Wednesday, November 25, 2009

`COLUMBIAGATE': Is Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Campus Expansion Project Illegal?--Part 14

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 13)

According Siegel’s January 21, 2009 petition:

“…Calling privately funded and directed academic research a `civic purpose’ is…inappropriate when the knowledge gained from such research is not required to be made public, but in fact, through partnership with private pharmaceutical companies and other for-profit entities is proprietary and subject to patent.

“Further alleged civic purposes such as widening of street walls, increasing sight line and 125th street access to the Hudson waterfront, planting, and transparency requirements, and creation of a 12th Avenue market area cannot be civic purposes of the Project because they are already mandated in any development pursuant to the Re-zoning of December 18, 2007…

“Additional alleged civic purposes associated with the project are not only incidental, but pretextual because they were extraneous to the dominant use and purpose of the project…

“Such pretextual `civic purposes’ include the operation subsidy for a largely Columbia used waterfront park, lighting improvements, subway escalator improvements, funding of certain Harlem…organizations, a playground, rent free lease of other property on which New York City Department of Education may or may not build a school, the provision of a $20 million housing fund that will at most cover the cost of relocating residential tenants directly displaced from the area, limited use of Columbia facilities, and various scholarships and health, educational, business development and legal assistance programs, all amounting to no more than $200 million in value, or 3% of the total project cost…”