COLUMBIA'S EXPANSION INTO WEST HARLEM: IN WHOSE INTEREST?
Introduction | The Players | Timeline
Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC)
CPC is a community organization founded in 2003 in response to Columbia’s announcement of its plans to expand in Manhattanville. The group is composed of community activists and longtime residents of West Harlem and the adjoining areas. CPC’s activism is informed by Columbia’s long history of unilateral development and housing deregulation in Morningside Heights, much of which has occurred without compromise or compensation for residents who have lost their homes. In light of this history, CPC’s work has focused on generating pressure on the University to depart from this history and expand in a way that respects and preserves the vitality of existing Harlem communities. They are unequivocally opposed to primary displacement of jobs and housing as well as the use of eminent domain and the construction of biotech facilities with potentially hazardous environmental and health consequences. They support new development insofar as it brings jobs with a future (read living wage) to the neighborhood, creates a proportion of affordable housing along with any new housing, and respects the historical and architectural integrity of the neighborhood. Because of these concerns, the CPC wholeheartedly supports CB9’s 197-A plan.
For more information, visit www.stopcolumbia.org
Community Board Nine Manhattan (CB9 M)
Community boards are the most local form of government in New York City. Community Board Nine’s jurisdiction runs from 110th-155th Sts, to the west of Morningside Ave, St. Nicholas Ave, and Edgecombe Ave, moving from the South to the North. In 1991, CB9 began work on a 197-A plan for the redevelopment of West Harlem, which was submitted for review by the Department of City Planning (DCP) in 2005. The 197-A plan was created with input from a broad base of community residents and business owners along with consultants and city planning experts from the Pratt Institute for Community and Environmental Development. Early drafts of the plan were presented and critiqued in public forums and affected government agencies and elected officials. More than a concrete plan, the 197-A is a framework for development. The 197-a proposes a range of actions that would help assure that the environment is protected, that housing opportunities for low and middle-income residents are protected and expanded, and that the creation of stable jobs along with the protection of existing businesses is paramount in any new development. The plan’s zoning recommendations focus on the Manhattanville area, and would create space for mixed-use development while preserving the area’s existing manufacturing and residential uses. In 2004, CB9 unanimously adopted a resolution against the use of eminent domain to seize property in Manhattanville for private development.
For more information on CB9 M, visit www.neighborhoodlink.com/manhattan/com9
For more information on the Pratt Institute, visit www.prattcenter.net/cp-cb9.php
West Harlem Business Group
The West Harlem Business Group is composed of four family-owned businesses in Manhattanville who have refused to sell their businesses in order to make way for Columbia’s expansion (Hudson Moving and Storage, Despatch Moving and Storage, Tuckitaway Storage, and Pearlgreen Corporation). The first and foremost concern of these business owners is to protect against the potential use of eminent domain to convey their properties to Columbia University. Having operated in the neighborhood for decades, these businesses would like to stay, and two of them—Tuckitaway and Hudson—have submitted zoning proposals (like Columbia’s 197-C plan) to redevelop their properties. That of Anne Whitman at Hudson Moving and Storage would provide seedling space for community organizations, non-profits, and artists at affordable rates. Nick Sprayregen of Tuckitaway Storage has proposed to rezone four of his five properties in order convert them into affordable housing. Community Board Nine has voiced their support of these two 197-C proposals and would like to see them proceed in tandem with Columbia’s development.
For more information, visit www.westharlembusinessgroup.com
West Harlem Local Development Corporation (West Harlem LDC)
The West Harlem LDC was started at the request of the Department of City Planning in 2006 in order to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with Columbia University that would address community concerns about Columbia’s plan (outside of zoning issues). The twenty-member board represents the interests of CB9, tenants of private and public housing, commercial property owners, arts and cultural groups, faith-based organizations, community organizations, community development corporations, and elected officials. A representative for educational needs and concerns has not yet been added to the board. The LDC states it mission as creating the CBA in a manner that is both transparent and accountable to the West Harlem community but the negotiation process has not lived up to these goals thus far. There is concern over the lack of community forums in which to discuss the terms of the CBA and because many LDC meetings are held in executive session, where members of the public cannot attend. Even during public meetings, there is no space for public comment. The issue of accountability to the West Harlem community is complicated by the fact that several voting members of the LDC are politicians who represent areas beyond West Harlem. However, the LDC does host a number of working groups for those interested in planning for specific issues in the negotiation process such as housing, historic preservation, arts and culture, and environmental sustainability.
For more information, visit www.westharlemldc.org
Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)
ESDC is the government agency that oversees economic development in New York State and has the power to exercise eminent domain. Most recently, ESDC invoked the power of eminent domain to condemn property in Brooklyn to make way for Bruce Ratner’s hotly-contested Atlantic Yards development. In the case of Columbia’s expansion, the potential use of eminent domain would involve not only the seizure of privately-held properties, but also two-city owned buildings that are part of a long-term affordable housing cooperative program called the Tenant Interim Lease program. A prerequisite for the use of eminent domain in Manhattanville would be a finding of blight as the end result of a Neighborhood Condition Study funded by Columbia and conducted by the firm AKRF. Opponents of this use of eminent domain have pointed to the fact that Columbia not only owns the majority of land it seeks to declare blighted but has also signed an agreement to pay any legal fees the State might incur as a result, criticizing the University for conflicts of interest.
For more information, visit www.empire.state.ny.us
Department of City Planning (DCP)
The New York Department of City Planning oversee zoning proposals in NYC before they are submitted for consideration by City and Council and the Mayor’s Office. With regard to West Harlem, the DCP is responsible responsible for reviewing CB9’s 197-A plan along with the 197-C plans of Columbia University and neighborhood business owners. In this capacity, the DCP reviews relevant plans for certain development standards which will then be considered in public hearings during the Uniform Land Use and Review Procedure(ULURP). ULURP will begin once the DCP finds the Environmental Impact Statement for Columbia’s plan ready for release, a finding expected any day now.
For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/html/dcp
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