Over the last decade, Columbia University acquired over 168 residential buildings between 110th and 125th Streets. This makes up 6,000 housing units, of which very few (est. 10%) are rent-regulated. Deregulation continues rapidly. The Environmental Impact Statement for the campus expansion estimates 5,000 low- and moderate-income residents will be displaced within a ten-block radius. Critics add thousands more from 135th Street northward, suggesting that many buildings already have proformas with their advisors busily working out financing for condos, coops, and luxury rentals. The poster boy is 3333 Broadway, immediately north of the expansion zone that left the Mitchell Lama subsidized housing program leading to 1,000 vacated apartments.
The footprint of the Columbia University expansion into Manhattanville is greater than that of the World Trade Center. And like this development, millions have been spent on public processes. Yet, very little is understood about current residents’ ultimate fate that may or may not withstand these changes’ economic pressure. Even less is known on whether the lives of vulnerable families and businesses swept up in the process could be decisively altered in any meaningful way, except tragically. The capital involved could offer every resident child a guaranteed shot at higher education or equivalent training. Is it impossible to see a positive future for residents among the proceeds of these capital investments? If not, why not?
Regulatory Taking, Columbia University
Background on the Battleground
In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, upheld the use of eminent domain by the city of New London, CT. (Kelo vs. City of New London) by saying economic development was a public purpose, thereby giving the government the authority to acquire property, affirming decades of previous litigation on this issue, by the end of 2006, thirty-five states enacted eminent domain restrictions and related reform of regulatory takings. Also, related initiatives dubbed Kelo-plus and Kelo 3rd Round seek compensation for lost value due to land-use regulation. To date, only one effort in Arizona stimulated by Howard Rich, a New York real estate investor and libertarian crusader, has succeeded.
Community organizations throughout the country are raising money and filing proposed ballot initiatives with their state attorney general that prohibit the use of eminent domain for transferring property from one private entity to another without added protections. The eminent domain debate in New York should examine its long history of condemnations for economic development. In this light and from a strictly legal perspective, there are three areas rich with potential litigation, including a referendum.
These are the historical uses of eminent domain, the fairness of direct and indirect compensation, and the targeting of low-income and minority populations. Unlike other states, the one most likely to succeed in New York will involve added protections to residential and business tenants in reassessing just compensation issues.
Pursuing the tenant protection component could yield valuable community economic development objectives. Hard to say, but both sides might be more recognizable to the average research effort by viewing: www.law.georgetown.edu/gelpi. This site helps to define hairline legal differences between regulatory taking and “eminent domain” in the proposed reforms of Oregon’s Measure 37. In this particular case, government becomes liable for attorney fees if the court award is greater than the initial government offer. Ouch!
Headline: “Citizens call for reform of the reform.” Timothy Sandefur, Author of â€œCornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century Americaâ€ http://www.instituteforjustice.org/ This site has links to www.cato.org, Howard Rich is a board member (Cato). He likes how the term “property rights” strikes a chord among voters. They also have a hot-selling t-shirt that reads, blight me. It all seems exquisitely hypocritical, but why?
The public defines Kelo as a decision that betrays the small businessperson and working-class residents and ineffective efforts to erase racially imposed economic disparities. But, the dissent of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is probably best overall.
“Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner. . . . Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory. . . . The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.”Sandra Day O’Connor
So how is the policy outlined in this “big picture” fit in a neighborhood like Manhattanville? What does it do to the design of a place? The design is social, not architectural. The strategy is to displace people who represent problems that take a generation to solve a five-year, desirable, and profitable five-year plan. The other displacement element is the refusal to engage in the complexity of dealing and negotiating with ten to twelve small investors and property owners in place of one large mega-investor.
How about seeing INTERNATIONAL HOUSE as an example? Located at 500 Riverside Drive, 122nd Street) New York, NY 10027 http://www.ihouse-nyc.org/ This is a stretch. Still, Columbia offers a very nice “extra-large” apartment with a private bathroom at $12,090/month and other less luxurious accommodations to full-time graduate students. They are available only during the academic year; undergraduates are welcome in the summer. Applications are required if stays of 30 days or more are intended.
The economic development practice developed by Columbia’s extension of housing privileges to acquire real estate equity uses the international desire for social capital. This is seen as good business. So, here is the thing, Barbara and Howard Rich are among many large real estate holders who are supporters of university-sponsored Fulbright Scholarships and the programmed-education housing market in New York City. Almost every university in New York City is a sponsor of this program as it brings in paying clients (students of all ages) to the fold. Via: http://www.ihouse-nyc.org/.
Suprise, this is a max hit zone for housing such as the above. see: www.metrointl.org/support/documents/2006FulbrightAwardsDinnerSupporters.pdf
Is there anyother way to look at the this? There must be a way…
APA Metro Prepare Testimony on Manhattanville zoning or go straight to the CPC DEIS for some real fun reading…