City Council Announces Approval of Columbia University Expansion

Historic plan will preserve and improve West Harlem character.

Editor's note:

On Dec. 19, 2007 as part of New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the City Council approved Columbia's proposed rezoning of the old Manhattanville manufacturing area of West Harlem for academic mixed-use by a 35 to 5 margin, with 6 members abstaining. Council Members Robert Jackson and Inez Dickens, who represent the areas where the University and the proposed expansion are located, spoke out strongly for the majority supporting the proposal, as did Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The City Council issued the following release.

December 19, 2007

CITY HALL—The Council will vote today to approve Columbia University’s expansion into West Harlem. For over 250 years, Columbia University has been a longstanding cultural, academic and intellectual contributor to the City of New York. The approval of this plan will ensure that both the Harlem and the university can continue to grow throughout the 21st Century.

A process that began well over a year ago, in which community advocates, Columbia University and officials at all levels of government participated, has resulted in a plan that preserves and enhances the vitality of the neighboring Harlem community, while providing new research, cultural and other academic benefits to the university.

“After working with Columbia University, Community Board 9, community advocates and local elected officials, we’ve come up with a plan that will both preserve and improve areas of West Harlem,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “No one wants to infringe on the rich history of Harlem. I am proud that we are voting on a plan that will not only preserve that history, but will also pull old manufacturing areas out of the shadows and into the light of thriving cultural and academic centers.”

The rezoning plan will transform an under utilized, formerly manufacturing area into a modern, open campus that will be inviting to the community and will also provide access to a new park along the Hudson River. The plan will increase retail opportunities along Broadway and provide meeting spaces available to the community at large.

“Simply put, facilitating the growth of New York City’s renowned research and teaching centers is one of the single most important things we can do to enhance the long-term health of our economy, and Columbia University’s expansion is a prime example of that,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Daniel L. Doctoroff. “The plan approved today will result in vital, new academic facilities, thousands of new jobs, greatly enhanced cultural and commercial activity and new public open space. I’m thrilled that, with the community, the City, the Council, other local elected officials and Columbia all working together, we arrived at a plan that yields such promise both for the University and the surrounding area.”

“As Columbia looked to expand further into the neighborhood, we needed to be sure that we preserved the heart and soul of the community,” said Council Member Robert Jackson. “Today, I am please to announce that we have indeed come to an agreement that preserves all of what it means to be from Harlem. This revitalization will make sure that Harlem is as relevant in the future as it was in the past.”

“The conversation between Columbia and the surrounding community has been underway for many years,” said Council Member Inez Dickens, “and over the course of these discussions, Columbia has revised their plan in order to compromise with community concerns. Having received the input of all interested parties, the result is a proposal that will allow Columbia to grow while helping insure the continued health of the Harlem community.”

“The expansion plan is good not only for Columbia University but for the Harlem community and all of New York,” said Former Mayor Dinkins. “It is a real town and gown partnership that will ensure the benefit of everyone.”

“As one of the oldest educational institutions in the city, Columbia’s growth and prosperity has been inextricably linked to the growth and prosperity of the city as a whole,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “This new plan must continue that tradition with a strong commitment to the stability and integrity of West Harlem. I applaud everyone who has worked hard to ensure progress on a plan which will create thousands of new jobs, generate millions of dollars in public revenue, attract academic star power from all over the world and enable the local community to thrive.”

This article originally appeared on the Columbia Manhattanville website.