What You Need To Know About Manhattanville
Written by Bwog Staff
Class of 2014: among your many distinctive traits (you got 2400’s on your SATs! You got 2380 on your SATs!) you will also be the first Columbia class to see physical proof of our new campus, just a few blocks uptown in Manhattanville. You’ll hear a lot about Manhattanville in the next few weeks and next four years, since the new uptown branch of our Morningside campus is, after years of back-and-forth and debate, actually going to be built. It’s a truly controversial and confusing topic, but here’s a run-down of the basics, recent news, and what’s to come.
Manhattanville is, basically, 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. It will serve as an extension of Columbia’s campus: including academic (mainly science and Business School) and residential buildings, a secondary school, and new stores.
Your fearless leader, PrezBo, has made expanding Columbia into Manhattanville one of his most prominent initiatives as President. It will, no doubt, come to define his legacy.
Many Columbians and local residents have been resisting the Manhattanville expansion for years. Columbia’s main community opponent was Community Board 9, whose 197a rezoning proposal was defeated by Columbia’s own 197c rezoning. Their main concerns centered around the Manhattanville residents living in 135 apartments in the area that would have to be relocated for the project to go through. The University has been quick to point out that development in Manhattanville will create thousands of new jobs, and that all displaced residents would be housed in equal or better housing.
Columbia responded that the Manhattanville area was “blighted”– the lack of stores and residents in the 17-acre area proved that the neighborhood was struggling. Eminent domain, the process by which government can seize private property, was brought to the bargaining table. If Columbia could convincingly argue that the neighborhood was blighted, they could use eminent domain to appropriate private property (i.e the buildings and apartments in Manhattanville) and begin expansion. Nicholas Sprayregen and the Singh family were the last two property owners resisting expansion. A good profile of Sprayregen, one of the drama’s most important characters, can be found here.
After years of protests, much debate, some big names, a few court cases, and a hunger strike (!!!!!!), this was exactly what happened. In December, the Appellate Division of the NY State Supreme Court ruled that Columbia could not use eminent domain to expand in Manhattanville, and the project’s future was suddenly dark. This June, however, the New York Court of Appeals upheld the use of eminent domain for Columbia, and expansion in Manhattanville was officially approved.
Construction began this summer. You’ll see plenty of it in the next four years, and soon enough (maybe by the time you come back for your 10th college reunion) there will be a new campus. Stay tuned to Bwog to read more about the future of Manhattanville as it unfolds.