Saturday, January 24, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 6

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 notes:
"...(November 7, 2007) The Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification commences a hunger strike, led by Bryan Mercer (CC ’07), Emilie Rosenblatt (CC '08), Victoria Ruiz (CC'09), Aretha Choi (BC '10), and Sam Barron (BC '10). They are inspired by the hunger strike of April 1996, which, along with an occupation of Hamilton Hall, eventually led to the opening of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER). The strikers’ hope to call attention to corrupt practices behind Columbia’s pursuit of eminent domain, and foment political opposition to the coercive nature of the expansion project. On November 11th, after four days of continuous neglect by the Columbia administration, the Coalition to Preserve Community calls on SCEG to end the hunger strike, out of concern for the health of the students involved.  
"(November 26, 2007) Despite the grievances expressed by Community Board 9, the New York City Planning Commission approves Columbia's Plan 197-c to rezone large swaths of Manhattanville, and exercise eminent domain on the 17-acre lot between 125th and 133rd street. The commission’s refusal to represent the interests of residents in Community Board 9 illuminates their financial and political ties to the corporate real estate sector. Natasha Florentino and Tamara Gubernat analyze this relationship in their 2008 documentary, Rezoning Harlem. In an effort to placate the public outcry of West Harlem tenants, the commission demands that Columbia University dedicate $20 million dollars to fund affordable housing for those who suffer indirect displacement (who are priced out of buildings surrounding Columbia's expansion)...
"(December 12, 2007) Mercedes Narciso, the leading planner behind the 197-a document, testifies at the City Council against the removal of eminent domain restrictions, and affordable housing regulations in Manhattanville:  
"`We urge the City Council to correct this serious omission. Passing the 197-a plan without these provisions will not only substantially change the neighborhood without regard to the needs of the community; it also sets a dangerous precedent in which powerful interests can invalidate plans created by citizens under the City Charter … Residents of this community have invested years of their lives crafting a plan for their future. The City Council must take decisive action to realize the City Charter’s promise of a meaningful role for citizens in shaping the future of their communities'. .... 
"(October 8, 2008) Elizabeth Dwoskin publishes an article for the Village Voice, which reveals that Columbia Professor and leading geophysicist Klaus Jacob had been systematically ignored by the University administration when criticizing the environmental impact of their proposed expansion plan. As part of their justification for the use of eminent domain, since 2003 Columbia had cited their intention to build biochemical research facilities in an 80-foot basement below the main Manhattanville campus. According to Professor Jacob, the 125th street corridor is both a flood plain and an active fault line, that could put students and residents in danger if it were to house subterranean chemical research labs. In 2014, Columbia will drop their digging aspirations, suggesting that the whole idea may have just been a ploy to better their chances of acquiring eminent domain rights. Instead, they decide to raise the height of the buildings on the new-campus to free up the desired space.  
"(December 18, 2008) The ESDC formally announces the employment of eminent domain to remove the remaining property owners from Columbia's expansion site...."  

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