of conflicting interests, the state authority designed to investigate the ethics of eminent domain hires an engineering firm profiting from Columbia’s expansion, which then proceeds to contract the company of a Columbia Professor to write their report. The outcome will deem whether or not Manhattanville is ‘blighted’, or in such economic disrepair that it requires complete overhaul, rather than further development. Without the ESDC’s designation of ‘blight’, eminent domain is not an option for Columbia  
"(March 2007) Business owners operating on the expansion site learn of the potentially corrupt ties between the ESDC, Columbia University, and the consultancy firm AKRF. They form a coalition called the 'West Harlem Business Group' to file a freedom of information petition (FOIL) to the New York Supreme Court. Their hope is to delegitimize claims of economic blight by uncovering conflicts of interest in the correspondence between the ESDC and its clients.  
"(June 2007) The FOIL petition gains access to 117 messages and communiqués that reveal the underlying complicity of AKRF in Columbia's project. According to New York Supreme Court Justice Kornreich, `while acting for Columbia, AKRF has an interest of its own in the outcome of the respondent's action (i.e., the ESDC's), as AKRF, presumably, seeks to succeed in securing an outcome that its client, Columbia, would favor' )...  
"(August 2007) Community Board 9 holds a public hearing to debate the use of eminent domain and the rezoning of 35-acres in Manhattanville by Columbia University, as stipulated in plan 197-c. Tenants, students, politicians, urban planners, and academics raise concerns of rising tenant displacement, community disenfranchisement, and adverse health effects from the residues of the construction process. Troubled by the influence of the Coalition to Preserve Community, Lee Bollinger founds a pro-expansion lobbying group, dubbed the 'Coalition for the Future of Manhattanville'. The group features former New York City mayor David Dinkins, and is lead by Dinkins' then deputy mayor, Bill Lynch. Lynch receives $40,000 a month from the Columbia administration as compensation for his efforts. During the five-hour meeting, 73 speakers testify against plan 197-c, 22 in favor. President Bollinger is booed as he addresses the audience. Several other members of Harlem’s political establishment campaign in favor of Columbia’s expansion, most notably Charles Rangel. Community Board 9 votes 17-1 against Columbia's proposal." 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 4


In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University's Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist's Guide, which indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report's introduction notes:

"(1991) Community Board 9 (CB9), the economic planning agency for the neighborhoods of West Harlem between 110-155th Street, begins to formulate a new development model. CB9 commissions urban planners from the Pratt Center to write a document for submission to the NYC Department of City Planning. The result of their work is Plan 197-a (referring to section 197-a of the New York City Charter), revised in 2001, and approved by the Department of City Planning in 2005. Plan 197-a includes the outlines of a job, housing, and school infrastructure intended to mitigate the growing problem of tenant displacement spreading throughout greater Harlem. The area of Columbia’s proposal for a new campus, already the site of 1,600 jobs in manufacture and retail, is envisioned as a central nexus for the plan as a whole, drawing from 5 public transit and housing facilities in the immediate vicinity to offer expanded employment opportunities.

"(1994-2002) Columbia University, then under the leadership of President George Rupp, begins to pursue their aspirations for a new campus in West Harlem more aggressively.  They start by purchasing properties in Manhattanville from those willing to sell, in the hopes of acquiring most of the land they need for their designs.

"(2002) Lee Bollinger is appointed President of Columbia University, after making a commitment with the Board of Trustees to realize the campus expansion in Manhattanville during his tenure.

"(January 2003) Columbia introduces their ‘General Project Plan’ (GPP) to Community Board 9, which contains two major revisions to Plan 197-a. These revisions, proposed under an alternate Plan 197-c, stipulate the seizure of 17 acres of land through the use of eminent domain, and the rezoning of 18 further acres to make room for campus housing, administrational, and research facilities.... Columbia continues to purchase as many properties as they can within the intended expansion zone 

"(Spring 2003) A group of longstanding residents found the Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC), with the stated purpose of fostering local participation in planning future changes affecting the neighborhood. The CPC holds monthly meetings in St. Mary’s Church (on 125th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam) to write proposals for housing, education, employment, cultural, and environmental policies, curated by tenants living in the community. Their meetings draw an average of 200 participants between 2003 and 2005, and the results of their labor reshape and clarify much of Community Board 9’s 197-a Plan. Although the relationship between CB9 and CPC is communicative and respectful, many members of CB9 remain weary of planning processes so deeply immersed in rank-and-file discussion, and some will eventually be receptive to bargaining with Columbia University at the expense of their constituencies.

"(October 2003) Several student groups at Columbia cohost a panel on `The Ethics of Expansion'. Their initiative produces a new organization called the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification (SCEG), which continues to operate until 2011....

"(January 2004) The Columbia administration constructs three advisory boards, designed to assess future expansion plans and procedures....

"(June 2004) Columbia’s advisory boards express their support for Community Board 9’s 197-a Plan, rather than the administration’s own 197-c alternative. In response, President Bollinger dismisses the advisory boards....

"(April 2005) The Coalition to Preserve Community and the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification build a tent city called `Bollingerville' in the middle of ‘College Walk’, to promote dialogue between University affiliates and West Harlem residents...
.
"(Spring 2005) The Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification releases an open letter, cosigned by 54 Columbia University professors, demanding that President Bollinger and the Board of Trustees accept the limitations of Plan 197-a in the construction of the Manhattanville campus. Their demands are ignored by the administration.
  
"(June 10, 2006) Hundreds of local tenants march from Central to West Harlem in opposition to Columbia’s scheme. Organized under the umbrella heading, ‘Nos Quedamos’ ('we're staying'), the protestors draw from community groups like the Harlem Tenants’ Council, the Coalition to Preserve Community, the Mirabal Sisters, and the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification...."