Saturday, November 7, 2009

`COLUMBIAGATE': Is Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Campus Expansion Project Illegal?--Part 1

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 is about the abuse of the government’s power of eminent domain to secure for a developer a contested area of West Harlem it had long sought to control and for which it had formed a fully blown plan.

“This case is about the secret collaboration between Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] and New York City agencies in a complex plan to give that developer, an elite private university, everything it wanted, without compromise or limitation, while evading public review and accountability.

“This case is about favoritism shown to an elite private university over community interests, clearly and consistently expressed through the local Community Planning Board, over multiple well established public planning processes, and over competing development proposals for existing local business and property owners, for purposes that in the end amount to no more than the speculative estimation that what is good for Columbia University is good for New York.

“And this case is about how ESDC, in its determination to maximize Columbia’s private benefit, overreached its statutory authorization, made findings in bad faith, and fabricated pretextual purposes to cover up the illegality of its dominant purpose…”