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Columbia's Harlem Sprawl Suffers Setback

Barack Obama's alma mater Columbia University has been planning a northward expansion. It intends to create a so-called "satellite campus" on a primarily industrial area in West Harlem, mere blocks from its main campus in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City.But, that plan just hit a major hurdle. Credit a victory to local business owners arguing against their stretch of the proposed expansion area being deemed "blighted." The gas station and storage facility owners were appealing a 2007 city council decision to allow the expansion via eminent domain.Today, according to the Times' City Room blog, the New York State Supreme Court's Appellate Division ruled 3-to-2 that the means of condemnation were unconstitutional. The Empire State Development Corporation plans to appeal the decision. However, even if Columbia is not able to acquire these outstanding properties, it already controls more than 90 percent of the 17 acres that it wants and can just build around the disputed zone.The $7 billion expansion, which the University claims will keep it competitive with other Ivy League institutions, was to include new homes for its business school and School of International and Public Affairs, as well as a new science complex (complete with a state-of-the-art neuroscience center). While Harlem residents worried that university-affiliated students and administrators would snap up housing (or drive its costs upward) in one of Manhattan's still reasonably priced neighborhoods, Columbia added several enticements to make the move more palatable: The expansion is intended to add 6,000 new jobs, include a payment $150 million in grants over 12 years to strengthen the community for local residents, and include more superficial quality-of-life improvements, such as tree-lined streets, restaurants, and even a jazz club.A jazz club, huh? How Harlem renaissance!Image via

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