(sort of) BREAKING NEWS: No eminent domain for M-ville residents
Written by Bwog Staff
Well, it seems like Columbia’s made at least one concession to the “Not for Sale” crowd–in a press release dated yesterday, the University said it will not ask the Empire State Development Corporation to use its power of eminent domain to evict anybody living in the new campus’ footprint.
As with all Office of Public Affairs emissions, we’re skeptical. Robert Kasdin (whom Bwog can only think of as having the face of Karl Rove) notes at the bottom that they may still use ED against the few business holding out for who knows what. These are the people who sued the ESDC to release secret documents related to Columbia’s expansion, and won.
About the image: We’re pretty sure that’s Anne Whitman, owner of Hudson Moving and Storage, who’s quoted in pretty much every news article on the subject. Expect her to not be happy.
Press release reprinted (almost) in full after the jump.
New York, July 11, 2007 Columbia University has announced that it would not ask the Empire State Development Corp. to use its condemnation authority as a way of evicting residential tenants now living in the 132 apartment units in residential buildings on the 17 acres of the proposed expansion area.
“Columbia University will not ask the state to invoke eminent domain to evict tenants living in these 132 residential units in the proposed expansion zone in Manhattanville,” said Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, reaffirming comments made on Monday before the City Planning Commission. “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that these community members will have equal or better affordable housing in the area, and we are working to achieve this result.”
Kasdin also made it clear that this includes a commitment to work with New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to provide cooperative units to those occupants eligible to purchase units through the city’s Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) Program. As a result, the TIL participants would not lose any of their rights under the program because of relocation.
On Monday, July 9, Columbia University presented its rezoning proposal for the old manufacturing area of Manhattanville in West Harlem in a special meeting of the New York City Planning Commission. Kasdin explained to commissioners that the University’s continued goal is to acquire all commercial and residential property through the kind of win-win negotiated agreements it has already reached with the great majority of private owners, including a number of business owners who originally said they would not sell to Columbia.
“The residents of West Harlem have been extremely concerned about the impact of Columbia University’s plans to expand its campus in the West Harlem area over the next 25 years,” said City Councilmember Robert Jackson. “I have facilitated discussion between the University and the community in order to address concerns ranging from secondary displacement, to traffic patterns and the bulk of buildings, to the environmental impact of proposed scientific research facilities, among others. No potential problem has been more threatening for the residents of West Harlem than the use of eminent domain. I am pleased today that Columbia University is exhibiting a level of respect and awareness by choosing not to seek the application of eminent domain against the 132 residents living the area of the proposed expansion. I look forward to continuing to work with the University and the community to address the myriad of other challenges associated with Columbia’s proposed expansion.”
Kasdin did not remove the possibility of requesting that the state invoke eminent domain to assemble the few commercial properties that remain in the proposed 17-acre expansion area. Columbia’s ownership of these acres would not only allow for the creation of publicly accessible open spaces, but also for the construction of new buildings that will be serviced by a large contiguous underground space that houses such essential services as parking, loading and energy facilities. This approach allows a proposed urban design for the area that is environmentally friendly, that meets the University’s academic programming needs with a building scale lower than existing neighboring buildings, and that is focused on creating vibrant urban street life instead of driveways, loading docks and other functions that inhibit openness and civic interaction on sidewalks. This will also allow the University to construct the kind of academic research buildings with the floor space needed for the type of research and study that confronts some of the most critical health issues facing the community and world such as strokes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.