Saturday, January 17, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 4

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:

"(1991) Community Board 9 (CB9), the economic planning agency for the neighborhoods of West Harlem between 110-155th Street, begins to formulate a new development model. CB9 commissions urban planners from the Pratt Center to write a document for submission to the NYC Department of City Planning. The result of their work is Plan 197-a (referring to section 197-a of the New York City Charter), revised in 2001, and approved by the Department of City Planning in 2005. Plan 197-a includes the outlines of a job, housing, and school infrastructure intended to mitigate the growing problem of tenant displacement spreading throughout greater Harlem. The area of Columbia’s proposal for a new campus, already the site of 1,600 jobs in manufacture and retail, is envisioned as a central nexus for the plan as a whole, drawing from 5 public transit and housing facilities in the immediate vicinity to offer expanded employment opportunities.

"(1994-2002) Columbia University, then under the leadership of President George Rupp, begins to pursue their aspirations for a new campus in West Harlem more aggressively.  They start by purchasing properties in Manhattanville from those willing to sell, in the hopes of acquiring most of the land they need for their designs.

"(2002) Lee Bollinger is appointed President of Columbia University, after making a commitment with the Board of Trustees to realize the campus expansion in Manhattanville during his tenure.

"(January 2003) Columbia introduces their ‘General Project Plan’ (GPP) to Community Board 9, which contains two major revisions to Plan 197-a. These revisions, proposed under an alternate Plan 197-c, stipulate the seizure of 17 acres of land through the use of eminent domain, and the rezoning of 18 further acres to make room for campus housing, administrational, and research facilities.... Columbia continues to purchase as many properties as they can within the intended expansion zone 

"(Spring 2003) A group of longstanding residents found the Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC), with the stated purpose of fostering local participation in planning future changes affecting the neighborhood. The CPC holds monthly meetings in St. Mary’s Church (on 125th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam) to write proposals for housing, education, employment, cultural, and environmental policies, curated by tenants living in the community. Their meetings draw an average of 200 participants between 2003 and 2005, and the results of their labor reshape and clarify much of Community Board 9’s 197-a Plan. Although the relationship between CB9 and CPC is communicative and respectful, many members of CB9 remain weary of planning processes so deeply immersed in rank-and-file discussion, and some will eventually be receptive to bargaining with Columbia University at the expense of their constituencies.

"(October 2003) Several student groups at Columbia cohost a panel on `The Ethics of Expansion'. Their initiative produces a new organization called the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification (SCEG), which continues to operate until 2011....

"(January 2004) The Columbia administration constructs three advisory boards, designed to assess future expansion plans and procedures....

"(June 2004) Columbia’s advisory boards express their support for Community Board 9’s 197-a Plan, rather than the administration’s own 197-c alternative. In response, President Bollinger dismisses the advisory boards....

"(April 2005) The Coalition to Preserve Community and the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification build a tent city called `Bollingerville' in the middle of ‘College Walk’, to promote dialogue between University affiliates and West Harlem residents...
"(Spring 2005) The Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification releases an open letter, cosigned by 54 Columbia University professors, demanding that President Bollinger and the Board of Trustees accept the limitations of Plan 197-a in the construction of the Manhattanville campus. Their demands are ignored by the administration.
"(June 10, 2006) Hundreds of local tenants march from Central to West Harlem in opposition to Columbia’s scheme. Organized under the umbrella heading, ‘Nos Quedamos’ ('we're staying'), the protestors draw from community groups like the Harlem Tenants’ Council, the Coalition to Preserve Community, the Mirabal Sisters, and the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification...." 

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