Thursday, January 31, 2008

Marine Snipers Scope Out New Tactics


Marine Snipers Scope Out New Tactics
Marine Corps News Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti January 31, 2008

Kuwait - Thanks to new sniping tactics picked up by Marine scout snipers in Kuwait, insurgents caught in their scopes are guaranteed to have a bad day.

The Scout Sniper Platoon and Reconnaissance Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, attended a ten-day training package Jan. 20-30 headed by National Sniper Champion Todd Hodnett who taught the Marines how to improve their lethality with new shooting formulas, shooting positions and techniques.

"Training with Todd Hodnett has taken our capabilities to a level that I didn't think was possible as a scout sniper," said Cpl. Ryan Lindner, a scout sniper with Scout Sniper Platoon and Napa Valley, Calif., native.

"Todd has really revolutionary tactics about shooting (around, over and within buildings.)"
During the training, the snipers where able to effectively engage targets that were behind buildings and many Marines hit targets at distances that they never attempted before.

One particular technique learned on the ranges was shooting loopholes. This technique makes the shooter virtually invisible from enemy detection by allowing him to shoot through a two-inch hole in a wall while 20 to 30-feet away from the hole.

"I've done stuff out here that I've never even heard of before," Cpl. Scott Koppenhafer, a scout sniper with Scout Sniper Platoon, said about the training.

"It directly correlates to everything we would do in combat."

1st Lt. Frank Edwards, Scout Sniper Platoon commander, said the Marines have been using personal digital assistants or PDAs to expand their capabilities.

"PDAs are relatively new to the Marine Corps and very new to our platoon," said the Olney, Md., native.

"It's a quicker, more efficient way for our guys to do math calculations such as atmospheric pressure, wind speed and target range so they can make their adjustments faster."

Using the hand-held devices was a new experience for many of the Marines.

"This is the first time I've worked with them," said Koppenhafer, a Mancos, and Colo., native.
"It used to take a week on the range going through boxes and boxes of ammo to build up data for your rifles. The PDA cancels that out. What used to take a week, now takes an hour."

In addition to learning advanced formulas and using modern technology to gain the upper hand, the Marines prepared themselves for the unexpected by shooting with different ammo and storing the results in their PDAs.

"If a sniper is in a firefight and has to switch to different ammo, he already has the data in his PDA," said Edwards.

As time changes, so too do the tactics and technological advances available to snipers. Learning what they are and how to employ them will keep Marine scout snipers at the top of the food chain, said Lindner.

"Taking what Todd has taught us enlarges everything we can do," said Lindner.

"We can engage targets a lot faster, farther and with a lot more accuracy. It will make us that much more of a combat multiplier out on the battlefield.",15240,161182,00.html?

Safety First

Safety First
By Editorial Board

Though Morningside Heights is in one of the safest precincts in Manhattan, serious crimes do occur near campus. Despite a recent string of robberies at local businesses, muggings outside of two dormitories, and a fatal shooting at Radio Perfecto last year, Columbia students have received only sporadic information about these crimes. Although the Department of Public Safety successfully maintains a secure environment for the Columbia community, there needs to be a more effective system by which students are notified of crime in the area.

Information about criminal incidents is published on the Public Safety Web site, but it is not properly disseminated. Under the Clery Act of 1990, the University must notify the community promptly about all crimes that present a threat to students’ security. At Columbia, this role has been delegated to Public Safety, yet it remains unclear where Public Safety and the administration draw the line on notifying students about Clery crimes, which include criminal homicide, forcible sexual offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and arson. Though the Clery Act requires that the specified crimes be kept in a public log, students are only actively notified by Public Safety about a small number of violations. According to Associate Vice President for Public Safety James McShane, these “blast e-mails”—by which the entire Columbia community has been notified of specific crimes—have been purely experimental. In general, administrators are responsible for informing students about crimes by forwarding messages sent by the Department of Public Safety.

This system is problematic because crime alerts go through several middlemen before reaching students. Though Public Safety reports all Clery crimes to the administration, the entire student body is not consistently notified. Students in different schools and dorms often receive varying degrees of information, leaving students blind to the reality of crime around campus. Many students were unaware of the muggings that took place outside the Woodbridge and Schapiro dormitories last semester because they did not receive notifications from the administration or see the small signs posted by Public Safety in some buildings. Students are more vulnerable when they are ignorant of the true number and nature of security threats.

To keep Columbia’s students and employees as safe as possible, a change in notification policy must be implemented. First, in conjunction with the administration, Public Safety should designate certain types of crimes as offenses that require the entire student body to be notified.
Dangerous Clery crimes should be reported to students and faculty whether or not Public Safety thinks a repeat offense is likely. Most importantly, notification about such crimes should be organized and executed entirely by Public Safety rather than through administrative middlemen. Through the blast e-mail system, a single alert about relevant incidents will reach all students and employees.

Though such a policy may require expanding the staff and scope of the Public Safety office, these changes will most effectively keep students alert and up-to-date on security threats in Morningside Heights. Columbia must make it a priority to keep its students safe.

Panel Tackles Emissions, Future of Climate Change

Panel Tackles Emissions, Future of Climate Change

By Maggie Astor

A four-person panel of environmental science experts and Nobel laureates, along with University President Lee Bollinger, explored the topic of climate change in front of a packed auditorium on Wednesday evening.

The event, titled “How the Nobel Was Won: Advances in the Science of Climate Change,” was organized largely by a group of four students as part of a national “Focus the Nation” awareness campaign. The panelists examined the global impact of climate change and brainstormed ways to both reduce the threat and adapt to what the panelists called inevitable consequences.

“The subject of climate change has moved from something only a few people had been talking about into something that has captured the attention and imagination of the world,” Bollinger said in his introduction.

Each panelist presented a different aspect of the larger issue.

“Global warming has the potential to be the perfect storm, or perfect disaster,” said Jim Hansen, astrophysicist and adjunct professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia.

Hansen discussed the dangers associated with current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and emphasized the “great inertia of systems,” or the fact that it can take years for carbon dioxide emissions to cause a measurable increase in ocean temperatures. This means that more than half of the warming that will be caused by greenhouse gases already released into the atmosphere “is still in the pipeline,” Hansen said.

While “it is still technically feasible” to avoid such consequences, he said: “it’s sort of barely possible. And if we stay on business as usual for another decade, we’ll be well beyond that possibility.”

R. K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, echoed Hansen, saying that “a dangerous threshold has been crossed.”

“We have to look at it from the perspective of those who are going to be the most affected,” Pachauri said.

“Issues of global warming are ... issues of social justice,” said Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia economics professor and globalization expert, explaining that while wealthy, industrialized countries are responsible for the majority of carbon dioxide emissions, underdeveloped countries pay the highest price.

The fourth panelist, Barnard professor Cynthia Rosenzweig, was involved with IPCC’s Working Group II, which developed a report on the vulnerability of the climate system and the potential impacts of warming.

After Bollinger questioned the panelists, he opened the floor to audience questions. Attendees clapped when a student asked how universities can work to decrease carbon dioxide emissions.

After initial answers by panelists who mentioned the Manhattanville expansion, Bollinger noted that the University is trying to make the new campus environmentally healthy. He added that Columbia has professionals working on environmental initiatives specifically related to the expansion, and that buildings would comply to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver standards. Hansen retorted that these standards are not “very stringent.”

Bollinger said he and the planning committee will always be open to suggestions about
Manhattanville’s environmental impact, and made sure to close the discussion by reiterating the fact.

Across the street in Barnard’s Altschul Auditorium, Columbia Focus the Nation organizers showed a Webcast titled The Two Percent Solution, which suggests that people reduce their carbon emissions by two percent each year, with the goal of reducing them 80 percent by 2050.

The organizers—Hannah Perls, CC ’11, Alima Catellacci, BC ’11, Acadia Roher, BC ’10, and Dario Abramskiehn, CC ’10—found out about the Webcast at Power Shift, a 6,000-student
environmental conference held in Washington, D.C. over Election Day weekend last November. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, over 1,600 schools nationwide aired it in unison.

The week of action will culminate today with a climate change teach-in at 5 p.m. in 1501 International Affairs Building.


Friday, February 01, 2008
Last Update: 12:20 AM EST


January 31, 2008 -- WHEN he wasn't too busy writing the Federalist Papers or founding newspapers or dueling with vice presidents, Alexander Hamilton made a home for himself in the Harlem neighborhood that now bears his name: Hamilton Heights.
Clearly, Al knew a bargain when he saw one.

Few Manhattan neighborhoods are as affordable or as filled with gorgeous housing stock as this one. Convent Avenue and Hamilton Terrace (where the Hamilton Grange memorial is now stationed) are filled with Queen Anne, Gothic, and Romanesque Revivals that wouldn't look out of place in Brooklyn Heights.

Or take the prewar apartment buildings along tree-lined Riverside Drive. These structures don't look all that different from pricier buildings 50 or 60 blocks south.

And, up until a few years ago, Hamilton Heights real estate was dirt cheap. (See related story.)
Sadly, you won't find the giveaways you once could, but there are certainly excellent prices by Manhattan standards - and prices are often negotiable.

"If this house were on the Upper East or Upper West Side, it would be double the price," says Daniela Kunen, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, referring to a magnificent four-unit, $3.75 million townhouse she has on the market at West 144th Street.

And you can still get a one-bedroom condo for less than $300,000.

A smattering of prewar rental buildings were converted to condos last year.

"We're doing three new conversions," says Mary Jo, a senior vice president at Barak Realty.

The buildings are at 660, 680 and 690 Riverside Drive and are being sold both renovated and as-is at less than $600 per square foot. (A number of rent-stabilized apartments are not being redone; tenants are being offered units at a discount.)

Citi Habitats is also marketing four recent conversions and expecting another four buildings to hit the market later this year.

"Over the last year, we've had 70 units sold," says Russell Miller, a managing director at Citi Habitats.

"I got a one-bedroom that was about 1,000 square feet," says Aditya Shah, who recently bought a one-bedroom in a conversion on Riverside Drive. "It was either that or a studio in Brooklyn Heights."

THE CONVENT IS ON: Grand townhouses line West 144th Street at Convent Avenue.

ALL RIGHT, HAMILTON: A number of prewar buildings along Riverside Drive have turned into condos.

ON THE MARKET$500KTwo-bedroom, one-bath recently converted condo, 948 square feet, with renovated kitchen, refinished wood floors and new bathroom. Agent: Mary Jo, Barak Realty, (212) 799-0300.

ON THE MARKET$3.75MRenovated four story house built in 1910 with owner's duplex and three rentals, featuring Jacuzzi, granite kitchens and original details. Agent: Daniela Kunen, Prudential Douglas Elliman, (212) 891-7611.

Shah, recently engaged, wasn't crazy about starting married life in a studio.

"We might end up killing each other," he says.

And it's difficult to argue with what he bought. Shah paid $271,000 for his one-bedroom.

While a bargain like that can be hard to find, brokers have noticed sellers willing to play let's-make-a-deal.

"The market has definitely softened a bit," says Adam Petrelli, a broker at Bond New York, "And you can negotiate on something that has sat on the market."

Pricier houses in the $2 million range have sold for well under asking price - in at least one case for almost $500,000 under.

"I tell people, 'Don't lower the price, but take what makes you happy,'" says Willie K. Suggs, a broker who has lived in the neighborhood since the 1980s.

And although some might think that they'll get nosebleeds from just how high Hamilton Heights goes (it stretches from 135th street to 155th street, between St. Nicholas Ave. and the river), it has easy access to the A, C, B, D and 1 subway lines.

"I timed it yesterday, and it takes 21 minutes door-to-door" to work in Times Square, says Shah.

There are some obvious problems with Hamilton Heights, however.

"My biggest gripe is restaurants," says Vonetta McGee, a broker with The Corcoran Group who lives in the neighborhood. "And I'd like a nightlife."

Indeed, there are far more 99-cent outlets along Broadway than restaurants. ("If you want to make a fortune in Harlem, open a Two Boots," says Amos Levy, a Hamilton Heights resident.) But a new gourmet sandwich shop called Vinegar Hill opened last year next to two new restaurants, Tres Pasos and Café Largo.

Meanwhile, a Starbucks and a Pathmark both recently opened on the Hamilton Heights border
"The Pathmark was huge," says Suggs. "People just couldn't wait for that."

Also missing until recently were new residential buildings. New condo developments such as RiverBridge Court on West 148th Street have sold briskly; the only available unit is a two-bedroom, for $719,000. And there are more coming, including Aqueduct Court on West 152nd Street, with three-bedrooms around 1,000 square feet in the $600,000 range.

Al's old neighborhood is hitting new heights, indeed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Harlemites Talk Rezoning Wars

Harlemites Talk Rezoning Wars
By Betsy Morais

On a blustery Wednesday morning, Harlem residents gathered at City College of New York to discuss the winds of change the city has planned for 125th Street.

The City Planning Commission held a public hearing that attracted around 150 residents, business owners, politicians, and local community organizers. Attendees shared their views about the city’s rezoning design for the corridor bordered by Broadway, Second Avenue, and 124th and 126th streets. Rezoning would lead to an extensive street makeover—one that may draw crowds uptown, but could also drastically increase the area’s cost of living and lead to overdevelopment.

The commission calls 125th Street “Harlem’s Main Street” due to its large amount of retail, but says the area is in need of “enhancement.” Commissioners say they would like to see the area return to its roots as a city attraction for arts and entertainment, building on the legacy of the famed Apollo Theater.

But critics are concerned the proposal will result in displacement—due to an increased amount of residential development and concerns about affordability—and say City Planning underestimates the rezoning’s potential impact.

As Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem and Morningside Heights) said Wednesday morning, “Each new millennium ushers in whirlwinds of challenge, change, emotion, and fear.” Such are the characteristics of the dispute surrounding the city’s plans for 125th Street, informally known as the “River to River” proposal.

Though Dickens and Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito (D-East Harlem) are supportive of the city’s efforts, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said earlier this month that he would disapprove of the 125th Street plan until it was modified to better protect local businesses and artists and to ensure affordable housing options. Taking a more dramatic stance, the Harlem activist organization Voices of the Everyday People has called for complete withdrawal of the city’s proposal.

A petite woman in a pink plaid sweatshirt approached the microphone first, commencing what would be a slew of concerned, often emotionally charged testimonies. Mylinda Lee introduced herself to the commission as a lifelong Harlem resident and mother, fighting to stay in the neighborhood she calls home but afraid that she could be displaced any day. “It’s a crisis that’s going on unheard ears,” she explained, garnering hearty applause from the crowd.

An estimated 71 local businesses could be displaced—businesses whose owners are mostly black, according to Harlem Tenants Council Director Nellie Bailey.

The city’s vision for the corridor promises affordable housing for low-income tenants and the creation of approximately 6,600 new jobs. But for families like Lee’s, “affordable” is a word that is relative­—a vague term that may leave herand others packing their bags.

The affordable housing plan is geared toward residents with an “area median income” that the city determined to be $56,000 per year—a sum much greater than the average income of current residents in the 125th Street neighborhood, which is estimated at closer to $25,000.

Community Board 10 Chair Franc Perry also addressed the City Planning Commission, saying, “We know the truth—that is, the majority of any residential development will not be within the financial reach of the average Harlemite.”

NB - Although the meeting was held in City College, in Vinegar Hill and straddling accross both Manhattantivlle and Hamilton Heights, our portion of 125th Street is not mentioned even by accident!

The fact that the WestSide or West Harlem portion of 125th starts at St. Nicholas Avenue to the Hudson River and that most small businesses are either Hispanic, Latino or non-Hispanic White makes invisible, unmentionable and the possible impact on them is not even alluded by City Planning nor by the elected officials from Central Harlem the only real "Harlem".

When are WestSiders going to realize that we are only part of Harlem when there is something to be gained by the power-structure of Harlem and that the WestSide is nothing but ancillary territory for easy pickings and that somehow they and not us have a say about what should or should not happen in the geographic area of Community District 9.

The WestSide is a unique multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic community that came together in the CB9M 197-a Plan and that must remain together or be divested, displaced and defeated by forces from outside our community.

Many think that Columbia University is the enemy of our community - I for one do not believe that the real enemy are thoese forces from outside our community that exersize so much power on our community's destiny. Open your eyes and smell the coffee - WAKE-UP!!!

Councilman Peter Vallone is [rightfully so] promoting the idea of New York City should secede from New York State as the State exploits the City and gives nothing back - West Harlem has exactly the same rightful need to secede from Harlem for the same reasons.

Manhattanville in a Global Context

Manhattanville in a Global Context
By Andrew Lyubarsky

As Jonathan Hollander argued in a recent piece (“Manhattanville’s Forgotten Beneficiaries,” Jan. 24), Manhattanville should not be simplified into a cheap morality play or a parochial battle between the community and the University. Only a global perspective that examines the conditions and trends fueling this development can explain what is occurring beyond emotional appeals to fight displacement. Gentrification is a global phenomenon and deserves to be studied in such a manner.

Gentrification occurs when downtrodden urban neighborhoods, which are predominantly home to people of color and have previously been red-lined, denied investment, and starved of city services, suddenly find themselves awash with vast amounts of development. Real-estate speculators take advantage of depressed property values to reap fantastic profits as communities are redeveloped to house young professionals instead of the working class. As land values and rents rise, many of those who do not own their homes or live in rent-stabilized housing are either forced to move or find it much more difficult to make ends meet. This leads to a dynamic of rapid social change—while the neighborhood may become more “desirable” to live in, the preexisting structures of predominantly black and Latino communities are irrevocably ruptured.

I do not oppose cities becoming more racially and economically integrated, but I do object to integration happening forcibly as working-class minorities are being expelled from their homes. The growth of the increasingly-urbanized information economy has led to an intense demand for housing that expresses itself in an explosive appreciation of rents, especially in a global city like New York which houses many of the leading industries of this information economy. This demand is met by the steady erosion of affordable housing programs such as Mitchell-Lama and the deregulation of rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units. For every luxury condominium complex that goes up on Central Park North or Frederick Douglass Avenue, there is a 3333 Broadway, a formerly rent-regulated complex standing on the northern edge of the expansion zone and containing over 1,000 units of housing that recently switched over to market-rate housing. These are the facts of a free-market fundamentalism which shies away from the social project of guaranteeing lower-income individuals a place in the urban mosaic. The end result of Adam Smith’s vaunted invisible hand in the housing market will be a cruel city that has functionally exiled its working population.

It is extremely important not to view economic development as unequivocally positive. Abstracting oneself from an analysis of power relations and merely thinking of people in terms of numbers, as Hollander does, lends itself to this kind of error. If development can create, say, 10,000 units of middle-income market-rate housing, it is true that tens of thousands of people could benefit from a convenient commute to work and a reasonable rent. However, when thinking systematically, one sees that this type of development has consistently hurt working-class communities of color. Their reward for having lived in neighborhoods virtually abandoned by city governments is displacement when the quality of life in their neighborhoods begins to improve. Race and class are the unmentioned elephants in the room that make any discussion of “development” and “improvement” suspicious. It may be true that one has to break some eggs to make an omelet, but one has to consider whose eggs are constantly being broken and which people are gorging themselves at the buffet.

It is through this lens that we can come to the issue of Manhattanville. Many proponents of the plan argue that it will bring jobs and prosperity both to West Harlem and New York as a whole, and this simple assertion is no doubt what led the development-friendly City Council to approve the proposal in December. However, what is the social cost of the increase in revenue for the economy? The facts seem to indicate that Manhattanville will lead to the displacement of working-class blacks and Latinos. Columbia’s Final Environmental Impact Statement estimates that 5,035 people live in unsubsidized housing within a half-mile radius of the campus, and that 3,293 of them would be at risk of displacement by Columbia affiliates by the year 2030. There are a number of reasons why I believe these numbers to be grossly understated, but even taking them at face value creates a frightening scenario. In the context of the rapid development of the rest of Harlem for the benefit of wealthy newcomers, Columbia affiliates alone would be responsible for the flight of thousands of people. Looking at the issue from a citywide perspective, we see similar populations at risk in the Lower Est Side and Brooklyn and regrettably see our University as part of the problem when it could be part of the solution.

I want to emphasize that no argument needs to be taken to its extreme, and what critics of the expansion seek is a viable compromise. It is impossible to freeze a dynamic city like New York and prevent high-end development absolutely. But the same financial resources that empower the University to take on a project so vast in scale give it the ability to fund affordable housing, education, job training, and other forms of community support, as well. Because the University has exploited its powerful position and ignored any pretense to respecting local democracy in the area, it is our duty as students to continue to oppose the plan in the months and years ahead.

The author is a Columbia College junior majoring in Hispanic studies.
NB - Excellent article which points precisely the problem with the way the CU expansion is taking place. The community basically has never opposed the right of CU to expand into West manhattanville. The objections were and still are the way that expansion is proposed to be accomplished and the lack of respect for the community both by Unoversity and the City Government. - JRM

Eminent Reality

From: MDDWhite
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 14:00:22 EST
Subject: Fwd: Doomsday? No Way: New Study by Institute for Justice


The Wall Street Journal editorial with worth posting. You may also want to put up the Instutitue of Justice material upon which it is based.

Michael D. D. White


Eminent Reality
January 30, 2008

Does restricting "eminent domain" -- the power of government to seize private property -- harm economic growth? A new report from the Institute for Justice looks at the evidence and concludes the answer is no.

Since the Supreme Court sanctified eminent domain on behalf of private developers in the dreadful 5-4 Kelo ruling in 2005, 42 states have passed some restriction on the practice. Some reforms have been far-reaching, as in Florida, which barred public entities that seized property from transferring it to private hands for 10 years after the seizure. Other reforms are more modest, changing the definition of "blight" or throwing up other obstacles to overeager planners.

But one constant since Kelo v. New London has been the refrain, echoed by developers and politicians alike, that eminent domain is necessary for redevelopment. In 2006, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack vetoed an eminent-domain reform, arguing that it would harm the economy if the state restricted the power to expropriate private property. Groups such as the National League of Cities make similar arguments.

So the Institute for Justice, which spearheaded the original campaign to save Suzette Kelo's home, decided to crunch some numbers. First, the report assigns each state to one of three categories according to the level of reform implemented after Kelo: "strong," "moderate" or "none." Then it compares the data for construction jobs, building permits and property-tax revenue before and after the effective dates of the reforms for each state. The verdict: So far, there has been no discernable hit to economic activity from the restriction of eminent domain, even in those states with the broadest reforms.

This result isn't surprising. Developers love eminent domain because it's easier to snap up land when government forces owners to sell -- no unpleasant dickering over price, etc. Local politicians likewise believe they are best positioned to pick winners and losers and to shape the future of their cities.

But private development went along very nicely for two centuries before politicians began seizing one person's property for the benefit of another private citizen. Sometimes the marketplace adapted in amusing ways, as when major building projects were forced to go up around, or even on top of, older buildings. But in the absence of the coercive state, buildings still got built.

The most grandly conceived plans are also often those most likely to fail. If a project cannot proceed without government interference, it is reasonable to ask whether it is worth putting the hamfist of government on the scales at all. As the Institute for Justice's report notes, Baltimore's much-touted Inner Harbor redevelopment remains dependent on government handouts. At the same time, private redevelopments without eminent domain, such as in Anaheim's A-Town, are thriving.

The backlash against Kelo has had the healthy effect of limiting the hubris of local politicians, which is why they have resorted to these scary economic claims. We're glad to see them debunked on the merits.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on The Editorial Page.

Doomsday? No Way
Economic Trends and Post-Kelo Eminent Domain Reform

When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld eminent domain for private development in the 2005 Kelo case, the public reacted with shock and outrage, leading to a nationwide movement to reform state laws and curb the abuse of eminent domain for private gain. By the end of 2007, 42 states had passed some type of eminent domain reform.

Throughout the public backlash to the Kelo ruling, those who favor eminent domain for private development predicted—and continue to predict—dire consequences from reform for state and local economies: fewer jobs, less development and lower tax revenues.

This report tests those doom-and-gloom predictions.

We examined economic indicators closely tied to reform opponents’ forecasts—construction jobs, building permits and property tax revenues—before and after reform across all states and between states grouped by strength of reform.. . . .

READ MORE,download this entire study in PDF format

Download: Doomsday? No Way

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

HDC Response to AIA Zoning Text Amendments

Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2008 18:42:00 -0800 (PST)
From: "Anne Z. Whitman"

Subject: Fwd: Statement on AIA Zoning Text Amendments
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"

fyi Anne

From: "Simeon Bankoff"
To: "Simeon Bankoff"
Subject: Statement on AIA Zoning Text Amendments
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2008 19:29:46 -0500

Attached is HDC's statement on the proposed amendments to the Zoning Resolution. You can also find them at

Sample letters to come tomorrow.

Simeon Bankoff
Executive Director
Historic Districts Council
232 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10003
p: 212-614-9107
f: 212-614-9127
c: 646-942-7354

Visit HDC at
Find out the latest preservation news & events at

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An open forum featuring News, Events and Alerts (and even the occasional Report) from New York City's Preservation Community - collected & posted by the Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York's historic neighborhoods. Sign up for HDC e-bulletins.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Value of Contextual Zoning to Communities

The Zoning Resolution determines the physical height and shape of New York City by guiding development. Among the various existing zoning districts, contextual zones have been specifically drafted to produce buildings that are consistent with existing neighborhood character. In an attempt to preserve their quality of life and the scale and character of their neighborhoods, communities throughout New York City, have worked long and hard to alter their zoning appropriately. Over the past few years , due to the unprecedented development pressure affecting every neighborhood in the city, the Department of City Planning and community groups have worked together to create balanced, contextual zoning on hundreds of blocks in all five boroughs. Numerous other neighborhoods have been working, in some cases for years, to try to gain these protections.

The citywide zoning text amendments proposed by the American Institute of Architects/New York City Chapter seek to undo this hard work and revert to blanket rules that not only allow but encourage out-of-context development. One-size-fits-all, blanket zoning measures do not fit the rich variety of New York City’s neighborhoods. The Historic Districts Council is opposed to the adoption of these amendments.

Flawed Proposal Process That Circumvents Public Review

In addition to objections to individual parts of this proposal, HDC objects to the way in which these amendments have been proposed, which sought to circumvent the public review process which allow communities to have a voice in guiding development in their own neighborhoods. These amendments, which affect the majority of New York City residents and property owners, have largely gone without review at the majority of New York City’s 59 community boards and are now scheduled to consideration of adoption by the City Planning Commission.

The AIA claims that it has been working on the proposed amendments for three years, during which time many communities were working on their own rezoning campaigns and unprecedented number of blocks within the city have been rezoned. However, the first public disclosure of their effort was in late October 2007, which did not allow for the issue to be brought up at Community Board meetings until December during the holiday season. In addition to Community Boards and neighborhood organizations, elected officials have also been caught off guard by these amendments and their timetable. Only once public concern began to mount, was the initially projected an approval date of January 7th revised. Since this proposal is coming from a private organization and not the City Planning Commission, the city is not responsible for necessary educational outreach these changes require. Instead, the AIA, an industry group which represents 4,000 professionals, has taken the lead in determining the development agenda for the city.

Regardless of any possible merit of any aspect of the proposals, HDC believes that the process by which they have been proposed is flawed in the extreme and runs counter to every notion of community-based planning.

Runs Counter to City Goals for Future Development

In addition to disregarding the years of work from communities about how the people of who live in neighborhoods would like to see them thrive, these amendments also disregard and ignore many of the planning principles articulated in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030. A principle tenet of the Mayor’s plan is the goal of making New York the world’s greenest city over the next generation. Three of the proposals (nos. 2,4 and 6) act to encourage the demolition of existing buildings to clear the way for larger development. Preservation and adaptive reuse is “green;” restoration produces less waste and less landfill than demolition, rehabilitating older buildings uses less energy than new construction and preservation efforts create a market for skilled local labor. As the AIA’s Newsletter of the Committee on the Environment noted in Spring 2007, reporting on the National Summit of the Greening of Historic Properties, “the greenest building is the one already built”. Furthermore, the decrease in open space suggested by two of the zoning amendments (proposals 1 and 6) would probably result in less plantings and landscape, which in addition to its esthetic detriment, would diminish needed absorption of ground water – a situation which the recently-approved yard amendments have sought to remedy. Finally, the overall probable loss of air and light due to many of these proposals (specifically nos. 2,3,4 and 5) certainly does nothing to improve the quality of life for residents.

Affordable Housing Trojan Horse

Additionally, PlaNYC 2030 proposes the development of affordable housing to remedy both the existing affordable housing crisis as well as the projected shortage. It should be noted that while affordable housing is mentioned as a goal of these proposed changes, nothing states that these must or will be used for such housing. Developers could just as easily, and most likely will, build larger, market-rate residences whenever possible. This is a given. HDC finds it particularly galling for citywide zoning text to be revised with such broad strokes for more “flexible design” and “more efficient floor plans” while ignoring the very real problem of providing adequate affordable housing.

What Should Happen

In the best possible scenario, this proposal would be withdrawn and the City Planning Commission would embark on a study of these amendments, which, if deemed desirable, could be introduced individually by the agency to all its community partners. Anything less would a betrayal of New Yorkers’ faith in our planning commission and an enormous and unnecessary concession to those who wish to spur development at any cost to the welfare and continued health of our city.

The Proposed Amendments

Note: None of these amendments increase allowable Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.). What they do is maximize buildable F.A.R. by modifying and increasing the allowable building envelopes. In practice, this may result in larger building than what would otherwise be built. Also please note that all image and diagrams courtesy of AIA/NYC.

Proposal 1: Full Lot Coverage on Small Corner Lots in R6-R10

Posted by Simeon Bankoff at 6:36 PM

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Cotton Club Roars on in Midst of Change

Cotton Club Roars on in Midst of Change
By Daniel Amzallag

In the midst of a quiet and barren Manhattanville street, a small but historic club roars with jazz and uninhibited merrymaking. But behind the high spirits of decades-old regulars lies an apprehension about the future of Harlem’s Cotton Club.

At least, that was the sentiment before Columbia announced it would revoke its plans to build a park on the club’s site as part of the University’s Manhattanville expansion.

“If you’ve been reading some of the newspapers, you know there’s a little bit of a war going on between Columbia and the Cotton Club,” the club’s MC says to shouts of agreement.

The regulars, many of whom have been coming to the club for decades, say they most fear losing its unique atmosphere—an organic spirit of community and ease, as regulars trade dancing partners, switch seats, and laugh with members of the 12-person orchestra. The club is a sanctuary of jazz, withdrawn from the outside world, where nothing exists but the present moment.

“This is something that can’t be replaced. I’m here every week and have been coming here for 20 years, and it’s been the same band and everything. It’s just a place like a neighborhood, a home away from home,” Anthony Cattafe, resident and Cotton Club attendant, said in between dances.

Strangers dance with each other without a trace of self-consciousness, in an environment that seems universally friendly and welcoming.

“This represents a merger of multicultural attitudes in Harlem. It’s a real melting pot,” Cattafe said.

The mood becomes more lively as it gets later into the night. The lights dim and the band plays loudly and more passionately. Tourists, sitting on the side of the room opposite to the regulars and still clinging to their inhibitions, become drawn into this purely New York phenomenon.

“I can’t even see the possibility in closing something down that’s been around for so long. It’s part of our roots,” Mike Grey, a trombone player at the club, said. “You take that away, you’re really taking away something. You’re taking our soul.”

While the club had faced risk of being shut down in the face of the Manhattanville expansion, Community Board 9 has since passed a resolution calling upon the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the Cotton Club as a city landmark. The resolution was drafted in CB9’s Landmarks Committee days before Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin announced that Columbia’s expansion would not affect the club.

“This is the last dance club in Harlem, there isn’t any other,” Maritta Dunn, former CB9 chair and sponsor of the landmark resolution, said. “There’s not that much black history left in Harlem—why would you want to take away?”

“This is sacred ground. Leave sacred ground alone because nothing comes good with messing with sacred ground,” club regular Jackie Maynard said. “We kill enough. Let something live. Let the Cotton Club live.”

Monday, January 28, 2008

In expanding, Yale should avoid gentrification

Yale Daily News

In expanding, Yale should avoid gentrification
Rhiannonn Bronstein, Thomas Meyer and Alexandra Stein

Published Monday, January 28, 2008

This past week, as we worked on our column in a Bass Library study room, loaded with leather seating and plasma TVs, we thought something obvious: Yale has a lot of money. This is why we can afford such famous professors, accessible funding for the majority of student functions and extensive renovation and construction projects. The likely building of two new residential colleges on Prospect Street is just the next step in Yale’s ongoing development plans. Last semester, students considered the impact of these colleges on student life through the residential-college forums, but now we must also consider this development’s effects on the New Haven community.

The almost $600 million Yale intends to spend erecting these new colleges will certainly change the makeup of the surrounding neighborhoods. The influx of money into the community purports to develop the neighborhood, making it safer and more economically productive, but it does so by pushing out low-income residents who may no longer be able to afford rising property costs. Rather than seeking to shrink the gap between rich and poor in New Haven, this expansion will only change the location of the dividing line between the two. There is a name for this: gentrification. Gentrification is the process by which low-cost neighborhoods undergo change due to an influx of money which results in wealthier residents and businesses displacing the neighborhood’s prior residents.

Maybe you’ve heard about gentrification in the context of larger cities. Maybe you’ve been to Washington, D.C., or New York, N.Y., and walked around in neighborhoods you’re told were once dangerous ghettos. Or maybe you’ve seen the other side of gentrification — maybe you know someone whose family had to leave the neighborhood because the cost of living was too high or whose business closed because they could no longer afford the rent.

To take one example, most of you probably know something about Columbia University’s proposed expansion into Manhattanville. Their plan would allow them to develop nearly 17 acres of land on which residents are currently living. In December of last year, the land’s re-zoning was approved by the city council and what is called a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was reached between the university and the community. The CBA requires Columbia to spend $150 million dollars on public housing and the creation of a grade school through their teacher’s college. In exchange for dramatically altering the Morningside Heights/Manhattanville community, Columbia agreed to work toward the betterment of the entire community, not just the institution.

New Haven and Yale are no different from New York and Columbia, or the hundreds of other communities across the country in which costly development has superseded the interest of the community. While the influx of money and resources into a poor community is important, too often there are no guarantees that these resources will reach community members or that thriving communities won’t be destroyed in the interests of development.

However, even in New Haven, we have seen that development can support the interests of both the University and the New Haven community. In 2004, when the Yale-New Haven Hospital announced plans to build a now-$470 million, state-of-the-art cancer center in the Hill neighborhood, the community took action, and, in March of 2006, the hospital and the city negotiated a CBA, in which the hospital agreed to provide a variety of benefits to the community, including a $1.2 million contribution toward housing and economic development in the neighborhood.

We have seen in the past that Yale’s expansion has occurred with little regard for the needs of the surrounding community and that one development often paves the way for future construction. Along with the new colleges, Yale plans on developing a third building with a currently unknown purpose. There is also the great possibility that Yale will seek to expand its commercial bubble around the new colleges similar to the retail development along Broadway.

The building of the new residential colleges, and the corresponding commercial buildup of the surrounding area, must take into account the needs of everyone in New Haven.

The ill effects of gentrification can be prevented very easily. When big developers move in, they very often do have the money to tack on community development assurances of a huge construction project. If our $22.5 billion endowment says anything, Yale certainly has the money. What happens in one part of the city happens to us all, and responsible development is key in guaranteeing that the whole community can benefit from Yale’s resources.

Rhiannon Bronstein and Thomas Meyer are freshmen in Pierson College. Alexandra Stein is a freshman in Calhoun College. They are all members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee.

With a Whisper, Cuba’s Housing Market Booms


With a Whisper, Cuba’s Housing Market Booms
Published: January 28, 2008

HAVANA — Virtually every square foot of this capital city is owned by the socialist state, which would seem sure to put a damper on the buying and selling of property.

But the people of Havana, it turns out, are as obsessed with real estate as, say, condo-crazy New Yorkers, and have similar dreams of more elbow room, not to mention the desire for hot water, their own toilets and roofs that do not let the rain seep indoors.

And although there is no Century 21 here, there is a bustling underground market in homes and apartments, which has given rise to agents (illegal ones), speculators (they are illegal, too) and scams (which range from praising a dive as a dream house to backing out of a deal at the closing and pocketing the cash).

The whole enterprise is quintessentially Cuban, socialist on its face but really a black market involving equal parts drama and dinero, sometimes as much as $50,000 or more.

These days, insiders say, prices are on the rise as people try to get their hands on historic homes in anticipation of a time when private property may return to Cuba. Exiles in Miami are also getting into the act, Cubans say, sending money to relatives on the island to help them upgrade their homes.

Officially, buying or selling property is forbidden. But the island has a dire housing shortage, despite government-sponsored new construction. And that has led many Cubans to subdivide their often decaying dwellings or to upgrade their surroundings through a decades-old bartering scheme known in Cuban slang as permuta.

Some of those housing transactions are simple swaps. Those the government permits, tracking each one to keep an up-to-date record of the location of every last Cuban. Many moves, however, are illegal and involve trading up or down, with one party compensating, with money, another party giving up better property.

A 1983 film, “Se Permuta,” portrays how complex the system can get: A mother scheming to get her daughter away from a boyfriend she dislikes organizes a multipronged property swap. Of course, the deal, which would have involved about a dozen people and taken mother and daughter from a tiny apartment into a spacious colonial-era house, ends up in a mess, as does the mother’s meddling in her daughter’s love life.

“It’s very Cuban,” Juan Carlos Tabío, who wrote and directed the film, said of his country’s real estate bartering process. “There aren’t enough houses, and families can’t buy them. So they trade.”

Mr. Tabío has no personal experience with changing homes, having lived in the same spacious third-floor apartment in the well-heeled Vedado neighborhood since 1957. Many Cubans live in the same dwellings their families owned before the revolution; others have been assigned units by the state.

But almost every Cuban is either plotting to upgrade residences or knows someone in the midst of the labyrinthine process.

Here is how it works. Imagine a married Cuban couple with two children and a baby on the way who find their two-bedroom apartment in the historic Old Havana neighborhood too cramped. What are they to do?

Well, with the help of an agent known as a runner they might start by locating a bachelor from the countryside looking to come to the capital. They could arrange for the newcomer to move into a tiny apartment in Chinatown and move its residents — who also have a house in Miramar where their elderly grandmother lives — to a first-floor unit they sought in Central Havana. The Central Havana flat is available because the residents have divorced; so the former wife would go to the bachelor’s country house, near where her parents live, while her former husband would go to Old Havana. The Old Havana family that started the whole process would then head to their dream house in spacious and quiet Miramar.

Sound complicated? It is. And the government adds even more hurdles by trying to regulate the swaps with a variety of forms and fees as well as inspections of the properties involved to ensure that they are of roughly equal value.

All trades have to be endorsed by the government, but Cubans say slipping money to bureaucrats increases the chances that deals of unequal properties — as in those that involve money and carry the taint of capitalist yearning — will be approved.

“Under the table, there are all sorts of things going on,” Mr. Tabío said.

The Cuban authorities occasionally make busts, but find the trades difficult to control.
“It’s something people shouldn’t do, but they do and we know it goes on,” said José Luis Toledo Santander, a professor of law and a member of the National Assembly. “It’s like saying you have to stop at the red light and you can’t go until it’s green. You ought to do it, but not everybody does.”

The trading occurs in plain sight. Under the watchful eye of a police officer, hundreds of people gather every Saturday under the ficus trees on El Prado, one of Havana’s grand avenues. Some carry cardboard signs describing their units: the neighborhoods, number of bedrooms and whether there are patios, garages, hot water, private bathrooms and gas supplies. Less desirable dwellings use tanks of gas for cooking and require residents to share toilets with others down the hall.

Ricardo Aguiar, 65, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in the humble Marianao neighborhood with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, is looking for a more spacious place in Vedado, a popular area closer to the center of Havana. “It’s going to be difficult,” he said, scouring the signs on El Prado recently and checking in with the agents who sit on the stone benches trying to make deals.

“I’ve just started looking, but there are people who look for years and then something goes wrong and they never move,” he said.

Nearby, a woman was working the crowd in search of a first-floor apartment near her current third-floor unit in Central Havana so she would not have to climb so many stairs.

“You have your system and we have ours,” she said, identifying herself only by her first name, Alejandra. “I prefer our system. We don’t have mortgages and so we’re not facing foreclosure like so many of you are.”

Alejandra knows about the foreclosure crisis in the United States because her son lives in Florida and is struggling to make his house payments. “I worry about him,” she said. “If he loses his job, he’ll lose his home.”

Property is sometimes seized in Cuba as well, but by the government, not the bank. Property is taken from those who hop on boats to Florida, although most switch their houses to relatives’ names well before leaving. Those fleeing the island also frequently downgrade their accommodations before going into exile, trading big places for small ones and using the money exchanged on the side to pay for their voyages — the Cuban equivalent of a home equity loan.

Although it is not clear how many thousands of swaps take place annually, some of them involve the same people again and again, as in the case of a woman in her 60s who said she had moved 42 times over the last two decades. “I love to move,” she said. “I can’t live in the same place for a year.”

But her movement is about more than seeking new surroundings. She fixes up each place, then turns it over for a profit, she said in a low voice, declining to be identified out of fear that the authorities might catch up with her.

Moving through the crowd with her is a learning experience. She knows the regulars and can spot the deals. When money is discussed, she and the person she is negotiating with fall into whispers.

“There are so many liars here,” she said, surveying the crowd. “They say they have the best place in Havana, and you get there and you don’t even want to go in. I just stop at the door and say, ‘No, thanks.’ ”

She said she used money sent from relatives who fled to Miami years ago to keep her business going.

“It’s a good time to invest,” she said. “If you have family outside, $20,000 is nothing, and you can get a good place here. If change comes, and we all expect it, then you’re set.”
That is the philosophy of another mogul in the making, who also declined to be identified by name.

Standing in the living room of a two-bedroom apartment in Central Havana that he is renovating, the man estimated its current worth at $20,000, a mint in a country where monthly government salaries can be one one-thousandth of that. If private property ever comes to Cuba, he estimates the price will most likely multiply by five.

Through a complicated transaction, the man recently managed to obtain a historic home in Old Havana that he is also renovating. He said he researched the ownership history of the dwelling because he did not want to find one day that it had been expropriated from an American, possibly leading to a court battle in a post-Castro Cuba. As for his apartment, he rents rooms to tourists, which the government allows.

He is also buying up old chandeliers and other historic furnishings to decorate his units. With most people so desperate for money, he said, he pays next to nothing.

“This is the moment to buy,” he said, referring to Fidel Castro’s illness, talk of change by his brother Raúl and many Cubans’ view that their system, a half century old, will not remain as it is forever.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

How Jacobs would view Yards

From: MDDWhite
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 23:46:30 EST
Subject: Fwd: Jane Jacobs Report Card for Atlantic Yards

January 26, 2008 / Perspective

How Jacobs would view Yards
By Michael Desmond Delahaye White
for The Brooklyn Paper

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Jane Jacobs, the one-time Brooklyn Heights resident whose seminal 1961 work, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” is still required reading, celebrated the kind of urban vibrancy that flourishes when developers and city planners follow common-sense guidelines she set out.
Jacobs is on my mind these days. Partly because of the Municipal Art Society’s “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York” exhibit (closing Jan. 26) — but also because the future of Brooklyn stands to be greatly shaped by the proposed Atlantic Yards mega-development which surely would have earned Jacobs’s ire.

How can I be sure? I went through the principles set forth in Jacobs’s book to create an Atlantic Yards report card (right). This report card covers all of Jacobs’s standards, such as the need for short blocks, a close mingling of buildings that vary in age and condition and even some of her more-obvious guidance: Don’t expect Jacobian endorsement of the mega-development’s 15-story illuminated electronic billboard.

Across-the-board, the mega-development earns almost entirely failing grades.

Jacobs pointed out that “big plans” lead to “big mistakes.” Her thinking also points out that when enormous subsidies are misdirected with disrespect for the city’s vital fabric, those mistakes are bigger and government is much more culpable for the harm.

The “F” grade that Jane Jacobs would have given this project speaks for itself.

Michael D. D. White is a real-estate, housing and public finance attorney, with a masters degree in urban planning. His uncle was publisher of both “Architectural Forum” and “Fortune” when Jane Jacobs worked for “Architectural Forum” and when she wrote the “Fortune” article on urban downtowns that evolved into her seminal book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” (1961).

The last chance to see the Jane Jacobs exhibit at the Municipal Art Society (457 Madison Ave., at 51st Street, in Manhattan) is Jan. 26. Call (212) 935-3960 for info.

©2008 The Brooklyn Paper

Friday, January 25, 2008

Opposition to 125th St. Rezoning Persists

Opposition to 125th St. Rezoning Persists
By Sara Vogel

Those opposing 125th Street rezoning have a new advocate. But even with civil rights attorney Norman Siegel at the helm, the Harlem-based Voice of the Everyday People still faces an uphill battle.

Siegel, best known around the neighborhood as the lawyer-sidekick of Manhattanville holdout Nick Sprayregen, joined the ranks of VOTE People at a press conference Thursday. The former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Siegel plans to defend Sprayregen against Columbia—in a case they hope to take to the Supreme Court—on the issue of eminent domain.
Siegel pledged to take legal action on behalf of the anti-rezoning organization if necessary. VOTE People has called for the withdrawal of the city’s 125th Street plan, which the organization fears would change forever the face and demographics of Harlem’s main commercial strip.

Difficulties for VOTE People’s campaign will stem from the red tape of the city’s seven-month-long land use review process. The Department of City Planning’s proposal seeks to change zoning rules for the 24-block corridor contained between 124th and 126th Streets and between Broadway and Second Avenue. This would replace some of the older, less economically vigorous buildings in the area with denser commercial, retail, and residential development.

City Planning literature states that the plan was designed to improve traffic, bring more lively storefronts and arts and entertainment establishments to the neighborhood, and maintain the character of the lower-scale brownstone-lined blocks. Commissioner Amanda Burden wrote in a statement that the Department held 200 meetings with over 100 local groups and community leaders over four years to draft the rezoning proposal.

But VOTE People and the plan’s other detractors say many residents and business leaders’ concerns were not taken into account at public meetings.

“They [the Department of City Planning] have made it an art of having meetings where they say ‘this is what we’re going to do’ and call it a dialogue,” said Michael Henry Adams, a local resident and author of “Harlem: Lost and Found.”

Community Boards 9, 10, and 11 and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer have estimated that the plan would result in the displacement of 71 local businesses and a rise in the area’s average rent. They have also predicted that, despite the 20 percent of the new 2,600 apartment units classified as “affordable housing,” the definition of “affordable” would still be too high for most Harlem residents.

Mylinda Lee, an MTA worker and Harlem resident who came to the conference on her lunch break, said the market rate in Harlem for a three-bedroom apartment was approaching $3200 per month. “I’m a single mother,” she said. “How can I afford this?”

VOTE People has echoed these concerns, but unlike the Community Boards and Stringer’s office, which have said they will support the plan if it is modified to address affordable housing and other issues, VOTE People wants the city to scrap the plan entirely.

“They would like you to think of this [the city’s review procedure for the rezoning plan] as a runaway train,” Craig Schley, executive director for VOTE People, said. “You could simply derail it.”

Schley did not elaborate on the concrete ways VOTE People plans to accomplish this goal, but he did mention that Siegel could play a role by helping the group to wage legal battles if future developers put eminent domain on the table.

Since the plan is likely to pass the City Planning Commission with Burden’s support, VOTE People will have to convince a majority of the City Council to oppose the measure.

A spokesperson for Councilwoman Inez Dickens, D-Harlem, was tight-lipped about Dickens’ opinion on the matter. “She studies things a lot,” the spokesperson said. In the case of Columbia’s application to rezone Manhattanville, many other council members deferred to Dickens and Councilman Robert Jackson, both of whom favored Columbia’s plan.

At a rally against Columbia’s expansion plan this past fall, Siegel said, “Politicians stand with the money interests and ignore the people who put them in power. We have to break that model.” Though Siegel was referring to the Manhattanville project, his new commitment to the 125th Street dispute draws forth that sentiment once again.

But Mercedes Narciso, who worked with Community Board 9 to draft its alternate development plan for Manhattanville, said that in her 10 years of experience in the field, she has not known of any proposals that were stopped in the middle of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
“Minor things change, but stopping completely the proposal, I doubt it,” Narciso said. “They’re going to work very hard for those little changes to happen.”

Manhattanville’s Forgotten Beneficiaries

Manhattanville’s Forgotten Beneficiaries
By Jonathan Hollander

Hearing about Manhattanville on an almost daily basis, I have come to the conclusion that the reason why it has gained so much political traction is because it is an issue inextricably tied to human welfare. Regardless of whether Columbia proceeds with its current plans, lives will be affected for both the better and the worse. The key to confronting this issue is to determine who the losers and winners are, what the effects will be, and how to value them.

Firstly, I don’t believe that the Manhattanville debate centers on the people living in the expansion zone. As the “Manhattanville in West Harlem” page of the Columbia University Web site states, “There are fewer than 130 occupied residential units on the entire 17-acre area.
Columbia has committed to relocate all residents to equal or better housing in the area.” The page further states, “The University will not under any circumstances request the state use eminent domain on residential properties.” Thus, the only individuals who will truly be negatively affected by the expansion are those living in the surrounding neighborhood, which will likely see rents rise to an unaffordable level as a result of gentrification. This is the real question of debate: does Columbia have the right to fundamentally alter a neighborhood and indirectly displace its previous tenants?

If the only people affected by the Manhattanville expansion were the current residents of the neighborhood, the issue would probably be less complex. However, it is important to recognize that there are other groups involved in the situation. The students of Columbia for instance, have a few ways of viewing the topic. One of them is to consider historical precedent, especially as it relates to the University’s development of Morningside Heights 20 years ago. The current neighborhood that we all know and love didn’t always exist in its present form. It was sorely underutilized, to the extent that it made sense for JJ’s to be a bar and the basement of Furnald to be a grocery store. Ultimately, I believe that most students would agree that the development of Morningside Heights conferred upon them many benefits, and I see no reason why the Manhattanville expansion would not do the same.

Now that we see how the lives of one group of people could be changed for the better, let’s move on to another, much larger segment of the population that stands to gain from the development.
Manhattanville is currently in its underpopulated state for two reasons: zoning restrictions and rent controls that prevent landlords from earning a decent return on their investment. Through its expansion plan, Columbia has the opportunity to rectify both of those problems. First, as the expansion progresses and the neighborhood improves, the area will not only become more attractive to developers, but zoning commissions will also begin to see the merits of further economic development in West Harlem. This fact, combined with rising property values that allow investors to earn a greater return, will lead companies to invest in residential construction in a city that faces a desperate shortage of housing. Why is this important? Because, by taking the initiative in Manhattanville, Columbia has the opportunity to set in motion a redevelopment wave that could affect large parts of upper Manhattan. This would increase the supply of housing in New York City, and would either make the overall pool of housing in the city cheaper, or at least stop it from appreciating at its current rate.

Ultimately, there will be winners and losers from the Manhattanville expansion, both of whom have strong supporting cases. On the one hand, the development will inflict a large amount of pain on a small group of people by raising the cost of living for some and displacing others.
However, it will also provide a relatively smaller benefit to a much larger group of individuals (think in the tens of thousands) through cheaper housing than would otherwise be available in Midtown or lower Manhattan. Which group should have their interests protected? Honestly, I don’t have an answer to this question, and I think it would be presumptuous for anyone to suppose that they do. As a result, the reasonable conclusion that we have to come to is that both sides probably have arguments of similar strength.

If this is the situation though, how are we to move forward on this issue? Here, we need to take a serious look at the founding principles of our society, and use them to guide our decisions.
Fundamentally, America is a capitalist society that has become prosperous because of the power of the free market. Government plays an important role in ensuring general social welfare, but as Milton Friedman writes in Free To Choose, “The burden of proof [for government intervention] should be on its proponents. We should develop the practice of examining both the benefits and the costs of proposed government interventions and require a very clear balance of benefits over costs before adopting them.”

Applying this standard to Manhattanville, we can see that because of the ambiguity surrounding the well-being of the current residents juxtaposed with the immense gain that would result from development, there simply isn’t an adequate justification for interference in the market. Fundamentally, the onus is on the residents of Manhattanville to show why the common good would be impeded by Columbia’s expansion, and if they are unable to do so, then the free market should be allowed to decide the matter.

Naturally, there is ample room for compromise and negotiation between the University and the residents of Manhattanville. However, to presuppose that Columbia is inherently in the wrong because its actions threaten to displace people is shortsighted and doesn’t approach the matter from the global perspective it deserves. Manhattanville is about people, but we need to remember that it is also about people living outside of the neighborhood, and that their interests deserve consideration too.

The author is a Columbia College sophomore.

NB - It still amazes me that supposedly educated people parrot mis-information simple because repeating what others say sounds authoritative. Althoughthe author claims to have heard daily about Manhattanville, he obviously has no grasp of how large and populous Manhattanville is and naively he doesn't believe the debate is centered on the residents of Manhatttanville. He further makes judgement about Morningside Heights residents 20 odd years ago as if they were irrelevant and their displacement some sort of blessing.

So I will again waste ink and space to educate the educated.

First and foremost the area from West 110th Street to West 155th is WestSide Harlem or more commonly and informally West Harlem.

West Harlem encomasess 3 major neighborhood of historical credentials and value, Morningside Heights, Manhattanvill and Hamilton Heights.

Hamilton Heights runs from West 135the Street to West 155th Street and its eastern border is roughly St. Nicholas Avenue/Bradhurst Ave/Edgecombe Ave. with some notable sub neighborhoods such as Sugar Hill and Carmanville to the northern and eastern parts of Hamilton Heights; Vinegar Hill overlapping from Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights roughly from West 133rd to West 139theastward from Amsterdam Avenue and including most of City College.

Manhattanville goes from West 122nd Street to West 135th Street from the Hudson River to St. Nicholas Avenue a heavily populated area heavily African American but with substantial and growing Hispanic and latino presence as well a a growin non-Hispanic White population.

Mornigside Heights covers from West 110th Street to West 122nd Street and yes it is a part of West Harlem.

When referring to Harlem the historic spiritual home of African Americans you are speaking about Central Harlem and not about West Harlem which traditionally has been better known by it 3 historical neighborhoods.

Columbia's support has come mostly from Central Harlem NOT from West Harlem which community has been usurped by the constant referral to Harlem and not to West Harlem.

Now this sophomoric article further obfuscates the issue by making Manhatanvill into 17 acres and totally ignores the rest of the geography and people of Manhattanville as well as ignored the people from Morningside heights and Hamilton Heights immediately directly impacted by the Columbia expansion.

On one had he refers to the CU target area as udnerutilized due to zoning restrictions and rent control - lets talk about zoning, the area is zoned industrial because it was an industrial zone, duh! Regarding Rent Control, none of the buildings in the target area are rent controlled as they belong to the City of New York and those in the TIL Program will become HDFC cooperatives also not subject to rent regulations.

Since the 1950's Columbia has been acqwuiring properties int the target area and little by little got the buildings vacated and has kept them vacan all these years and more so the last few years when the university finally decided to push forward with their expansion plans.

Where more than 8000 industrial jobe existed has dwindled to about 1000 and when Columbia finally starts construction those jobs will also disappear from Manhattanville and Manhattan.

Columbia will creat 6000 new jobs, most scientific, academic, professional, technical and administrative and some 900 "Support" meaning janitorial, security and such which residents will have access to as that is about all they can fill at the present time, very few of the other jobs will go to locals. However many of the over 5000 new employees will want to live near their jobs and will be financially prpepared to pay two or three times the current prevalent market rates which are alrady 5 times higher than five years ago.

So perhaps local current 5000 families or between 20K to 25K people will be displaced for the benefit of Columbia University NOT for the benefit of the West Harlem Communties.

Every one want progress and our communities want it so much more than anyone else, but what is been done is to sacrifice the West Harlem communities for the benefit of Columbia University, for the ew 6000 jobs and the 1200 construction job none of which will go to anyone in the community unless they happen to be members of the construction trades unions and then only according to their seniority.

My opposition and msot people in community was never to the expanison. The opposition has been about the way the expansion is being shoved down out throats and the lack of concern for those things that I pointed above. Neither Columbia University nor the City government gives a hoot aboaut West Harlem

Although there has been literally hundres of meetings, I alone attended more than 900meetings in the 4 years I was Chairman of CB9M and I know Pat Jones, Walter South, Maritta Dunn and Tom Demott, Tom Kappner and Ruth Eisenberg has attended as many or more ans have hundreds of other community residents who have expressed their opinions over and over again into deaf ears.

The last wist at this twisted article really gets me - the author seems to worship at the altar of capitalism and praises the free market yet in some marzist-socialist twisted dialectical excersize he mentions Milton Friedman and then basically asks for government intervention and switches the burden-of-proof to the residents for them to justify their existance in Manhattanville.... Is it me or am I in the Twilight Zone??

City Planning took our 197-a and changed it without consultating us to make it more compatible with Columbia's Plans. City Planning further emasculated our 197-a Plan to the point that it is no longer our plan but City Planning's. I hope that we can recover most of what was lost by making sure that the Borough President's proposed 197-c Plan reflects our original, unadulterated and unemasculated 197-a Plan. - JRM