Manhattanville catch up

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You’ve probably forgotten about it, but Manhattanville planning is rolling along in our absence. Here’s Bwog freelancer Emma Jacobs–who has a comparative analysis of university expansions here–with a lightning recap of the recent history.

kjhJune 4:
  ULURP is coming! But not yet.  The start of Uniform Land Use Review Process of the rezoning that will allow Columbia to begin building its campus expansion is delayed two weeks.  So, as the Observer points out, the community board’s 60-day deadline to submit their review of the plan will come not in the beginning of August, but in late August.  “Don’t expect me to be thankful or gracious,” says CB9 chairman Jordi Reyes-Montblanc.

June 15: Columbia announces that its expansion has been accepted into the federal LEED for Neighborhood Development (“LEED-ND”) Pilot Program, which applies smart growth and green design in an effort to encourage good urban development.  That could sweeten the deal for campus activists, at least.

June 18: One month after students go home, the Department of City Planning releases Columbia’s draft Environmental Impact Statement, which spells out how campus expansion will be on the surrounding area (in considerable detail…the table of contents is 39 pages). Its release kicks off the 60-day community review period (the first stage of the overall review, called ULURP).   President Bollinger applauds the Opportunity for Progress and Public Engagement in Proposed Expansion Community Board 9 points out the difficulties of conducting an effective review while the board is on summer hiatus, moving its offices, and people are off on vacation

June 30: A judge concludes that concerns about objectivity of a company working for both the company and the state might be legitimate:  the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC, the state development agency) has employed the consulting firm AKRF to conduct the blight study of West Harlem that would clear the way for the use of eminent domain to acquire the rest of the properties in the expansion footprint. Columbia is footing the $300,000 bill for the study–but AKRF is already working for Columbia to prepare the expansion Environmental Impact Statement.  Judge Shirley Kornreich ruled in favor of the West Harlem businesses’ Freedom of Information Act request for 117 “secret” ESDC documents.  [See also: NYTimes article on the decision]. 

July 9:  Surprisingly enough, Community Board 9’s ULURP Committee votes for the Community Board’s own 197a plan (designed over 10 years with help from the Pratt Institute) over Columbia’s alternative 197c plan. Both are being considered in tandem by the City planning commission.  [197a details

July 12:  Columbia announces the University will not ask for eminent domain to be used against residential tenantsSpectator points out that everyone has known about this for 2 years.

Much more to come! Stay tuned!



  1. alum

    Why would someone like Emma Jacobs matriculate at Columbia if she holds the University in such great contempt?

  2. i love

    columbia more than the current regime could understand. long after they no longer work here, i will still be a columbian.

  3. Alum

    Jacobs' article says Harvard "already owns over 4,900 acres (about six Central Parks)", suggesting that its campus is already enourmous. Most of this land is a forest located rather far from Cambridge, and much of the rest is a botanical garden in a somewhat distant part of Boston. Harvard isn't cramped by Columbia's standards, but by most reasonable standards it's getting there fast.

    I'm also not sure what Jacobs means by "the beginnings of a sizable campus in North Allston". Harvard's business school has been there for decades, and its football stadium predates WWII. There are other athletic facilties there as well, along with some housing and support services. In the article's map, these are the buildings in red below the river; most of the white portion of the map to the left of those facilities is filled with Harvard's tennis courts, practice fields, etc.

  4. urban studies

    majors love to come to columbia. its a great place to study.

    by definition they also are suckers for community organization.

  5. Victoria

    Emma Jacobs is exactly the type of person I was expecting to meet at Columbia when I was looking at it in high school. She speaks up for people! I always thought that Columbia was a progressive forward thinking school that worked with the City of New York. The more I learn about it and the more I learn about New York City, Columbia as an institution falls short. I think it is more a question of why do people matriculate at Columbia when they are so apathetic to its place and its community? I will for stay tuned for more info, because I care about my school, I care about my community. Mind and hand have to stay together.

    • Franz Joseph I

      Yikes. Welcome to college. Columbia is a large bureaucracy with real estate holdings.

      What makes you think that the community is so great or that their interests trump students?

      But the FEIS process is a joke. It's beholden to wealthy interests and can't consider unannounced development, that is all the gentrification that will surely happen in Manhattanville anyway.

  6. Assclown

    It's 132 people we're talking about and they are going to lose. Thankfully.

  7. Harlem  

    is not Columbia's community. Not sure if you've noticed, but they don't care for us much.

  8. Am I Wrong?

    I thought the snark was pretty evenly spread around?

  9. andrew

    First of all, there are 132 UNITS in the Mville expansion zone, and 291 people that would be displaced.

    Secondly, if you had actually bothered to read some of the EIS, it mentions that a "signficant adverse impact" of the project could be the displacement of up to 3,300 people around the zone due to rent increases and residential pressures due to addition of large numbers of CU affiliates. And I believe that that figure is an understatement.

    So its more like 3,500 people will lose their homes than 132. And, unsurprisingly, Columbia doesn't care, as it has not in the past.

    • Alum

      Keep in mind that the 132 units are pretty much all in the northeast corner of the expansion zone. Columbia plans to build from south to north, so those buildings will probably remain untouched until 2025 or so. Chances are that few of the current occupants will still be there by the time Columbia wants to raze the buildings.

      The displacements you mention will also be gradual. The construction will take 20 to 25 years, and the resulting impact will accumulate over the same period.

      The key question, then, is what would happen in the area if Columbia didn't expand as it hopes to? Given what is happening to rents elsewhere, I think the area would gentrify and that most of the same people would be displaced anyway. It might take a few years longer, but the neighborhood will change regardless.

      So, which is better -- a more expensive neighborhood with lots of new space for Columbia, or a more expensive neighborhood with a lot less space for CU and more for private developers?

  10. this expansion  

    is the best thing to ever happen to these people, financially. They will be generously compensated to live elsewhere.

  11. btw

    I love how everyone from the Times to the crap papers are gulping up Columbia's message as if it were a new concession. Reminds me of how everyone in this country is falling for the White House's continuous regurgitations and distractions.
    I don't mean to bring up such a well-versed topic but it's a funny paralel

    • Alum

      One important difference is that Columbia is not claiming this is a new development. The media somehow got this idea on its own, even though Columbia has been up-front about the fact that it is merely re-stating existing policy.

      It really doesn't compare to the White House's deliberate media shell games.

    • everyone  

      is falling for the White House's regurgitations? Really? No, I think you're full of it. I think leftists just like to claim that "everyone's" falling for it, when in fact that's not the case. People mistrust this administration more and more every day. And your analogy was stupid to begin with.

  12. note

    actually, this was a promise at least in meetings that the university had refused to absolutely promise on. they'd say things but they wouldn't be held to it, wouldn't release it in writing.

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