Day 4 of the Occupation

Today was day four of the occupation of Tuck-it-Away Storage at 655 West 125th Street. With the help of the state, Columbia University is using eminent domain to destroy this business and building, replacing it with more Columbia buildings wherein the institution will continue to serve private interests – the interests of the 1% – rather than the public good.

Quite contrarily, Columbia University is serving the public a heaping helping of bad: as millions across the country are evicted from their homes, Columbia joins the world’s corporate and financial institutions through displacing 500 people primarily and 5,000 people secondarily, as you can see from the highly-informative sign above.

This photograph is from today’s passionate march around town and campus. We were spreading the word about the occupation (pun intended). We are looking forward to the community and resistance that will come from this new space at 655 W 125th, where West Harlem residents and students are already meeting and working together to fight Columbia’s expansion with new energy.

Want to know what else the fliers in our hands say?
They say:

SPEAKERS:
Sarah Martin, president of Grant Houses
CU Professor Mindy Fullilove
Ramon Diaz, owner of Floridita
Tom De Mott, Coalition to Preserve Community
Luis Tejada, Director of Mirabal Sisters Community Center
St Mary's Reverend Earl Kooperkamp
Layan Fuleihan, Columbia Student
President Bollinger invited
Facebook Event

MAP OF LOCATION

The Open Forum is tomorrow and we are very excited.
My fellow students: this is a fantastic opportunity to learn about what’s really happening regarding the expansion of the institution to which we devote our dollars and our daily lives.

We also now have an announcements google group!

Hope you’ll join us soon.

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Nightly Meeting notes: Saturday March 24, 2012 9:00 PM

Agenda (not followed in this order, just discussion topics)

    Logistics for tonight
    Tomorrow
    Assess what we did today
    What happens after Monday?

TODAY 

    Had a march at 2:30
    Fliered on campus, with drums etc
    Paid respsects at demolition site
    Marched to 3333 Broadway
    St. mary’s community came and recited Fredrick Douglas poem
    connected with a lot of new people
    this is slow but we are starting to make a presence
    we should be more self critical because we are not very visible, and we need to do face to face outreach
    how do we handle tactically and ideologically with wall street?
    What were the student’s reactions?

  • pretty good but hard to get people out of comfort zone.
  • Proposal: have an informational flyer with ways people can show support
  • Proposal: use the lawn outside of math to do some sort of follow up after the forum
  • A speak out?
  • Guerrilla theater

Proposal:
do a news show at wkcr

    What did we learn from outreach to the community?

  • From tenants organization: gentrification is going to leave all the housing projects marooned and ready for takeover.

TONIGHT: RAIN: all night work-in!!

TOMORROW: outreach for the forum.

3 PM meet at occupation and march to campus, bring printed flyers and music making tools!

Some notes on a long unstructured conversation: what it means to occupy, what is community, which community, etc.  Articulated a difference between this occupation and others, general sentiment that primary goal is listening to and supporting the community: community consists of the people who interact with the space threatened by columbia’s plans. We are not taking over the building, we need to respect the space.


Friday Occupation Log 3-23-12

Friday’s occupation log:

After a midnight short but effective meeting, an updated flyer and press release was sent out to explain that we have taken 655 W. 125th Street away from the state. Our notice indicated we are occupying in order to focus on Cuomo’s ESDC’s theft of property. We have now taken it back and proffered it to its rightful owner. What we are doing should be an example to Columbia so they leave West Harlem alone, and stop their plan to evict more residents in 2018, and all those projected to be displaced during this whole development process.

An article in the Thursday New York Times about the building collapse included coverage of our building takeover and linked the two stories (most unfavorable publicity both ways for CU) giving additional credibility to our cause (and those demands we’ve been making for 9 years). Fox TV also covered our protest and showed footage of a CPC member addressing the crowd outside the building talking about bio-hazard labs, and anthrax consequences specifically. (yeah, Fox.) This kind of press publicity and our high profile presence in a very high visibility location seem to have Low Library sweating it a bit. (Remember that this biohazard lab’s basement construction is a very expensive gamble – is sure is taking them a long time to get 80 feet down – way behind schedule.)

Columbia is pulling out all the stops with their police dept. to derail our takeover of this building. We just got word that the cops called and that our owner will now be subject to fines if we sleep inside again. It would be the Dept of Transportation (DOT) that would issue the violations according to the cops. We have managed to have a decent relationship with the police so far but at this point things are up in the air. We will sleep outside tonight, the majority did that last night too. We will use the lobby as our living room, meeting room, music room, and hang out place. And of course we have access to the bathroom.

The busy info table and extensive flyering today were powerful results of our takeover. This location in the Triangle of Eviction (Tuck It Away, Singh’s gas station, and the site of the asbestos ridden Floridita) is the best community spot we have ever had over our long history of protesting the eviction plan. The students did a nice old fashioned spray paint on a white sheet making an “occupied” banner, and many new signs were posted up today, including a red, yellow and black lettered poster that reads: “Take Back Harlem, Occupy Columbia’s Harlem Land Grab, Fight Cuomo’s Eviction Agency ESDC.” Contributions of pictures and poetry were posted up on the Wall of Art. Writers, rappers, poets, and painters are encouraged to come out and add to the wall and play music. Lots of people came by with food and drink, even a brother from Fairway who stopped by to give us a box of cookies cause he dug what we are doing. We are getting a lot of sympathy, nice comments, and valuable information from this occupation effort. The weather looks a bit rough coming up, and we could use some dry bodies to come hang with us for a couple of hours here and there.

It was an excellent day of defending the community, including the student community.

Our group is now using the name Stop Columbia University Displacement (SCUD).

Come out and help out. (Today’s summary by Tom DeMott, member of SCUD and CPC – Coalition to Preserve Community)


Eminent Domain Site Occupied

It’s official:

On March 22, 2012, members of the Coalition to Preserve Community, St. Mary’s Congregations for Justice and Peace, Harlem community members, and students of Columbia University, joined forces to march against Columbia University’s expansion plans and project of displacement.  This march culminated in an occupation and opening up of the Tuck-it-Away storage building lobby, 655 West 125th St, as a center for mobilizing, organizing, and channeling resistance to Columbia’s racist, untransparent, and exploitative plans and actions.  This building is symbolic because it was condemned to be destroyed through the use of eminent domain; a fate that has and will befall other buildings, businesses, and residents in communities under the threat of institutionally-driven displacement. This action is an effort to retake the property from the clutches of the Empire State Development Corporation, to give it back to its rightful owner, and, in turn, to suggest an alternative model for how Columbia should share with the community, not displace it.

Concerns and grievances that have been expressed so far by members of the community include, but are not limited to issues such as:

  1. The 7,000 jobs and job training promised to community members by Columbia in order to obtain approval for the expansion plans, which have not yet materialized.
  2. The plans to build a level 3 biohazard laboratory which will include a 7-story-deep basement in an area subject to hurricane flooding and storm surges and over an active fault line.
  3. The threat of forced displacement at the hands of the university suffered by residents of the Harlem community.
  4. The threat of removal from the expansion area faced by businesses and commercial tenants through the use of eminent domain.
  5. The relocation of Floridita Restaurant by the university to premises contaminated with asbestos and its refusal to deal with this contamination so that the restaurant can reopen.
  6. The failure to ensure the health and safety of all those involved in and implicated by the demolition and construction.

Community concerns and grievances have not yet been heard and adequately considered by the University administration.  Manipulation of formal procedures and protocols has closed the conversation, cut off community voices, and framed the expansion as an inevitability.  In order to reopen the conversation, and with the intention of challenging the finality of all aspects of the proposed expansion, we invite you to join us as we fight to Stop Columbia University Displacement.

In solidarity,

SCUD (Stop Columbia University Displacement)

Video of the march: