Harlem Fights Back Over Columbia University Expansion

The university's plans, which are subject to approval next week, are strongly opposed by local residents, who city decades of poor relations with the elite institution.

"...by next Monday the city's planning authority must decide whether or not to allow the redevelopment of 17 acres in west Harlem and let Columbia go ahead with a massive expansion of its campus that would cost it $7 billion over the next 25 years.

The proposal, fiercely resisted by many local residents who say it will encroach upon the black American nature of Harlem, would mark the third dramatic expansion in Columbia's history since it was founded with just eight students in 1754 in what is now downtown Manhattan."

"Columbia University...says it needs to expand again so that it can remain globally competitive. Bollinger points out that Columbia students, of whom there are now more than 2,000, enjoy less than half the space per head than their equivalents at rivals Harvard, Yale or Princeton."

"The university has earmarked a largely manufacturing area in west Harlem which it plans to develop into 'Manhattanville', complete with a new business centre, research laboratories, and improved facilities for students and professors.

Renzo Piano, co-designer of the Paris Pompidou centre and architect of the recently completed New York Times building in Manhattan, has produced the plans in sparkling glass and metal."

"A community board of local groups and businesses has already voted against Manhattanville by 32 to two votes. Residents have been angered by the threatened use of "eminent domain" to compulsorily purchase the homes of around 400 people living in the Manhattanville zone.

The hostility rests upon decades of mutual suspicions.

Columbia, with its mainly white and affluent student body, stands on top of a hill, rather like a medieval Italian town, overlooking the largely black and until recently overwhelmingly poor neighbourhood of central Harlem."

Full Story: Harlem takes on university in battle of town versus gown

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