expansion Archive



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img October 29, 20146:05 pmimg 26 Comments

almaThis month, students from the Coalition Against Gentrification published a document entitled “Understanding Columbia University’s Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist’s Guide.” The guide aims to bring together all of the disparate information on Columbia’s expansion into one easily accessible resource.

The document includes census data and statistics on the neighborhoods surrounding Columbia, as well as information on what Columbia’s expansion may mean for those neighborhoods. For example, in the first section, the guide mentions, “Manhattanville is home to around 32,000 people…. The median household income for the neighborhood is $32,617.” It goes on to add, “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 immanent threat of displacement for unprotected tenants.”

There is also information on the recent raids on the Grant and Manhattanville houses near Columbia’s campus, which disrupted the lives of many residents. Public Safety VP James McShane gave his support to these raids in an email to the Columbia community last spring. As the document notes, that email included the information 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.”

The majority of the guide consists of a timeline of Columbia’s expansion into West Harlem, from 1991 to 2014. Much of the information in the timeline focuses on protests of this expansion by Columbia students and West Harlem residents. Also significant are notes on Columbia’s use of eminent domain to acquire land in West Harlem. As part of the eminent domain agreement, Columbia committed to hiring a certain number of workers from West Harlem and establishing a $3 million fund for the Grant and Manhattanville Houses. However, according to articles linked in the document, both of those commitments have come into question in the past few years. As of last month, only $85,000 of the fund has actually been distributed, and the number of local workers hired has also been under investigation.

Finally, CAGE lists the sources that they have found useful in compiling this document and in the rest of their research. They also include further questions that they see as important, such as “How does the Columbia administration intend to navigate its relationship to the Grant and Manhattanville Houses from now until 2030?” and “What strategies can Columbia students adopt to mobilize in support of neighborhood residents who wish to remain in their own homes, and improve their living conditions?” More information on their work can be found on their website.



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img September 13, 201112:00 pmimg 3 Comments

The new global center won't look anything like these peppers.

Yesterday, in the land of swanky catering that is the Columbia Faculty House, PrezBo announced Columbia’s latest move toward international expansion—a Global Center in Santiago, Chile.

Joining Columbia’s four other centers in Beijing, Paris, Amman, and Mumbai, the Santiago global center will be Columbia’s first in Latin America. This initiative, co-established by President Bollinger and Andronico Luksic, vice chairman of Banco de Chile, is in keeping with Bollinger’s global mission for Columbia.

Why Chile (pronounced CHEE-leh, as a Santiago native and friend of Bwog insists that we note), you may ask? In a discussion titled “Rethinking Chile’s Social and Economic Challenges,” a panel of Columbia and Barnard professors addressed this very question. After listening to answers of entrepreneurial, environmental, and even journalistic bents, Bwog gleaned at least this much: Chile is an understudied country, and the particularity of its social and economic inequalities make it worth serious exploration. As one panelist puts it, one of the center’s goals will be to “solve Chilean puzzles.”

Apart from that, though, the center’s purpose appears decidedly vague. Though they offered their own departmental hopes and speculations for Columbia’s future in Santiago, the panelists all seemed clear on one fact: this new center is about international research and collaboration—it is not a satellite campus. Naturally, this will mean different things to different areas of academia.

As elaborated in the event’s official press release (check it out after the jump!), the B-School’s Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness in Latin America Program, the Earth Institute’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, and the J-School all have ideas for their involvement in Santiago. For undergrads, the Santiago center will mean a new opportunity to study abroad, along with all of the research and university exchange opportunities that that entails. Essentially, the goal of a center in Santiago, like Columbia’s other outposts in Europe, East and South Asia, and the Middle East, will be to facilitate new networks and partnerships across academic disciplines in order to better address global challenges.

Hint of spice via Wikimedia Commons.

Full press release after the jump



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img April 26, 20112:30 pmimg 1 Comments

The University will hold an informational meeting tonight from 5:30–7:30 pm at the Chrystie Field House, 533 W. 218th Street, to discuss construction scheduled to start by the end of the month on the new Campbell Sports Center in Inwood. Suspense builds.



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img April 06, 20115:40 pmimg 1 Comments

A boathouse, not at Baker Field.

Yesterday a City Council committee voted in favor of Columbia’s proposed Inwood development, Boathouse Marsh. That vote introduced the issue to the entire City Council today, and they voted in favor of the development. This means that the University can go ahead with its plans for Boathouse Marsh, which were drawn up by the same folks behind the High Line, that fancy park/reuse/development down south. Full statement from the University below.

We are pleased that the City Council and related committees voted in favor of our application to create new public access and new amenities on the waterfront.  The Boathouse Marsh project will increase public access to the waterfront, restore and extend the area’s native marshland adjacent to Inwood Hill Park, and create an opportunity for increased educational and recreational activities for the community.

According to the project page on facilities.columbia.edu, Columbia officials anticipate the construction will take place in the first half of 2011, barring any more hurdles. So soon!

Amphibious home via Wikimedia



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img March 16, 20118:45 pmimg 16 Comments

The "Boathouse Marsh," a paradise in contention

A storm is brewing over Columbia’s upgrades to Baker Field. The project has been controversial since the beginning, but tensions escalated this past week. Residents of Inwood, the neighborhood around the 218th St. complex, are frustrated with the way, they argue, Columbia has circumvented zoning laws. Of course people get peeved whenever Columbia expands, but Columbia did, in fact, cleverly get around a city law that mandates a certain amount of waterfront property be set aside for public use. The University’s solution to avoid giving up land is to build an uber fancy “Boathouse Marsh,” designed by the architects of the High Line. The proposed project sets aside 1.5% of the land for public access, instead of the required 15%.

By an 11-1 vote, NYC’s Planning Department allowed Columbia to bend the rules in February, leaving the City Council’s permission as the last obstacle to construction. The Council was supposed to decide on Tuesday, but, at the last minute, delayed the vote. Some community members remained unconvinced that locals had enough input, and agreed to a community meeting instead. On postponing the vote, State Senator Adriano Espaillat told the Manhattan Times:

We feel that we still don’t have the information that we need to have regarding the commitment of the university to the community. While I believe this project can mean great things for our community, we must also make sure that local residents and community leaders have a voice in the project’s development.

Espillat claims that he didn’t know a vote was scheduled for Tuesday until last week (Bwog contacted the City Council over a month ago and still hasn’t heard back). He’s siding with Ydanis Rodriguez, the City Councilman whose district borders that of the proposed expansion. Robert Jackson, responsible for the Inwood district and more supportive of the project (Espillat and Rodriguez are overall in favor of Columbia’s expansion but want more community concessions) thinks that the two are teaming up against him for personal and political reasons. They exchanged harsh words at the meeting, and are sparring through the press:

“I’m f-ing pissed off at them,” Jackson told the Daily News after the hearing. “I’m tired of their bulls-t and if they have something to say, they need to come and say it my face.”

There will be another community meeting this Friday, but the City Council will have to vote within 50 days of the Planning Department’s approval for an April 6th final decision deadline. According to the Columbia website, the University plans to begin construction in the “first half of 2011.” Still, at this point, the time frame is questionable. Dan Held, Director of Communications for Columbia Facilities declined to comment, but Robert Hornsby, university spokesman, offered the following statement:

The Boathouse Marsh project would create new public access and new amenities on the Harlem River waterfront, provide passive recreation areas, restore and extend the area’s native marshland, and extend the educational offerings of Inwood Hill Park by creating an environment for learning about wetlands and plant species that once flourished in the area.  We remain committed to continuing to work with elected officials and the Inwood community to provide long-term enjoyment of the Boathouse Marsh and Columbia’s athletic facilities by both local residents and the University community.

Community…it’s complicated!



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img August 23, 201011:44 amimg 49 Comments

Take a left at 218th

Columbia has been planning an upgrade to Baker Field for months. Those plans have solidified– sorta– in the form of a 70-foot aluminum building, reports the New York Times. The building will add to go up within the 26 acres Columbia owns around 218th Street in Inwood, which is even farther uptown than Manhattanville!

The new building will provide athletes with more study space for in-between and before practices, as well as office space for coaches. The blueprints were designed by Steven Holl, a professor of Architecture at Columbia. It will be called the Rep. Charlie Rangel Sports & Recreation Facility the Campbell Sports Center.

Columbia is expanding, so people are angry. Gail Addiss, an Inwood resident and architect, told the NYT that the Campbell Sports Center will cause “glare” and “more brightness to reflect into people’s windows.” Other Inwood residents fear that the modern design will clash with the surrounding buildings, clog up traffic, and obscure views.

Columbia is also planning a 1-acre marsh between Baker Field and Inwood Hill, along with a boardwalk developed by the same company that created the High Line downtown.

Joseph A. Ienuso, executive vice president for facilities at Columbia, combats the traffic argument by reminding Inwood residents that “This isn’t Notre Dame. On a good day, 2,000 people come to the game and most of those by subway.”

Athletes, plebeians, what think you?



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img June 01, 201011:27 amimg 17 Comments

What is currently 125th Street in the 1930's, photo courtesy of Harlem Bespoke. More Manhattanville photos here.

This is kinda-sorta-maybe-it!

As you may recall, December brought a major obstacle to Columbia’s dreams of expansion: the New York State Supreme Court decided 3-2 that that state could not use eminent domain to secure parts of West Harlem for Manhattanville. The Empire State Development Corporation, the only major defendant in December’s case, has appealed the decision with the Columbia administration’s support. Today is the first official day of that appeal: New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has opened the Manhattanville case in Albany, and will determine whether Columbia and the ESDC can use eminent domain for the 17-acre West Harlem expansion.

In November, the New York Court of Appeals gave the uber-fraught Atlantic Yards a 6-1 approval of use of eminent domain, but the Atlantic Yards project did not stumble in the NY Supreme Court like Manhattanville has.

A decision is expected this summer, which could mean this month and could also mean three months from now. We’ll keep you posted on the news up in Albany. In the meantime, check up on your Manhattanville history: December’s ruling, a slew of talk about eminent domain, the NY Court of Appeals’ approval of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, and a comprehensive look back at Manhattanville history, what the whole project is about, what it means to you, PrezBo and your West Harlem neighbors.



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img May 01, 20097:02 amimg 0 Comments

But everybody else is doing it!

I know, I know, I’ll get to it eventually.

Okay, so I made that part up. But the spirit of it is true.

They gave me all of those column inches — I couldn’t let them go to waste!

I’m no different than you. It’s just that I’m better.



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img February 14, 20096:28 pmimg 21 Comments

James Downie finally thawed his hands enough to type a report from 125th and Broadway.

“Two options: Cuban sandwich or chicken with rice and beans.” More than 70 Columbia students made that critical lunchtime choice earlier today, as they joined the Student Committee on Gentrification and Expansion and Black Heritage Month at Floridita to show support for the owner, Ramon Diaz, in his on-going fight with Columbia University.

As students tucked into their free cuisine, a parade of speakers (both student and non-student) expressed their continued opposition to Columbia’s Manhattanville tactics (one feels sorry for any families who showed up for a quiet Saturday lunch). Diaz spoke first, thanking everyone for showing up, and declaring that “at stake here, more than any personal issue, is the issue of eminent domain.” Because Floridita has been declared “blighted” by the city, Floridita’s lease (scheduled to end in 2015) can be summarily terminated as a result of the eminent domain ruling. (more…)



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img January 21, 20095:10 pmimg 6 Comments

Nick Sprayregen, one of two property owners resisting the  the Manhattanville expansion project, filed a suit today against the Empire State Development Corporation, claiming that the ESDC made various errors in the process of deciding that eminent domain laws apply to the Manhattanville area, allowing the state to seize it and sell to Columbia.

According to Sprayregen, one of the major errors was made in determining the area to be “blighted,” which allows the state to seize it and sell it to any buyer who promises to develop it in a way that will at least partly serve the public interest (through providing housing, social services, etc.).

But aside from the slumlord argument that Columbia has owned many buildings in the area for years, and “so the state of those properties is the university’s responsibility,” Sprayregen bluntly states over and over in his 107 page petition that the whole thing’s a big conspiracy. Various city and state bodies completely flouted many aspects of the law, he says, to allow an “elite private university” to do whatever it wants. (more…)



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img December 18, 20089:16 amimg 25 Comments

At a news conference this morning, the Empire State Development Corporation unanimously voted to use the power of eminent domain to seize the remaining commercial holdouts in Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion zone. That’s bad news for the two property owners who have still refused to sell: storage space owner Nick Sprayregen and gas station owner Gurnam Singh, who can now legally be forced to sell their property to the state, which would then let Columbia take over the land.

Sprayregen, the far more vocal of the pair, has vowed to fight the eminent domain decision in court, having already entered several different lawsuits challenging whether Columbia’s acquisition of the land will actually help the “public good.” “I don’t want to have to sue you,” said Sprayregen’s lawyer, Norman Siegel, to the staid ESDC board members. “You leave us no choice but to litigate.” He said he felt sure the case would reach the Supreme Court, where ESDC’s awkward history with AKRF and previous allegations it was colluding with Columbia would be weighted heavily.

For Columbia, though, today’s decision marks the end of several years spent pushing its Manhattanville expansion through various government approvals, and the beginning of what’s likely to be several years of tussling with Sprayregen.




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img September 24, 20086:03 amimg 6 Comments

True fact: Sarah Palin doesn’t eat babies.

Cars don’t run into you in Riverside Park.

The stock market crashed!  Now what?

Fight Club was released nine years ago.  Don’t you feel really old?  Like, over nine years old?

Columbia wants to demolish and rebuild in every direction!  Watch out Lincoln Center.

Columbia students may not like lines in John Jay, but they sure do like to spend their parents’ money!



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img July 18, 20088:03 amimg 33 Comments

So yesterday the Empire State Development Corp. voted to approve Columbia’s $6.28 billion expansion expansion into Manhattanville. 

In doing so, the state designated the area as blighted, which is necessary in order to invoke eminent domain

The decision came as a result of a blight study by AKRF Inc., which found that Manhattanville consisted of “aging, poorly maintained and functionally obsolete industrial buildings with little indication of recent reinvestment to revive their generally deteriorated condition.” 




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img January 31, 200811:10 amimg 6 Comments

Turns out we’re not the only Manhattan university looking to expand.  According to Washington Square News, NYU has proposed adding 6 million square feet to its campus, and is looking outside the Village for about half of that space.  The current candidate neighborhoods are Midtown, Northwestern Brooklyn, and, most intriguingly, Governor’s Island, the perpetually-redesigned, super-historical former military base on the banks of the charmingly-named Buttermilk Channel.  No word yet on who NYU’s plans will be displacing.

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