Sunday, November 22, 2009

`COLUMBIAGATE': Is Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Campus Expansion Project Illegal?--Part 11

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 New York State’s Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] 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. (See below for parts 1 to 10)

According Siegel’s January 21, 2009 petition:

“Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] acted in bad faith when it continued to participate in advancing Columbia’s Project when it knew in December, 2004 that the…Urbitran blight study did not adequately show the area to be blighted, when it communicated that concern to Columbia’s attorney…

“ESDC acted in bad faith, and in illegal delegation of its authority to make public findings, when it asked Columbia on August 1, 2005 to provide a `basis for a finding of blight,’ and when it requested a progress report on Columbia acquisition in Manhattanville.

“In doing so ESDC effectively communicated to Columbia that the realization of Columbia’s project would depend upon Columbia’s acquiring as much as Manhattanville as possible, and by direct control of the property, creating the conditions that could be used as a basis for a finding.

“Columbia proceeded to do so, refusing to renew leases, pressuring tenants to leave, and intentionally not performing adequate maintenance and repairs on buildings, even when economical to do so and minor repairs would ensure long productive lives of the buildings…”