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December 20, 2007

City Council approves Columbia University's expansion plan, next step land grab

On fourth down, instead of punting the approval of Columbia University's Expansion plan into next year, the City Council ran a quarterback sneak, by holding a whirlwind day of multiple-committee hearings and a full Council vote to approve the plan.

The city approval clears the way for NY State to authorize the use of eminent domain.

You might be thinking that we've somehow got it wrong, it's a City plan, isn't the city doing the condemnations? Nope, the powerbrokers are bringing in the State and our favorite public-slash-private agency-slash-corporation to do the dirty deed — for the uninitiated, that would be the Empire State Development Corporation.

Here's today's coverage:

ColumbiaU.jpgNY Sun, Columbia Expansion Sets Up Eminent Domain Battle

The vote completes the city's review of the rezoning and paves the way for a groundbreaking, but representatives of landowners within the expansion footprint said they would challenge the use of eminent domain in court. Columbia University representatives have said they aim to reach a negotiated settlement with the remaining landowners, but have made it clear they would invoke the state's power of eminent domain to condemn the property if no agreement is reached.

MetroNY, Columbia gets early Christmas ‘present’

Though the Council had until mid-January to vote, members were called in yesterday on the heels of a marathon negotiating session between the West Harlem Local Development Corporation and the school on a community benefits agreement.
The CBA was still being finalized, and the terms were not disclosed to Council members before the vote.

NY Daily News, Council OKs Columbia U. expansion

Columbia University won zoning approval for its $7 billion campus expansion plan Wednesday in a City Council vote marked by accusations of back-door dealing and political influence.

AP via, Newsday, City Council clears way for Columbia University expansion

Critics promised continued opposition to the plan.
"We're going to stop it in the streets," said Ruth Eisenberg, a member of opposition group Coalition to Preserve Community. "As the outrage of the community becomes more obvious, it's going to be very hard to go forward."

amNY, Council pushes through Columbia University expansion

Backers of the plan dismissed the idea that the vote was speeded through.
"This process has been going on for more than two years," said Robert Jackson (D-Harlem) who represents the area in the council. "If you didn't know then you have not been paying attention."
...
In the council Wednesday, Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) attempted to keep the issue from going to a full vote by a making a motion to delay. After a brief pause so council staffers could check the rules to see if a delay was permitted, the motion was denied.
"If we've been at it for two years what's the matter with two more weeks?" he said.
"Give the public a chance. We are here to protect out community from eminent domain and the abuse of those in power."

Columbia Spectator, Council Signs Off on Manhattanville Expansion

City Councilman Tony Avella, D-Queens, raised concerns that the Council’s approval of the expansion plan would set a precedent for the use of eminent domain in situations not essential to public good. “Nobody’s private property in this city is safe,” Avella, who voted against Columbia’s plan, said. “Anytime a developer or a private institution with political influence comes along, nobody is safe.”
“This is not just about Columbia University,” Councilman Vincent Ignizio, R-Staten Island, said. “This is about a powerful entity which seeks to take land from honest landowners who are paying their taxes.”

The NY Times, Columbia Expansion Gets Green Light

All but about three buildings will be torn down to make room for the new campus, which Columbia officials said would eventually include many of the university’s science and research laboratories.

Posted by lumi at December 20, 2007 4:33 AM