Monday, February 9, 2015

Columbia Students Oppose Columbia University's West Harlem-Manhattanville Construction Project--Part 10

In October 2014, the Columbia Student Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) released a


, 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:

"(June 4, 2014) The District Attorney's Criminal Enterprise Unit and the NYPD's Gang Division conduct the largest 'gang raid' in the history of New York City. The operation uses four years of investigative work, nearly a hundred million dollars, and thousands of hours of surveillance observation to indict 103 teenagers and young adults for charges of conspiracy and assault. The defendants are all residents of the Grant and Manhattanville public housing projects, in the immediate vicinity of Columbia University. In actuality, the indicted are not members of formal gangs. Rather they are either involved or loosely affiliated in a violent inter-project rivalry that claimed two lives from 2011-2014. For years parents had organized to find community-based solutions to problems in their neighborhood, from family brokered truces, job counseling, school reform, and the construction of a welcoming playground and community center. They are dismayed to learn that all the while the city had spent millions spying on their children to criminalize even the most tenuous connection to the violence.
"In an open letter to University affiliates, Vice President of Columbia Public Safety, James McShane, celebrates the raids as a moment of progress for West Harlem. He claims that the affair is the result of a `long-term collaboration between local law enforcement agencies.'. What this means precisely, is left unclear. McShane himself has deep ties to the NYPD, having held positions of leadership in four different precincts in the Bronx. During the 1990’s, he was also on the staff of then Deputy Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (one of the masterminds of stop-and-frisk, and later head Commissioner of the NYPD under Mayor Bloomberg). 
In addition, McShane promises in his letter that the University will significantly increase its surveillance and patrol operations throughout Manhattanville. This initiative is to include plain clothed police squads, sky watchtowers, `an extensive system of video cameras,' and an escort service for Columbia students. The document does not so much as mention the hardships endured by local families. Nor does it reveal that the University is responsible for robbing West Harlem of thousands of employment opportunities, on a site immediately across from Manhattanville Houses. Manhattanville public housing, much like the rest of the New York City Housing Authority, suffers from a 27% unemployment rate. When neighborhood parents critique the city's strategies in addressing issues of criminal justice, Columbia offers more of the same, only on an expanded scale....Columbia’s Public Safety Program collaborated with the NYPD as they finished their multi-million dollar surveillance operation to formulate the last of their criminal indictments...."  

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