December 12, 2007
Statement for the Record to the New York City Council
Joint Hearing of the Land Use Subcommittees on
Zoning & Franchises and Planning, Dispositions & Concessions
Avella, Chairman Garodnick, Chairwoman Katz, Members of the Committees,
and our own Council Members Dickens, Jackson, and Martinez: My name is
Lee Bollinger. I am President of Columbia University, and I want to
begin by thanking you for taking time to consider Columbia’s long-term
plan to ensure that Upper Manhattan remains a flourishing center of
teaching and research, scholarship and patient care – doing so, all the
while, in concert with our neighbors in West Harlem.
am pleased to be accompanied this morning by Maxine Griffith, Executive
Vice President for Government and Community Relations, a onetime member
of both the City Planning Commission and of Columbia’s urban planning
faculty, who will give a brief presentation of the proposal; and by
Robert Kasdin, Senior Executive Vice President, who will help us
respond to your questions.
We take very seriously the
fact that our full and official name is Columbia University in the City
of New York. Our identity has always been defined by the City that has
been our home ever since the College’s founding more than 250 years ago
just a few steps down Broadway from here in the schoolhouse at Trinity
Church. We are what we are because of New York. And we take special
pride in all that Columbians have contributed to the vitality and
leadership of this City.
In the hundred years from
its inception, Columbia would relocate twice more: First, it was to
Park Place and next to 49th Street and Madison. Then, in the 1890s, a
momentous decision was reached to move what was then only a small
college uptown to eighteen acres on Morningside Heights. In later
decades our medical center was built in Washington Heights. This
occurred at the start of the era in which American universities grew to
become engines of creativity that brought enormous societal benefits,
ranging from cures to disease to economic innovation to social justice
and equal rights.
By the 1930s and 40s, Columbia was
providing the brain trust for FDR’s New Deal while helping to develop
radar and split the atom, with Nobel Prizes as much a Fall rite for our
physics department as Yankee pennants were for former College student
Lou Gehrig. It was at this time that Columbia also became a place where
young people of modest means could come from across the five boroughs
by bus or subway to better their lives through education. In the
decades that followed an array of extraordinary young New Yorkers and
others came to Morningside Heights – among them the Beat writers, Ruth
Bader Ginsberg, Barack Obama, New York Supreme Court Justice Rolando
Acosta, and State Lieutenant Governor David Paterson.
of us came from across the country, as I did almost forty years ago to
attend the Law School known for its leadership in human rights. Among
the School’s distinguished alumnae was Constance Baker Motley, who
after graduating went on to become Manhattan Borough President and the
first African American woman to serve as a federal judge, right here in
the Southern District.
Now we attract students not
only from across our City and country, but also from around the world.
We are today the second most international university in the United
States, in terms of the absolute number of international students. Our
undergraduate college also proudly ranks as one of the most
socio-economically diverse among our peers, in significant part because
of our firm commitment to provide financial aid that affords young
people the opportunity to benefit from a Columbia education, regardless
of their wealth or family income.
While our faculty and
staff at Harlem Hospital conduct pioneering research on asthma and
heart disease, our Mailman School has been a leader in maternal and
child health in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
our Law School is a center for international human rights and gender
rights, our students work in community legal clinics helping to assert
the rights of tenants and defend the liberties of those wrongfully
accused, as I myself once did in a Legal Aid Clinic in the South Bronx.
our Business School is training the leaders of Wall Street, it also has
an admired program in social entrepreneurship as well as partnerships
with respected community groups such as Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem
Children’s Zone (which also collaborates with our uptown medical
While our Nobel Prize-winning economists
consider the pressing issues of global trade, labor, and monetary
policy, we are working in a direct way on globalization’s impact on
U.N. Millennium villages in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and other
developing countries, as well as in New York’s own immigrant
While our Medical Center has announced
pioneering breakthroughs in the past few months on such areas as the
genetic origins of breast cancer, the surprising role of bones in
diabetes, and the risks of overusing medical scans, we also bring CUNY
undergraduates from underrepresented groups in the sciences into our
labs each summer to participate in this research.
our Earth Institute researchers are responsible for some of the most
important breakthroughs in climate science over the past two decades,
they are today serving as advisors to Mayor Bloomberg’s new Office of
Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (whose director, Rohit Aggarwala,
has four degrees from Columbia and is the principle author of plaNYC
While our engineers are working on applications
of nano-technology that promise to lead to the creation of
individualized drug therapies, our engineering school is partnering
with a dozen upper Manhattan public schools, as well as with community
groups, to enhance math, science, and technology education in our
community. This is part of the University’s larger commitment to a
public high school for math, science, and engineering, which opened
this fall, and will, we hope, one day be located on land we donated in
Ultimately, the questions we now face
are: Whether in the century ahead New York will remain a global capital
not only of business and finance but also of intellectual, technical,
and scientific discovery; and also whether this will be a City that
continues to provide the kind of good, moderate-income jobs for a
diversity of people seeking to improve their lives. I hope you will
agree that having great universities that are a steady source of both
good jobs and great minds is one part of what it will mean for New York
to remain such a unique and remarkable place in our nation and our
Today, Columbia has only a fraction of the space
enjoyed by our leading peers across the country. Our current classrooms
and laboratories are woefully inadequate for the new combinations of
knowledge that will be essential for attracting talent capable of
solving the great scientific challenges of this century.
believe the campus we hope to build in Manhattanville will respond to
these challenges. This will include teams of scientists (two of whom
are Noble Prize winners) in our new Mind, Brain, and Behavior Institute
in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center. Not only will their research
have profound implications for the treatment of mood disorders and
brain illness, it will also help us understand the mental processes
that permit us to write a novel, paint a masterpiece, patent an
invention or lead a business.
In our efforts to plan and
build for this future, we will create 6,000 new University jobs for a
wide range of experience and education levels, along with an average of
1,200 construction jobs a year for the next twenty-two years; and we
have made a strong commitment to hiring minority-, women-, and
locally-owned contracting businesses.
We have also
committed to take a series of further steps to address local concerns
about affordable housing, an issue that affects our entire City and
region. In addition to providing $20 million in seed capital for a
revolving loan fund to create and preserve over a thousand units of
affordable housing within Community District 9, we are dedicated to
addressing the projected housing needs of University employees that may
result from the new jobs we create in the area.
more than 14,000 faculty and staff today, Columbia ranks as New York
City’s seventh largest non-governmental employer. More than 10,000 of
these employees live in the five boroughs, representing more than
two-thirds of our workforce. Nearly 30% of our 8,600 administrative and
support staff live in Upper Manhattan alone. Then there are our alumni,
approximately 65,000 of whom live in New York City today.
is a New York institution. This is our home. This is where we want to
be. I am so pleased this project is in the middle of Congressman
Charles Rangel’s district and he supports the project. We hope to honor
his and others’ trust by advancing this community with whom we have
lived for over a hundred years; for whom we feel an ever greater sense
of responsibility; and from whom we have gained so much in our effort
to serve our City, nation, and world.
After four years
and hundreds of meetings with elected officials, civic leaders, clergy,
community board members, as well as with our own faculty and students,
I am pleased to report we have established a broadly shared vision for
a shared future that will bring Columbia and Harlem closer together to
improve our communities.
It is in this spirit that I ask
for your support in approving the University’s rezoning proposal, as
modified last month by the City Planning Commission. Thank you again
for your time and consideration.
It is now my pleasure
to introduce Maxine Griffith, Executive Vice President of Government
and Community Affairs, who will walk you through a more detailed
overview of the proposal.
Lee C. Bollinger