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CAGE Creates Guide To Columbia Expansion

almaThis month, students from the Coalition Against Gentrification published a document entitled “Understanding Columbia University’s Expansion into West Harlem: An Activist’s Guide.” The guide aims to bring together all of the disparate information on Columbia’s expansion into one easily accessible resource.

The document includes census data and statistics on the neighborhoods surrounding Columbia, as well as information on what Columbia’s expansion may mean for those neighborhoods. For example, in the first section, the guide mentions, “Manhattanville is home to around 32,000 people…. The median household income for the neighborhood is $32,617.” It goes on to add, “The implication is that most tenants in the area live at or below the poverty level. The changes in property value that Columbia’s expansion will bring to the neighborhood present an immanent threat of displacement for unprotected tenants.”

There is also information on the recent raids on the Grant and Manhattanville houses near Columbia’s campus, which disrupted the lives of many residents. Public Safety VP James McShane gave his support to these raids in an email to the Columbia community last spring. As the document notes, that email included the information that “Columbia University’s Public Safety Program intends to escalate their surveillance and patrol activity throughout the housing projects, in collaboration with the New York Police Department.”

The majority of the guide consists of a timeline of Columbia’s expansion into West Harlem, from 1991 to 2014. Much of the information in the timeline focuses on protests of this expansion by Columbia students and West Harlem residents. Also significant are notes on Columbia’s use of eminent domain to acquire land in West Harlem. As part of the eminent domain agreement, Columbia committed to hiring a certain number of workers from West Harlem and establishing a $3 million fund for the Grant and Manhattanville Houses. However, according to articles linked in the document, both of those commitments have come into question in the past few years. As of last month, only $85,000 of the fund has actually been distributed, and the number of local workers hired has also been under investigation.

Finally, CAGE lists the sources that they have found useful in compiling this document and in the rest of their research. They also include further questions that they see as important, such as “How does the Columbia administration intend to navigate its relationship to the Grant and Manhattanville Houses from now until 2030?” and “What strategies can Columbia students adopt to mobilize in support of neighborhood residents who wish to remain in their own homes, and improve their living conditions?” More information on their work can be found on their website.

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26 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous well, this certainly reads like a press release107

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Oh, please, get a life. This is old news. This is not the 60′. Manhattanville is here. This is the best thing that ever happened to the neighborhood.

    1. Skeptical says:

      @Skeptical How so?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “Activist” is the new term for idiot.

    1. Skeptical says:

      @Skeptical Why’s that?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Haha then people will complain about how the neighborhood is “unsafe” due to the population that’s there right now. Let’s face it, people not being displaced by gentrification, whether they admit it or not, want it.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Your comments are unnecessary. Just read the document, and educate yourselves.

    1. Little tip says:

      @Little tip Telling people that their comments are unnecessary on an internet forum created as a venue for comments is pretty much a recipe for failure, as is an implicit “I have spoken, now shut up.” tack.

      For real, what did you think that’d accomplish?

  • CAGE should be caged says:

    @CAGE should be caged CAGE is just a mindless group, with a mission to upturn anything in sight. The fact is that the Manhattanville community would have complained (rightfully so) if Columbia had built a new campus in Hudson Yards, as Columbia was considering in early 2000. The community at large would have argued (rightfully so) that Columbia was abandoning its neighbors who yearn for clean and stable economic development. And the community at large would have asserted (rightfully so) that Columbia was ignoring the educational support that its neighbors are seeking. Now that Columbia is creating jobs, spurring thoughtful development, creating usable recreational space and sponsoring educational support to the community, a few idiots in the community are yelping. They are imbeciles. Maybe even morons. Indeed, you need not look any farther than CAGE’s opposition to the arrests of gang members terrorizing the residents of Grant and Manhattanville housing to size up CAGE’s sheer stupidity. Apparently, CAGE believes that gang members can murder, rob, rape and harass with impunity. Need I say more?

    1. The thing is says:

      @The thing is You are completely wrong that Columbia is doing any of these things to support the community. I challenge you to point me to examples of these things. I’ll give you one… the employment center? No one has ever been employed out of there!!! I think when you say the community you mean us (columbia students) as james mcshane did in his letter in opposition to anyone that actually live 9 blocks up in the area where the expansion is happening. It’s US VS THEM right? Get out of the bubble man (you are probably a man), the only terrorizing going on is the choking out of all opportunities for people up the street, Columbia’s severely troublesome history of land grabbing (which you can read about), and obviously the terrorism of the NYPD upon anyone with dark skin. Again get out of the bubble (or better yet out of the city since you obviously can’t live with anyone who is not like you), shill for someone more worth your time than Columbia, and get a life! Need I say more?

      1. Shills says:

        @Shills Shills everywhere!

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous “you are probably a man.”

        get out.

        1. Seriously, so many levels. says:

          @Seriously, so many levels. 1) Gender essentialism. 2) Reductionist. 3) “internet telepathy” 4) “Oh you’re a maaayan, so your argument is invalid” ( because reasons).

          1. OP says:

            @OP is that what I said?

  • Disgraceful says:

    @Disgraceful No. Please say no more. You comments are vacuous. And perhaps a bit racist. The residents of Grant and Manhattanville housing have a right to live in peace, with dignity, and without gangs threatening their neighborhoods with violence, drug and mayhem. I don’t know from where you hail, but I bet it’s some quiet high-end suburban enclave that wasn’t overrun with day-in and day-out violence. So it’s easy for you to say that the Grant and Manhattanville residents should just put up and shut up. For years, the resident leaders have requested the police to patrol their neighborhoods to rid them of the gangs shaking down the residents and corrupting their kids. Finally, the DiBlasio administration responded to the residents’ pleas. If there’s any injustice it’s that the delayed response by the City to take action. Unthinking morons like you are now seeking to deny the residents of Grant and Manhattanville housing the basic civility to which they are entitled and, for inexplicable reasons, embolden lawless gang members who have been disregarding and disrespecting them. You are disgraceful. Why don’t you drive your BMW back to the insular neighborhood from where you came, and sip a cappuccino in a quaint cafe on Main Street two blocks from where you grew up. What a squirt.

  • Dorian Bon says:

    @Dorian Bon From many of your brazen remarks, it is clear to me that few of you have even the most rudimentary grasp over present conditions in West Harlem. In fact, you mischaracterize the University’s own account of their expansion project.

    As is standard in contexts such as these, consider informing yourselves of the empirical and analytical material available to you on the subject matter. The document posted above contains references to all of Columbia’s official writings on the potential effects of their new campus, as well as further information from city government officials, policy makers, journalists, academics, and past student activists. If you are indeed motivated by a genuine concern for the status of the expansion, master these diverse perspectives before launching your dogmatic diatribes.

    I doubt you would venture such embarrassingly uninformed commentaries without BWOG’s inviting anonymity.

    The authors of’CAGE should be caged’ and ‘disgraceful’ strike me as especially adept at regurgitating passing phrases they skimmed on Columbia’s webpage. What on earth do you study that allows you to assume such uncritical positions?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Manhattanville, specifically the U.S. Grant houses, have deteriorated into a police compound (walk around up there you’ll see) — they strongly resemble a penitentiary. The buildings are in disrepair, and the grounds are filthy. The projects need to go. Projects need to go, they are an unhealthy environment for the people they house. In urban settings, high rise low income housing is a relic of a distant era. It fosters a hostile environment allowing gangs to flourish. Think about it, control the bottom floor and you have over a thousand people under your control. Projects also create an innate sense of inferiority in children growing up. Kids aren’t stupid, By second grade, the ones in the projects know they live in the big “poor” building. Eliminating Manhattanville projects and relocating residents to suburban settings/ mixing them into nicer apartment buildings throughout the city will have a much more positive effect on social welfare.

    Columbia is not gentrifying anything— they were here first. Look at pictures of Columbia and the surrounding area from the 30s and 40s. It was pristine, now the area’s gone to hell. It needs to be fixed.

  • convicted says:

    @convicted What exactly are the “shares” that Columbia is buying the Manhattanville Houses? I can’t figure outNYCHA program you’re talking about, and there’s no documentation provided, so I am a little skeptical of that.

    Either way, Columbia’s characteristic ineptitude means that the expansion is about 10 years behind schedule and suffering from massive budget shortfalls.

  • Skimmed the CAGE site says:

    @Skimmed the CAGE site -Greeted with a “Columbia has declared war on Harlem” sign. Has it now?

    -Aside from signing the petition (and, agreed, the University needs to honor its promises.), what exactly do you propose that we do?

    Most students are not activists, not because of apathy, but because they came here to do something very specific. And to be blunt, there are people here who worked their asses off to get this far and some of them are strapping themselves to hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to stay here. Not being a personal annoyance to the neighbors is about the limit of their community involvement.

    So, what are you proposing they do? Just leave and go home?

    1. According to "Disgraceful"... says:

      @According to "Disgraceful"... Yep. Pretty much.

      Disgraceful: “Why don’t you drive your BMW back to the insular neighborhood from where you came, and sip a cappuccino in a quaint cafe on Main Street two blocks from where you grew up.”

      If that’s indicative, then, yes. “Just leave and go home” sums it up.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Columbia was in this area BEFORE everyone else. It was farmland in Morningside Heights and Manhattanville. Everyone else moved to be near Columbia. They infringed on Columbia’s land not the other way around. Columbia brought the area jobs, education, civilization and a thriving economy. The city grew around the university. To now complain the university is a problem is a joke

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Correct. It’s like saying the crime in Cambridge is due to Harvard moving in and building a building.

    2. Odd way to frame it says:

      @Odd way to frame it We’re talking about two different things.

      Historically, the university was here, but that isn’t the same as a manifest-destiny right to any land Columbia wants to build on.

      Say I lived next door to you, and my family had lived there since colonial times. Your family moved in about, let’s say 1930, and have been there in one form or another since then.

      My family’s provenance doesn’t then mean I can, automatically, then kick yours out and demolish your home for an expansion wing on my house. Yet we see that with eminent domain claims.

      1. Alum says:

        @Alum That’s not a very good analogy.

        Everyone expects colleges and universities to expand over time, and to do so by adding to their existing campuses. People who move in to Morningside Heights shouldn’t be surprised when Columbia does what all major universities always do.

        Families don’t behave like institutions. Those which do need a lot more space and can’t readily buy an adjoining property usually relocate, even if they’ve been at their current location for generations.

        Also, if a family is prevented from expanding its home, the effect on the neighborhood, city, and region will be minimal. But major universities are economic engines, which contribute far more when they flourish than when they’re constrained. The Boston area’s economy is what it is largely because of MIT, Harvard, and other thriving institutions. The Bay area got where it is today because of Stanford and UC-Berkeley, among others. The effects aren’t usually that dramatic, but all major U.S. cities and urban areas benefit greatly from their universities, hospitals, etc.

  • Alum says:

    @Alum “The guide aims to bring together all of the disparate information on Columbia’s expansion into one easily accessible resource.”

    Seriously? The guide is a work of advocacy from one side of a dispute, and only “aims to bring together” all of the information that side wants to present. It doesn’t mention any of the good that could come from the expansion or examine the reasons why CU wants to build the new campus.

    There’s nothing wrong with CAGE issuing such a document. That’s how public debates work. But this entire post treats it as if it’s both comprehensive and objective. It is clearly neither.

    1. also alum says:

      @also alum Well, that’s bwog for you, only reporting on anti Columbia news and points of view. It is a shame the current students like to constantly cut down their school.

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