Monday, November 9, 2009

`COLUMBIAGATE': Is Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Campus Expansion Project Illegal?--Part 2

In a January 21, 2009 petition to the First Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, a New York City civil liberties lawyer named Norman Siegel presented the legal case against allowing the Columbia University Administration to move forward on its 17-acre campus expansion project in the West Harlem-Manhattanville neighborhood, just north of West 125th Street.

According Siegel’s January 21, 2009 petition:

“This case raises the question of whether allegedly public purposes attributed to a project long after it was fully conceived, and that involve almost no use of the land or facilities proposed to be developed, or that are diminutive in relation to the private benefit conferred by the project, constitute `civic’ or `public’ purposes, or whether they are not, in fact, pretext.

“This case presents the question of whether the desire of any private university to expand, or the acquisition of proprietary knowledge, constitute a `civic’ purpose.

“And this case raises the constitutional question of whether the use of eminent domain for economic development alone, under the Supreme Court of the United States’s 2006 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, constitutes a public use, benefit or purpose in the absence of a carefully considered plan with public purposes determined prior to selection of a developer and reached through a transparent and accountable public process.

“…Columbia and Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] have refused to compromise, and ESDC…has condoned and enabled Columbia in its drive to achieve 100% physical, economic, and cultural control of the entire area…For Columbia’s preference to have it all is what this struggle is being fought for. Columbia’s preference to have it all does not constitute a public use, benefit or purpose…”

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