Occupiers Encamp at Tuck-It-Away

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Starting Thursday, “members of the Coalition to Preserve Community, St. Mary’s Congregations for Justice and Peace, Harlem community members, and students of Columbia University” met up to #occupy Tuck-It-Away Storage. Tuck-It-Away, located at 655 W. 125th St., was the last legal battleground of our Manhattanville expansion. Of the many demands that the coalition fights for, one says it all: that “Residents under threat of forced displacement by the University be permitted to stay in their homes and communities” (emphasis theirs).

They’re still set up today, so Bwog, wiping its bleary eyes, trekked north.

It’s a scene. Ten or so occupiers stand around, talking to one another and sharing fliers with passersby. There are no drum circles, no mic checks, and no chanting. Amidst the encampment, bright-eyed undergrads mix with disillusioned senior residents and middle-aged attendees over snackfoods. The average age rests somewhere north of #OWS.

There is one cop hanging out at the fringe who says that he’d been there for a few hours without seeing any sort of disturbance. He describes the occupiers as decent people. This is most likely a product of him having just worked at Occupy Wall Street, where it was a lot harder to keep everyone controlled. He also mentions that the encampment at Tuck-It-Away is the only NYC occupation of its kind uptown.

Occupier Elliott Grieco, CC ’12, has slept at Tuck-It-Away for two nights now. “Last night we had 16 staying over, the night before, 25,” he says. It makes sense, he says, to camp out in front of Tuck-It-Away since the University is seizing the property via eminent domain. Another, old, occupier asked Elliott if he know “Chibby,” the guy he was texting to sounds the muster at Tuck-It-Away. Chibby is apparently important at “Occupy Downtown,” and the older guy sort of sneered when Elliott explained that he wasn’t really down there all that often.

Bwog spoke to another occupier, a resident and 1966 graduate of Columbia College. This alumnus bemoaned the loss of diversity he perceived in Morningside, which he attributes to Columbia’s expansion. In his words, Morningside has undergone “ethnic cleansing and economic homogenization” since then, processes that he does not wish to see repeated farther north. A black, middle-aged, female, resident talking with us had only to say, “It’s apartheid, that’s all it is.”

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  1. Anonymous  

    Glad someone is still talking about the expansion, cause it is fucked up, but I'm sad its so late and so small. Surprised the construction work death didn't come up. Seems topical.

  2. Elliott Grieco  

    Author: Thank you for not framing this with Occupy Columbia as the center of the action.
    Tagger: shame on you!

  3. Anonymous

    Columbia is a resident of the neighborhood too. The neighborhood treats Columbia as a foreigner, when they were one of the first occupents of the area, and the campus was built way before anything in Manhattanville. Doesn't Columbia have any rights to be here too as much as a storage company? And how is the closing of Tuck a way storage anyway related to "displacing residents. " It is a storage facility that can reopen a block away.

    • CC 2013  

      Maybe you aren't familiar with the public use requirement of eminent domain...

    • Anonymous

      You do understand the kind of space and infrastructure needed for a storage facility, right? How could they relocate "a block away"? This is someone's livelihood, and especially in this economy that is extremely important.

      The only reason Columbia wants to demolish Tuck-it-Away is to build a system of tunnels underground. Is it really necessary to push out a business that wants to stay just for that? Can't Columbia just take what they've already gotten?

  4. Anonymous

    What, have you already fixed Kony and Uganda so soon that you can afford to use your magical caucasian powers to bring salvation to the people of Harlem?

  5. Kj  

    Get the fuck outta here u protesters....

  6. Anonymous  


    • Anonymous

      It's more about protecting a business that has refused to give up their building and land than about preserving cultural character. Columbia has already managed to convince other residents and business owners in Manhattanville to accept a deal and leave, but the owners of Tuck-it-Away probably think they have too much to lose. Why is Columbia pushing so hard to obliterate this neighborhood completely? They're the only building left, just leave them alone.

  7. I mean that's a pretty  

    serious, and very likely, false allegation that Columbia is engaging in research for U.S. bioterrorist activities or biological warfare. If anything, Columbia is likely engaging in research for homeland defense against bioterrorist activities.

    Protest movements acquire credibility and support from a broader audience when the movement is grounded in verifiable facts, not conspiracy theories.

    • Anonymous

      Level 3 biohazard means they work with pathogens that can be fatal but are

      1) Curable
      2) Only communicable under very specific circumstances

      So things like West Nile and Yellow Fever where you have to get it from a mosquito and can be treated with antibiotics. And it doesn't mean they're developing weapons, they're almost certainly just developing cures. And it's the third in New York, there's already level 3s at Yeshiva and Stonybrook.

      If you're worried about hazards, there are way worse things there now, like the NYC waste treatment plant that got flooded in Irene.

      • Alum

        Columbia already has a Level 3 lab at the medical center. Nobody seems to think it's much of a threat, even though it's in the middle of a major hospital complex surrounded by a residential neighborhood. Why is the same lab causing such a fuss in Manhattanville? Because the fuss is useful to the people who are making it.

        • Anonymous  

          bc it's in a location susceptible to flood this time. it's not about terrorist attacks or whatever (there'll be rhetoric thrown from every side in this conversation). it's also not about protesting medical research. not that you should care, but you might, you know? just sayin'

          • Alum

            That would be a plausible answer if the lab was going to be underground. In reality, it's going to be at or near the top of a 10- or 12-story building. So even if the underground complex floods, the lab won't be compromised.

  8. Anonymous


  9. Anonymous  

    Columbia doesn't own all the land.

  10. Anonymous

    What is happening with modern society? It seems like the general sentiment among youth is: "Get over it, life sucks, rich people get what they want."

    In '68 what seemed (at least from looking through the archives) to be the majority of Columbia students banded together to take over and occupy classroom buildings. Now a few people attempt to protest something of import and all of their conservative classmates rip them to shreds.

    • Anonymous

      That's not really an accurate characterization of '68. They had more people sitting in than Columbia did for this or for the hunger strike but the vast majority of the campus not taking part was against it, as opposed to today when there's a lot more support from non-participants. You can take that as either evidence that the campus has gotten more passionate about these issues or that it's gotten very lazy about the things it claims to care about.

      I don't get worked up about this because I think it's more or less fair. This isn't a sudden move — it's been in the works for ten years — and while you can make a lot of claims about the legal process, for instance that it's a massive eminent domain overreach or that no one who's outgunned by billions of dollars ever actually wins a case like this, but to me at least they just fall flat. This isn't a shopping mall, this is a medical research facility, and they had a decade of court cases. Also, as someone who's been living in Harlem for the past year, there's community North, East, and South of Manhattanville, but that little block is mostly abandoned industrial buildings — I've never seen a single other person walking anywhere between between Broadway and Riverside North of 126th and South of the 3339 building. It's justice or close enough.

      Also, I've been way too harsh in the comments (Kony and Uganda) and I apologize, that didn't really make a point about anything.

      • Anonymous

        I would apply that sentiment beyond Columbia too, though, to things like OWS. I guess I can't really look back at the '60s with rose-colored glasses; I didn't live in that time period, nor am I the kind of person who wishes I had. I'd rather just think about what we need now, and it's hard for me to come to terms with the fact that a lot of people think nothing should be done about situations of obvious inequality.

        Oh, and I used to go around that area a lot. Then again I was living in Wash Heights at the time, and anything is better than that.

  11. Y'all are nutz  

    Well what you simply seem to see as 'a part of town [that a person at Columbia] would not actually set foot in' is actually, IN REALITY, a place where REAL PEOPLE LIVE AND ARE BEING DISPLACED.

    Is that really how you look at a place? At a neighborhood in NYC where there are houses, schools, churches, hospitals, supermarkets, shops, restaurants and other locations where real people live and come together for specific purposes ---just like how all us on-campus students are in 'Morningside Heights' (i.e. HARLEM) to get our education?

    Get out of your fucking entitled bubble and realize you live in a community that has existed long before you ever began paying for SAT prep classes to come HERE with the intention of exploiting the most resources that you think you DESERVE from the institution to which all your parent's money and effort has been a-goin' for the past few years.

    It is disgusting how many thumbs up this comment has because it is clearly reeking of the entitlement and ignorance that I can't seem to escape on this campus.

    Nor this board: "What, have you already fixed Kony and Uganda so soon that you can afford to use your magical caucasian powers to bring salvation to the people of Harlem?"--> I'm not even trying to defend Kony or Uganda, but you do realize, oh commenter who writes in rhetorical questions as if everyone agreed with you already, that there is no relation between the situations in Uganda or Harlem? And that the only reason you are able to cognitively bring the two together is because all you 'know' about the situations are that white people (and perhaps 'black people') are somehow involved? Do you actually know anything about the politics and history of Uganda before or after it became an independent post-colonial state? Or are you just another person who casually refers to Uganda (WHERE REAL PEOPLE ARE LIVING AND STRUGGLING WITH THEIR EVERYDAY REALITIES) when you want to make a point about charities? Um, how's that for a skewed perspective of how the world works and how people live in it?

    I'm convinced by both the content and popularity of some of these awful comments that most of you regularly operate with these ignorant and entitled biases in your daily life. Please... do something about this, for yourself and the future of this world. Try to learn about other people. Try to get out to neighborhoods 'you would never set your foot in' and see how people habitually experience a place which appears foreign and unknown to YOU BUT NOT THEM. Try to travel and do the same. See? There are real things that go on in the world besides classes and internships, beyond the privileged bubble of higher education that you (and your parents) worship and for which you (and they) have sacrificed your entire life. Isn't that, like, weird?

    • Anonymous  


    • Anonymous

      People are shockingly ignorant, it would seem, considering the number of downvotes comments in favor of the occupation have received without any sort of attached response as to why they disagree. Most people don't know a lot about the Manhattanville project, particularly younger students who haven't even been on campus to hear about the majority of the dealings.

      The lack of humanity I've seen on Bwog this year is really distressing. But at least there are a few left that do care.

    • Anonymous  

      and now, some writing that bwog readers can understand. yall are on point.

    • Guy who wrote WAAH WAAH comment  

      I'm always amazed at people's ability to dissect someone's political, socio-economic status and personality through one anonymous post on a blog site. FYI: "Entitlement and ignorance" - the only reason I am able to go to Columbia, and indeed college in the US (THAT'S RIGHT I'M FOREIGN, I'VE TRAVELLED) is because of the financial generosity of others outside my immediate family. And you think I don't know Mville and Harlem? Want to see the staircase where Tayshana Murphy got shot? You can believe this or not, I frankly don't give a shit either way, but my anger is not directed you, or at the issue of whether or not we should expand into Mville. My anger and cynicism is directed at stupid protests, be it this or the Kony campaign that you also talked about, that seems to think that the sheer enthusiam and emotion is enough to help people who cannot help themselves. This in turn, validates some peverse sense of privilege IMO - "Awww look at the poor Mville citizen/Ugandan child! Let's swoop in with facebook and tambourines and save them, 'cause they can't do it for themselves!

      TL;DR - Don't make ad hominem attacks that bases my character on one blog post and the protesters not the issue, piss me off . Oh and hope you have a nice Monday :)

      • Anonymous  

        Your evaluation of this as slacktivism, misdirected white guilt, etc. reflects only a cursory understanding of the action. "Members of the Coalition to Preserve Community, St. Mary’s Congregations for Justice and Peace, Harlem community members, and students of Columbia University" are the organizers and participants of this action, and the order of these priorities is accurate to the centrality of these parties to the ongoing expansion struggle. Yes, students are doing most of the sleeping-in, but that is because we are students and have the schedules and physical abilities to do this. I agree that sometimes political energies can be wrongly expended on things that are purely ideological, frivolous, or far removed from the actual experience of effected people. This is not one of them.

  12. CC hey,-that's-my-stuff! '15  

    What is astounding to me is how few people don't understand how unethical this situation is. Columbia is using their powers of being an educational institution to bypass many laws and codes in the process of expanding. Since the expansion plans started, there have been 59 code violations and yet, somehow, they are still able to keep going with their project. But isn't the physicality of the campus fine the way it currently is? Of course, as we all know, no one can live with that on the Columbia board. They need some power-high to keep them out of boredom. And of course, they can achieve this easily by developing into a bigger and "better" role within the city that optimizes profits and gives monopolistic power over the surrounding communities. I am for this movement because I know I don't want to have my name in this expansion. And I am not protesting because I feel guilty; I am not guilty for this expansion. I am protesting it because I want to change the attitude and morals of Columbia's 'pristine' hierarchy of power, which is simply one GIANT monopoly.

    As students within this institution, we have so much power, but it really pains me to see that many students are failing to recognize the fact. The occupy site is a 15 minute walk away on W 125th Street. It's so easy to get to! Come and bring your art, music, or any other expressive support if you want! You would be surprised how much potential we have if you only came to the occupation to recognize it.

    And if this is too difficult for you, or you still don't seem to care, at least recognize that above all, this expansion is a devastating impact on the community because Columbia is neglecting our own. But instead of putting time and energy into positively improving this apathetic and dissonant campus, they are avoiding that reality and masking it with size rather than quality. Please powers of Columbia, focus on the mental and social health of this community before unethically destroying an innocent other. I know your poor souls are bored, but it would be much appreciated by the student body.

  13. prezbo

    i'm hungry for other! feed me other!

  14. Anonymous  

    everyone, you should just come to the forum tonight and you can say what you need to say:

    also, here's more info on the occupation:

  15. your friend and ally  

    Hey guys! Wanna have this debate in a space that isn't as vacuous and inhuman as the bwog comments page??! then come to the forum tonight at 8PM in MATHEMATICS 203! People from throughout the community will be coming out to speak on the issue, so please come if you are interested, agree, disagree, don't know what the fuck is going, or just want to listen.


    • Alum

      "Wanna have this debate in a space that isn’t as vacuous...."

      Really? I've tried to debate the Stop Columbia people via email, but they simply ignore contrary views no matter how much proof they are offered. They're hardly in a position to call the discussion on Bwog "vacuous".

      • CC 11.5

        Debate, discourse, dialogue — whatever you want to call it, if someone's calling for an open exchange of ideas so everyone can make up their own minds it's never going to happen. I can guarantee there are no words that exist in any language that someone who supports the expansion can say to someone who doesn't, or vice versa, that will change their mind. Most people are generally aware of the facts but have different instinctive reactions to it. Some people view it as a racist, classist, imperialist takeover whereas I just don't. I looked at the facts and came to a different conclusion, and this isn't situation where anyone is going to be convinced of anything — if anything's gotten wrong with American discourse it's that the idea that someone who disagrees with you can't be doing it honestly has gotten to be so pervasive. To those opposed to expansion, you have to accept that someone who's not ignorant or racist can disagree with you honestly. I don't think that you're naive or have a victimhood complex, I just think you're honest-to-G-d-wrong.

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