the plans: columbia vs. community

Columbia’s plan and the community’s 197A plan are fundamentally incompatible. Where do you stand?

Columbia University is planning a huge second campus in the West Harlem, spanning from below 125th street to 134th street. The university is buying up acres of property and lobbying city and state government agencies and elected officials in search of zoning changes which would dramatically increase the value of the current property Columbia owns there now and whatever land it is actively seeking to acquire. Columbia wants to evict businesses and residents who live in the area between 125th and 134th Streets from Broadway to the river and beyond. On a third of the property, it intends to construct biotech labs (including BioSafety Level 3) in which scientists could experiment with dangerous and potentially deadly agents such as Avian Flu, SARS, and the Plague. These agents are transmitted by air, are highly contagious, and cause serious health problems. These labs should not be in a residential neighborhood.

There are two development plans being considered in West Harlem. Community members and planners at Community Board 9 have developed the 197A plan and this plan protects longtime residents and businesses. Columbia’s plan proposes to bulldoze ten blocks and will cause primary and secondary displacement. We compare the two plans below. The fact is that Columbia’s proposed expansion and the community’s 197A plan cannot be reconciled without one or the other being fundamentally altered.

Community Board 9 has worked with the Pratt Center for Community Development on the design of its community-initiated 197-a development plan, and continues to work with Pratt Center as New York City governmental agencies evaluate the 197-a plan against Columbia’s 197-c proposal for an expanded campus and biotech center. On the Pratt Center’s website, you can read an introduction to the community’s 197-a plan, or for a more comprehensive look, you can read the full text of the community’s 197-a plan.  There is information about the expansion on Columbia University’s website, where you can read about most aspects of its expansion proposal that have been made to the public from Columbia’s perspective. (Note: Columbia continues to conceal many aspects of the plan, and contends that many details of its proposal have not yet been determined.)

For an overview of the differences between Columbia’s vision and the development plan proposed by the community, compare the plans below:

Community 197-a Plan

Columbia’s 197-c Plan

Protects existing housing and creates new affordable housing Displaces hundreds of long-term low income residents in the expansion zone and creates housing exclusively for upper level administrators, faculty and students
Rules out eminent domain, protecting residents and businesses in expansion area Relies on the use of eminent domain causing harassment, disruption, and eventual eviction of residents and businesses
Creates jobs with a future for local residents Eliminates over 1000 existing jobs and adds less than 1000 jobs over thirty years for community members (jobs will overwhelmingly be for outsiders)
Protects manufacturing jobs Columbia University’s proposed jobs for locals are primarily low wage jobs in the service sector
Establishes “zero waste” environmental zone, calls for “green” buildings Creates bio-tech facilities – occupying more than a third of expansion area and including bio-safety level 3 labs handling deadly viruses (located directly across the street from public housing projects and other housing.) Includes biotech production and bio-terrorism research with funding from Homeland Security.
Calls on institutions to set aside remaining rent regulated apartments for long term residents Continues policy of taking community housing out of rent regulation and reserving it exclusively for institutional use (more than 6000 units housing long term community families eliminated in last three decades)
Creates a special use district in which available space is shared Creates a campus based on exclusive use of all available space for Columbia
Respects architectural and historical integrity of the area Size and bulk of proposed buildings out of context to surroundings, with Columbia University bulldozing almost the entire area


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