Least obstructive picket line ever

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manhattanville1Along Broadway this afternoon, a hodgepodge of Harlemites and Columbia students staged a small-scale demonstration between wooden police divides.  The protest was centered around a lawsuit filed by Nick Sprayregen, Manhattanville businessman, and Norman Siegel, his Madison Avenue lawyer trying to get the City to revisit the Manhattanville plan that they already approved in light of environmental concerns. 

It just so happens that in the basement of the Manhattanville campus there will be a hazardous biotech lab on, according to the protesters, a flood plane and earthquake fault line.  His lawsuit is primarily demanding that the board wait until they can read the engineering studies that are in progress before finalizing their decision.  Sprayregen said that in a “3000 page document,” the City was not able to look at every very minor detail of the document vetted carefully.  “We’re not against expansion.  We only think that biohazard research doesn’t belong in Manhattan,” he said. 

The organizing group (Sprayregen said he was only attending to “show support” and that he had no hand in organizing) tended to echo Sprayregen’s ideas, randomly citing Klaus Jacob, a climate change scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.  Many threw around climate science and engineering terms that this poor Bwogger did not entirely understand, but they seem to claim that if there is a “bathtub” under Manhattanville that holds the leaking biohazards and if the Hudson water-level rises as a result of Global Warming/Climate Change, it could flood the bathtub and spread the toxins across Harlem.

manhattanville2 Some, however, were protesting against the expansion on more general terms.  The most common call and response chant of the group was that 125th-133rd streets, CB9, barrios, Columbia Students, the Core Curriculum were all “not for sale.”  One resident’s poster contained a rendition of what seemed to be the hunger striker’s octopus devouring Manhattanville.

After marching around the Broadway side Journalism for about an hour, the protesters got permission from police to make a circuit around College Walk, where they continued their chants to the bemusement of many a student.  When they finished back at Journalism, they resumed pacing back and forth on their stretch of sidewalk.  While it seems like Sprayregen’s lawsuit may be the last stand against the Columbia plan (the statute of limitations on the decision passed last Wednesday), the demonstrators did not seem desperate, rather, determined not to lose their homes and businesses.  The full notice of petition and verified petition.


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  1. bwog  

    why is there music on the steps right now?

  2. ...  

    it's my understanding that the labs columbia wants to build are no more hazardous than what you'd find at a hospital..

    and if manhattan were to flood, toxins from science labs would be a drop in the bucket compared to all the other toxic sludge that would be washing around.

    finally, i think it's very amusing that mr. sprayregen is so anti-development. especially considering his track record of converting other storage properties upstate to upscale condo buildings...

  3. so stupid...  

    As part of the senior design for the civil department we are working on the Mind and Body building, so we have been having the people the different engineering firms come in and talk about the project.

    So the likelihood of the slurry walls failing are extremely unlikely, as the building is actually designed to be able to deal with the minimal movement from the fault.

    The slurry walls that at the WTC withstood there collapse and prevent the waters from flooding into the PATH, so designing a basement to withstand a little water pressure from like 80 feet of water and soil isn't all that difficult.

    • alexw  

      Thank you. I too am working on this project. If the World Trade Center's slurry walls can survive the destruction of the towers, then our slurry walls can survive whatever bullshit floods they can throw at us.

      Give the engineers some credit.

      Also, Sprayregen, let it be known that I have never once typed out your name. I just copy and paste it from a previous source. I think that little of you.

  4. lamont

    it's not random to cite klaus jacob, since he does work at columbia

  5. fashionista  

    Manhattanville is so 2007...

  6. and  

    "bathtub" was just a poor choice of words. It should have been called the "Global Warming flood deflector"!

  7. The King of Spain  

    I can understand them calling the traffic and sewage studies footnotes, but there are several pages on the bathtub. Three years ago, they were interpreting the bathtub as meaning that Columbia was building under the Hudson River.

  8. citizen

    It is fair, though, to oppose biohazard research in Manhattan. Of course, it is most assuredly already conducted at several institutions.

  9. two things  

    All biology/science labs are hazardous, it's not like they'll be working with a super-strain of smallpox in the facility. And if water levels rise from global warming, we'll have a lot of more serious problems.

  10. ugh....  

    everyone in harlem needs to get over it. Harlem is a piece of shit, and all the hippie liberals who are against gentrification of manhattanville need to get over it. It's going to happen because harlem is the cesspool of manhattan. I'm glad that columbia is finishing disney's job of taking over piece of shit neighborhoods and turning them into something productive....and this is coming from a liberal.

  11. camus  

    "After marching around the Broadway side Journalism for about an hour, the protesters got permission from police to make a circuit around College Walk, where they continued their chants to the bemusement of many a student. When they finished back at Journalism, they resumed pacing back and forth on their stretch of sidewalk."

    this is all a bit absurd.

  12. DHI  

    Harlem ain't what it used to be, but it still has some character. The post-Disney Times Square is a cultural wasteland.

  13. frontiers baby!  

    causation =/= correlation
    Harlem is a historically black, crappy neighborhood that we are all afraid to walk through when we accidentally take the 2 train at 4 in the morning... but it is not a cesspool because the same angry hippie liberals love it too.

  14. she's a racist  

    yeah! that ho!

  15. Alum

    The bio labs will be many stories above ground, not in the bathtub. Even if the bathtub floods entirely, those labs will not be affected. That fact is inconvenient for the protestors, so they ignore it.

    Many opponents of the expansion plan like to pretend that the entire 6,800,000 square feet Columbia plans to build will contain biohazards. In reality only a handful of rooms (probably well under 10,000 square feet in total) will contain anything requiring special precautions. Other colleges and hospitals have similar labs, but no one claims they're all dangerous. CCNY probably has one in a much older building, and it probably threatens the protestors more than the labs Columbia wants to build. Of course, there is no anti-CCNY bias to match the community's anti-Columbia tradition.

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