Thursday, November 5, 2009

Columbia University's Goldman Sachs Connection & West Harlem Construction Project

Columbia University Trustee Armen Avanessians is Goldman Sachs' director of FICC Strategies, Equity Strategies, Investment Banking and Financial Group Strategies and became a partner in Goldman Sachs in 1994.

In addition, Columbia University Trustee Ann Kaplan is a member of the Goldman Sachs Bank USA board of directors and Columbia University Trustee Esta Stecher is Goldman Sachs Group's executive vice president and general counsel.

Also, Columbia University Trustee Richard Witten was a Goldman Sachs partner and managing director from 1990 to 2002.

Coincidentally, if Goldman Sachs merges with the M&T Bank Corporation, the head of the Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] which approved the use of eminent domain in Columbia University’s 17-acre West Harlem-Manhattanville construction project, M&T Bank Corporation CEO Bob Wilmers, may personally benefit from a business relationship with the Columbia University-linked Goldman Sachs firm.

As Thomas Hartley observed in the October 1, 2008 issue of the Baltimore Business Journal, one of Ireland’s largest independent securities firms, NCB Stockbrokers, noted in a 2008 report that: “Remember that M&T’s CEO, septuagenarian Bob Wilmers, has been at the bank for 25 years [and] might be tempted to roll his 10 percent holding into something larger driven by Goldman Sachs.”

Speaking of the latest real estate development and land grabbing project of the tax-exempt “Goldman Sachs University of Morningside Heights,” an interesting article by Damon W. Root, was posted on the website. In his February 9, 2009 article, titled “Exposing Columbia University’s eminent domain abuse,” Root noted:

“Consider the following: In 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] hired the planning and engineering firm Allee King Rosen & Fleming, Inc. (AKRF) to perform an `impartial' neighborhood blight study. AKRF was certainly a bold choice, given that the firm was already on Columbia's payroll and actively working on the contested Manhattanville plan. According to billing records that…civil libertarian Norman Siegel, turned up via the state's Freedom of Information Law, as many as six AKRF employees worked on both the blight study and the redevelopment project, which is practically the definition of a conflict of interests.

“The report itself proved to be just as flawed. For starters, AKRF failed to mention that Columbia owns 76 percent of the neighborhood and was thus directly responsible for the overwhelming majority of blight that the report alleged, ranging from overflowing basement trash heaps to major roof and skylight leaks. (Columbia has been performing maintenance on several buildings it plans to preserve for their historical significance.) As numerous tenants have now reported, the university refused to perform basic and necessary repairs, which both pushed tenants out and manufactured the ugly conditions that later advanced Columbia's long-term interests….

“AKRF admitted as much in preliminary findings delivered to the ESDC, which identified `Open violations in CU Buildings' and `History of CU repairs to properties' among its `issues of concern.' On top of that, AKRF relied on misleading and in some cases inappropriate evidence, including irrelevant crime statistics and building code violations that had zero relationship to actual physical conditions (such as the failure to file an annual boiler inspection).

“In fact, the ESDC-Columbia redevelopment scheme fails to meet even the generous standards set by the Supreme Court's notoriously eminent domain-friendly decision in Kelo v. City of New London (2005), which permitted the transfer of property from one private party to another so long as the taking was part of a `comprehensive redevelopment plan.’ But as Justice Anthony Kennedy's concurring opinion in the case also made perfectly clear, `transfers intended to confer benefits on particular, favored private entities, and with only incidental or pretextual public benefits, are forbidden by the Public Use Clause.’… “

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Columbia should move upstate becase it supports supertition and freedom of bigotry by backing Hillary vs Obama, Bloomberg vs Thompson and Cuomo vs Paterson. They should stop walking all over us.