The State of M’Ville
Written by Bwog Staff
Remember when campus was in uproar on Thursday because of the NY State Court’s ruling on eminent domain? It was sort of like 1968, right?! Well, no. Columbia’s long, slow battle for Manhattanville is crawling into its toddler years and we understand the story can feel a little stale to the wizened among us.
But the situation has changed, and recent comments from key players in the process aren’t exactly what you might expect. To clarify the situation and introduce 13’s to the new and the old of the controversy, Bwog brings you an up-to-date roundup.
First, here’s a bit of basic (Columbia endorsed!) background. Briefly:
- Manhattanville is a 17-acre site that includes 129th to 133rd Streets between Broadway and 12th Avenue, the north side of 125th Street, and three properties on Broadway from 131st to 134th Streets.
- While SAT 2s were just a far-off nightmare for fresh-persons, Columbians were hunger striking over, among other things, the fate of these 17 acres.
- Nicholas Sprayregen and the Singh family are the last two property owners resisting expansion. A good profile of Sprayregen, one of the drama’s most important characters, can be found here.
- Columbia’s main community opponent was/is Community Board 9, whose 197a rezoning proposal was defeated by Columbia’s own 197c rezoning.
What it means to…
PrezBo: Students in El Presidente’s class on Monday reported that he expressed hope about the potential appeals outcome. He suggested that if the state’s highest court upholds Thursday’s decision on appeal, Columbia will be unable to build the envisioned Manhattanville campus, forcing the University to look elsewhere to expand. Bollinger stressed that critical facilities are planned to be built where Sprayregen and the Singhs own property and, without that land, the future of that campus is very much up in the air. He also expressed optimism that the Court of Appeals will rule in favor of Columbia based on the Court’s recent decision about Atlantic Yards that upheld the use of eminent domain in a similar situation.
Ramon Diaz, owner of Floridita: “A victory is a victory even if its short lived. I personally feel like I’ve been lied to and used throughout this whole process by Columbia University. They created the blight that they claimed was a precursor to eminent domain.”
More quotes and photo tour after the jump…
Brett Murphy, former anti-M-Ville activist, current high school history teacher in Manhattanville, BC ’07: “The glass buildings and trees might look awful pretty, but the expansion will be destroying people’s lives. I encourage all students to learn about what’s going on and join the discussion. Make Columbia’s name stand for something good for the city, instead of just your own resume booster.”
Pastor Earl Kooperkamp, Pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Manhattanville: “Yesterday I mentioned this decision during sermon.” There was a “Long, loud, sustained ovation. Members were extraordinarily pleased. There were shouts of ‘Amen’ and ‘Halleljuah!'” Kooperkamp hopes the ruling will truly benefit “all people in West Harlem, not just an elite few.”
Andrew Lyubarsky, hunger strike negotiator and former SCEG bigwig, CC ’09: “At the end of the day, Columbia will likely expand. The question is whether the administration is able to push through an exact vision of what it wants, when it has been made abundantly clear that both the methods it has utilized and the nature of the campus it wants are not what is wanted by the community.”
The Class of 2013: Bwog Daily Editor David Hu reports that freshmen feel there is some presumed knowledge on the part of their elders about the process that first-years haven’t been privy to during their first semester.
What does Thursday’s ruling actually change?
According to Lyubarksy: “For the first time, we have a document coming from an official source that essentially accepts all of the critiques that the community has been leveling towards Columbia since 2003. This is a major vindication of a struggle that the university likes to paint as being irrational, quixotic, and opposed to progress and development (or selfish on the part of one or two business owners).”
Manhattanville hasn’t always looked the way it does today…