Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 1

In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a report, titled Understanding Columbia University’s Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist’s Guidewhich indicated why many Columbia students, Barnard students and neighborhood residents in Morningside Heights, West Harlem and Manhattanville are apparently still opposed to the Columbia University Administration's Kravis Business School construction/campus expansion project in West Harlem/Manhattanville. As the report's introduction notes:

"...Since 2003, Columbia University has moved to execute their plan to construct a new campus in the area running from 125th to 133rd street, between Broadway and Riverside...35 acres of the neighborhood known as Manhattanville, which spans roughly from 122nd street to 135th, east of St. Nicholas and Edgecombe Avenues (in total Manhattanville comprises approximately 228 acres of land)...Columbia...erected the first scaffoldings of the new campus in spring of 2014....The zoning change replaces small businesses, manufacturers, and residential buildings with a mixed-use academic model that will displace an estimated 298 residents from 135 affordable housing units in the 35-acre area....

"...The introduction of University facilities to the neighborhood...will  encourage significant rent increases in surrounding apartment complexes, as well. Landlords will attempt to attract a new influx of wealthier tenants...,In 2007, Columbia was forced to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in conjunction with the NYC Department of City Planning. Their report admitted `the potential for the indirect residential displacement impact within the primary study area to be significant and adverse' (p. 36). 

"According to statistics recorded by City-Data in 2008, Manhattanville is home to around 32,000 people. 70% of Manhattanville’s residents are Latino, 25% African American, and the remaining 5% Chinese, South East Asian, or White. The median household income for the neighborhood is $32,617. The Federal Poverty line for New York State in 2014-15 is...$36,000 for a household of three...The implication is that most tenants in the area live at or below the poverty level. The changes in property value that Columbia’s expansion will bring to the neighborhood present an imminent threat of  displacement for unprotected tenants.

"Meanwhile...one of the biggest apartment complexes in the area is 3333 Broadway, with close to 1,200 units on 135th street... In 2005, 3333 Broadway...began to remove affordable units in favor of market rate apartments. The University's entrance into Manhattanville has fueled this process further, by channeling an influx of new tenants willing to pay substantially higher rents. Without intervention, 3333 Broadway will be entirely purged of affordable housing by the time Columbia completes their campus in the year 2030. The change will ensue along racial lines, replacing a predominantly African American and Latino demographic with largely white newcomers...".

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