I gather that Columbia left the drug clinic types paid to demonstrate support for Columbia at public meetings home at last night’s well-attended meeting with community residents held by Manhattan Boro President Scott Stringer to determine how he should respond to Columbia’s take over plan for Manhattanville.  Columbia President Lee Bollnger had proudly announced Stringer’s support for Columbia in a lengthy interview on NY1’s Inside Politics the previous evening.

As one who once worked in Harlem politics when J. Raymond Jones’ primary drive was to get its pols “off the plantation,” I wonder what the laundry list of pols scrolled out by Bollinger have in mind selling off a portion of West Harlem to Columbia where jobs will be university types displacing workers already there or new ones from the community under the CB#9’s 197A well designed plan to make Manhattanville a real asset to the community and those who live in and around it.

Needless to say what we are seeing here is the wide distribution by Columbia of monies high and low to enable its grab from people who deserve better.  Some of the home owners there now will presumably see benefits for their own equities in the inevitable increased gentrification which is already driving folks out of the ‘hood.

There are some scandalous details at work beneath the surface here as well as with some of the other property grabs in CB#9.  As appropriate I will pass some of these along.  Once again Columbia should look to the models of university/community cooperation which make its grab look ____ by comparison.  One is almost ashamed to hold a Columbia degree — but in my day those were granted by fine faculty who did not remain silent when Columbia was engaged in grabs from the public interest.  I recall Sid Morgenbesser being out on the firing line in 1968 where he, too, with the students, was beaten over the head by one of the thousand cops called in by the Columbia administration.

Hurray for Columbia’s students speaking out.  But is there not one faculty member doing the same?  I gather that virtually all the pro Columbia speakers at last night’s meeting — few in number and including David Dinkins and a former deputy of his — identified themselves variously as Columbia employees?  Ed Kent

P.S. Charlie, what the hell are you up to?  I gather that Columbia is a generous contributor to the campaigns of our local pols?  Hurray for Bill Perkins who is for the community.  Ray Jones would be cheering you on, Bill.  I imagine that he would be a bit embarrassed by some of those he brought into politics back when to give real support to Harlem.

…………………………….

http://www.nypost.com/seven/09192007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/columbias_astroturf.htm?page=0

COLUMBIA’S ASTROTURF
FAKING GRASSROOTS SUPPORT FOR EXPANSION PLAN
By TOM ELLIOTT

September 19, 2007 — COLUMBIA University is making great efforts to pre vent community objections from derailing its plan for a massive expansion in West Harlem. But its methods seem to rely more on big-money power politics than on listening to the folks who live and work where the school wants to build.

At a meeting held last month by West Harlem’s Community Board 9, for example, a good chunk of the school’s “local supporters” looked to be patients from an East Harlem drug-rehab clinic.

Several people were outside handing out pamphlets castigating area business owner Nick Sprayregen, the expansion’s most vocal critic. Visnja Vujica – a recent Barnard grad and member of the anti-expansion Student Coalition on Expansion & Gentrification – says she discovered that the pamphleteers were patients from East Harlem’s Addicts Rehabilitation Center (ARC).

“I talked to one man, J.R., I think, who was wearing one of the ‘Future of Manhattanville’ stickers. He said he was paid; wouldn’t tell how much, but said something like, When you’re given pretty much a blank check, you don’t ask questions,” she said.

Vujica explained that “J.R.” told her that the money came “through Rev. Williams.” Rev. Reggie Williams, a pastor with the United Missionary Baptist Association, does indeed run ARC – but he adamantly denies that money is involved with his pro-Columbia efforts, calling such charges “misinformation or disrespectful lies at best – we have not received any money.”

Williams instead says: “This expansion would bring about real change that we think would be beneficial.”

Of course, ARC exists largely off state funds. It would likely wither away without the goodwill of Harlem’s political establishment. And Columbia has obtained the support of much of the Harlem machine.

Former Mayor David Dinkins, now a professor of public affairs at Columbia, spoke in favor of the expansion at the hearing, as did a host of other Harlem black leaders.

The politicians are largely members of the Coalition for the Future of Manhattanville. And that pro-expansion group is run by Democratic consultant Bill Lynch – a Dinkins-era deputy mayor whom the former mayor called “the heart and soul of our administration.” State lobbying records show that Columbia is paying Bill Lynch & Associates almost $50,000 a month.

Dinkins wasn’t a hit with the crowd – they booed him. Former NAACP National Director Hazel Dukes fared little better.

“Bringing David Dinkins to that meeting shows how out of touch [Columbia President] Lee Bollinger is with our community,” said Carolyn Birden, a resident of 110th Street since 1976. “Ten minutes of research could have told him that.”

“[Columbia] keeps thinking they are dealing with Harlem – and when they think of Harlem, they think of black Harlem. But they don’t understand the diversity of West Harlem,” said Community Board 9 Chairman Jordi-Reyes Montblanc. “Hazel Dukes is not from our district. I don’t accept any comment she has.”

Before the rancorous over-capacity hearing closed, a board committee voted against the expansion 17-1. But Columbia doesn’t need the community board’s OK – only the approval of the City Planning Commission.

And to show local support to the commission, Columbia will point to the Community Benefits Agreement it’s now negotiating.

These accords are a fairly new feature of New York development controversies. Basically, the developer agrees to a series of handouts to help the surrounding neighborhood, and to show that he’s not ignoring the locals’ needs. Such deals have cleared the way for big projects like the new Yankee Stadium.

To negotiate with Columbia, the City Planning Commission and Community Board 9 set up the West Harlem Local Development Corp. (LDC) last summer, with 13 members from the West Harlem area. But at one early meeting, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) showed up and, according to several LDC members, demanded a seat at the table.

Nine seats, actually: The board now includes Rangel and eight other politicians he brought in – two state senators, three assemblymen, Borough President Scott Stringer and two city councilmen.

The LDC’s bylaws had actually prohibited involvement by elected officials until next year. But none of the neighborhood leaders were willing to challenge the express wishes of a city (and national) political powerhouse like Rangel.

Critics claim that most of these politicians are in Columbia’s pocket. Campaign-finance records show that at least three Columbia administrators (who also serve the university as paid lobbyists) have made multiple donations to Rangel’s campaigns.

The politicians generally vote in lockstep. On a recent effort to expel Columbia critic Sprayregen from the board, only state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) declined to go along with the other officeholders. The measure failed to gain the supermajority it needed to pass – but did pull 12 votes, suggesting that the elected officials will control the shape of the deal.

Several LDC members say that Rangel recently hosted officials from Columbia, his fellow LDC politician reps and executives from a Harlem housing non-profit to discuss a housing strategy for the CBA. In a letter to the board at large, several members complained: “This action smacks of an end-run around the LDC’s negotiation strategy and its very legitimacy.”

In other words, Columbia is going to pay to get its expansion – but it’s not clear that the people who will feel the projects impact will see much of the benefit.

Tom Elliott is a member of The Post’s editorial board. telliott@nypost.com

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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