Columbia Passes Big Test

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The City Planning Commission vote okaying Columbia University's plan for a west Harlem campus is a win for the school, the neighborhood and the city.

Columbia would transform 17 acres of a defunct manufacturing zone into a $6 billion center of learning and research. There'd be new parks and shops, as well as classrooms, labs and dorms. There'd be 1,200 construction jobs for 22 years, with 40% of the jobs reserved for women, minorities or local residents. There'd be 7,000 permanent jobs, 6,000 on the Columbia payroll and 1,000 others.

Despite those benefits, the project has been dogged by opponents accusing the university of every crime short of treason: a grotesque land grab; the rich trampling upon the downtrodden poor. And so on.

Nonsense. The campus would take up four shopworn blocks from 129th to 133rd St. west of Broadway. Columbia owns 65%. The state and Con Ed have 23%. That gives the university access to 88% of the tract. Most of the remaining 12% consists of two gas stations and a half-dozen commercial properties. The school is trying to negotiate purchases.

In the entire 17 acres, there are only 132 apartments with fewer than 300 tenants, and all have been offered equivalent or better housing, with a guarantee that eminent domain will not be used to acquire homes. None of the apartments are in the first phase of the project; none will be touched until at least 2015.

The plan now goes to the City Council, where approval looks certain. Let the transformation begin - and the truth, not agitators' distortions, win out.

© New York Daily News, L.P.; reproduced with permission.