Thursday, November 6, 2014

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 2

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 Guide, which 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:

"...The Manhattanville Houses comprise six buildings with approximately 2,756 tenants, while Grant Houses has nine buildings and 4,519 tenants....Since 2009, Columbia University has begun purchasing shares in Manhattanville Houses. It is unclear what their intentions are for the future of the buildings. They sit immediately across the street from the site of Columbia’s new campus. We are unable to scrutinize Columbia’s ownership shares, because around 90% of the University’s investments are kept secret.

"What we do know is that Columbia University’s Public Safety Program intends to escalate their surveillance and patrol activity throughout the housing projects, in collaboration with the New York Police Department. Vice President of Public Safety James McShane’s announcement of the University’s plans arrived in the aftermath of this summer’s police raids targeting Grant and Manhattanville Houses. 103 teenagers and young adults were incarcerated under indictments ranging from conspiracy to murder, assault, gun possession, loitering and larceny. Heralded by the District Attorney and the Mayor’s Office as the city’s largest ‘gang bust’, the raid on public housing in West Harlem has caused anger and resentment amongst local tenants.

"Since 2011, parents living in Grant and Manhattanville Houses have organized community-based solutions to the problems in their neighborhood. These have included petitions for a new playground, a community center, smaller classes in public schools, family lead truces between rival groups, and job councilors to mitigate unemployment rates hovering above 27%. But their efforts were mostly ignored. Instead, the city spent as much as a hundred million dollars conducting a four- year covert surveillance operation, that used thousands of hours of Facebook chats, tweets, text messages, and security reels to formulate criminal indictments. The police raid itself was staged as a public relations stunt for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to prove to their donors that they too are ‘tough on crime’.

"...The real crisis, the danger of gradual displacement threatening 32,000 New Yorkers through increases in property value affecting the entire neighborhood, is effectively concealed by the University, and seldom mentioned on Columbia’s campus...Two housing developments...are in fact at risk of losing state protection. The first, 3333 Broadway, has already begun the process of purging working class people of color from the building. The second, Manhattanville Houses, is increasingly coming under Columbia’s purview. The University now owns shares in the projects, and plans to carry out extensive policing and surveillance on its tenants. The key to producing a credible to conceive of the long-term effects of Columbia’s expansion into West Harlem from our present point in time, until the project’s scheduled completion in 2030..."

No comments: