Rally on City Hall Steps to Protest Columbia Expansion Vote at City Council
The Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC) will hold a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall at 1:00PM today, Wednesday, Dec. 19, to protest the vote in favor of the Columbia expansion plan in West Harlem. Speaker Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg have been pushing this plan hard behind the scenes with committee meetings left unannounced until the last minute in a disgraceful display of power playing which prevents citiizens from civic particpation in the most fundamental ways. They have ignored conmunity concerns expressed for years by the community and articulated recently in the Community Board 9’s (CB9) 32 to 2 vote against the Columbia plan and its ten point resolution. For years, members of the CPC have objected to eminent domain, displacement, the plan to place biolevel lab #3’s in a residential community, and the construction of a bathtub design foundation for 17 acre carve out in a flood plain area. Neither CB 9, nor the CPC, have been supported from elected officials in City Hall.
Uptown, the elected officials have been equally unresponsive. They have taken control of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation (LDC), a not-for-profit entity specifically created to negotiate a community benefits agreement with Columbia in connection with its proposed expansion. They have adopted a compromising stance. Last month, three LDC directors resigned, and tomorrow, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp will announce his resignation. This is a rigged process and the LDC has refused to be a true advocate for the 197 A plan. It has apparently given the green light to eminent domain for the property owners, and avoided the fact that Columbia’s all or nothing declaration means that longtime residents in the expansion area will be pushed out – whether the process is called eminent domain or not. The LDC met last night with Councilman Jackson negotiating with Columbia officials and apparently this politician-dominated board will also accept biolevel #3 labs and a gutting of demands on environmental issues.
CB 9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc recently stated on a PBS show that he expected the CBA to have a value of $700 to $800 million, similar to the percentage provided in the Staples agreement in California. But, as the CPC predicted, the crumbs that Scott Stringer initiated when he sold out the community and voted for Columbia, have underminined negotiations. Community outrage is at an all time high and Columbia’s terrible community relations have reached a crisis. The vote today may well be the end of the ULURP process, but it is just the beginning of an on the ground campaign to stop the Columbia expansion and all zoning plans in Harlem meant to remove longtime residents.
The West Harlem Local Development Corporation has been moving very quickly and in the process has avoided transparency and consultation with the members it is supposed to be negotiation for. Please take a few minutes and write to our electeds, and any other officials you know or have any connection with or believe should be representing the people, and ask that they schedule the meetings that CPC believes are necessary. We also want them to explain their positions on each of the issues where Columbia rejects the community’s 197A plan.
(See the URLs at the end of this message for details of the respective plans. Even more important, use the URLs below to email or phone or fax the officials supposed to be representing your interests.)
I especially urge you to contact Danny O’Donnell’s office: Danny has remained outside of the conversation on the CU expansion, but he represents the people of this area who are NOT Columbia administrators and faculty, and he should respond to our/their needs, if only to explain why he thinks that what CU is proposing will be better for the community than what the CB9 and CPC plans (197A) are proposing. The silence is deafening.
I would hope that all our elected officials remember that there is more to holding office than just considering campaign contributions and putative turf wars: the issue is not one affecting only Morningside Heights or West Harlem: the issues of eminent domain, unaccountable construction by tax-exempt entities subjecting surrounding communities to toxic and economic destruction, are city wide,if not nation wide. So far only Bill Perkins has had the integrity and courage to speak out in favor of the community position on CU’s proposals and against private use of eminent domain and CU’s arrogant insistence that it has the right to build whatever, wherever. We need to hear from ALL of our elected officials – city, state, and if necessary federal. Please call or write today.
For City Council members:
For State Senators and Representatives:
COALITION TO PRESERVE COMMUNITY –
United for an Open and Strong Community
POST OFFICE BOX 50 – Manhattanville Station
365 West 125th Street
NEW York City, New York 10027
Coalition to Preserve Community Steering Committee
December 15th, 2007
Dear Pat Jones, Julio Batista, Cecil Corbin-Mark, Maritta Dunn, Susan Russell (LDC officers)
And All Directors of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation:
As we approach the final stages of the ULURP process with the City Council about to vote on the Columbia 197C plan and the Community Board 9 197A plan, we understand that the pressure is mounting for a Community Benefits Agreement between the WHLDC and Columbia University. Many of the electeds are specifically asking for a CBA to be achieved before the City Council vote as an assurance that any negative impacts of Columbia’s rezoning will be successfully mitigated by various concessions and legally binding proposals. The specific terms of the Community Benefits Agreement, therefore, are extremely influential to the proceedings.
We of the Coalition to Preserve Community believe the WHLDC must report to the greater community about its negotiations and publicly explain the specific terms of any proposed agreement before the LDC holds a final vote on it. Since the WHLDC was created to represent the community and is negotiating on its behalf, it must, therefore, report back to the community. Furthermore, those members who have been elected by various constituencies must confer with and get the approval of their constituencies before they can legitimately cast their votes.
We of the CPC insist that the members of the WHLDC immediately convene meetings with the constituencies whom they represent to discuss and get their approval of the terms of any proposed CBA before they cast their final votes. In addition, we insist that the WHLDC hold a formal, public meeting to outline the final terms of any proposed CBA and to have all the LDC members explain the basis of their proposed votes. We have made this request on multiple occasions over many months. It is imperative that all these meetings happen before the members of City Council hold their subcommittee and committee meetings where votes will be cast concerning Columbia’s 197C and CB9’s 197A plans. We understand that the Council may convene these meetings next week, before the winter recess, or in January 2008, possibly as early as January 7th.
In addition, since there are so many other rezoning and development projects currently proposed for Northern Manhattan and
Harlem (including the 125th Street River to River Rezoning and the Uptown New York proposals), the details of these meetings must be shared with the other affected communities and made public, so all these agreements may be considered together.
These matters are of utmost urgency as the ULURP clock is ticking away.
You can contact us at (212) 666-6426 or email us at the email addresses of the general signers below which are copied on this letter. Thank you.
Nellie Bailey Tom DeMott Luis Tejada
For the Coalition to Preserve Community Steering Committee
cc. Reyes-Montblanc, Perkins, Bloomberg, Quinn, Rangel, Jackson, Dickens, Avella, Garodnick, Katz, Barron, Wright, Schneiderman, O’Donnell, Farrell, Gotbaum, Stringer
COALITION TO PRESERVE COMMUNITY
For City Council members:
For State Senators and Representatives:
For details of the respective plans, and arguments about issues:
Around 110, the e-list for the
W110 (and around) Block Association