Columbia Expansion Moves Forward Despite Summer Recess

From Crain’s

Columbia expansion plowing ahead

By: Anne Michaud
Published: May 31, 2007 – 3:06 pm

Columbia University’s 17-acre expansion into West Harlem will enter into the city review process on Monday, following three years of delay and controversy.

The review, which takes seven months, would rezone several city blocks near the Hudson River to create a satellite campus for the university. Science labs, an arts building and a business school are planned.

Charges that the university is mishandling community relations have dogged the project — sometimes triggering student protests — and local leaders are objecting to the timing, which means that public hearings will be scheduled during the summer vacation months.

“It is the opinion of the West Harlem Local Development Corp. that a summer certification date for this proposal, which has been under review at the Department of City Planning for years, will offend the essence of the [land-use review] process which is designed to seek community comment and involvement,” wrote Patricia Jones, president of the LDC, in a letter to City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden.

Ms. Jones’ group is responsible for negotiating a package of community benefits with the university to offset any local hardship. Tension surrounds the prospect that Columbia will ask state officials to take the land of unwilling sellers by eminent domain.

The university’s rezoning application and environmental impact statement are in final review today by the Department of City Planning, a spokeswoman said. Planners expect to present it Monday to the City Planning Commission for certification, launching the review process known as ULURP.

City planners say the public will have plenty of time to offer input.

“The ULURP process extends for seven months and will allow many opportunities along the way for public comment,” says Rachaele Raynoff, department spokeswoman.

A representative of Columbia University said there is probably never a good time to start the process.

“We understand the challenges,” said a spokeswoman. “This has been a long time coming, and we are simply ready and willing to keep working with everyone.”

Posted Under: Environmental Review, Harlem, Institutional Expansion

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