Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Columbia Closes Real Estate Deal For Displaced Residents

Columbia Closes Real Estate Deal For Displaced Residents
By Betsy Morais

Columbia University closed a $20-million real estate deal on a site to be used as affordable housing for residents displaced by the University’s Manhattanville expansion earlier this month.

The site—located at 148th Street and Broadway—is expected to include 42 affordable units and has been part of the University’s housing plan for a long time. It was included in the city’s Environmental Impact Statement, a qualitative report that analyzes the consequences of development on the socio-economic, cultural, and physical features of a neighborhood.

Displacement and potential hikes in housing costs have been among the most contentious issues surrounding the forthcoming campus expansion, as well as citywide concerns. Critics of Columbia’s vision accuse the University of disregarding local residents who fear they could be forced out of their homes directly—due to living in the footprint of the future campus—or indirectly—due to gentrification that may occur as Columbia moves in.

But Columbia has consistently asserted that it will not seek the state’s invocation of eminent domain to evict tenants who live within the campus footprint.

The lot was first obtained in September, and Columbia sealed the multi-million dollar agreement earlier this month. According to the EIS, the space will house residents who are part of the city’s Tenant Interim Lease Program and who have been determined as being directly displaced by the University’s development.

The new apartment will not take into consideration any impact of indirect displacement because, as Columbia spokesperson LaVerna Fountain explained, “It’s not supposed to.” She emphasized the University’s commitment to providing housing to families in the 132 residential units that will be directly displaced, but said, “We can’t solve the whole [housing] issue because it’s a citywide issue.”
NB - If the TIL Tenants are in agreement for this, it could be a great opportunity to upgrade their quarters to more spacious and confortable apartments with elevator service and other amenites.
But if the tenants are being mis-guided into a fight that even when winning they would not be better off, that would be a great shame.
This is an opportunity for the TIL Tenants to use their brains and to think as cooperative owners and not as public housing tenants - this can be a great opportunity if properly exploited and I hope they are receiving proper counsel and proper guidance from a hard-nosed HDFC cooperative business perspective of independence and self-sufficience kind and not of the social programs oriented mentality that creates dependency and perpetuates poverty.
The future is in their hands - I pray they seek proper guidnace - JRM

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