The Columbia Vote
December 20th, 2007
For the City Council, a 35 to 5 to 6 vote is a divisive one (the body usually votes in one block unanimously behind Speaker Christine Quinn).
But yesterday’s approval of Columbia University’s 17-acre West Harlem expansion, estimated to cost $7 billion, was one that brought out catcalls and claws – well, for the usually compliant City Council, anyway.
Members questioned the timing of the expansion’s approval, which had a Jan. 15th deadline and many expected to occur after the New Year. Others disapproved of the application because the Ivy League institution has not ruled out the possibility of eminent domain for commercial properties to make way for the Manhattanville campus. And others still harbor resentment over Columbia hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Here is a list of those who dissented and those who abstained as well as the reasoning they spouted on the Council Chamber floor yesterday. Those without reasons didn’t specify any.
Councilmember Tony Avella (no): “If we approve this knowing that eminent domain could be used down the road, no one’s property is safe… This is supposed to be the people’s house, not Columbia’s house.”
Councilmember Charles Barron (no): “What happened in the last few days was a rush.”
Councilmember Lewis Fidler (no): “I think a college campus is where we consume the highest and the best ideas. When it comes to that test Columbia University has failed. They invited to their campus a hate monger, a homophobe, a holocaust denier and they gave him a platform of credibility which I think is shameful.”
Councilmember Vincent Ignizio (no): “I think this is an abuse of government power… Be very concerned about what you do, because the bullets you put in the gun of government today when pointed at somebody else may one day be pointed at you.”
Councilmember Letitia James (no): “It’s just yet another example of the threat and or the abuse of eminent domain. Your house today. My house tomorrow. Columbia University and the community would be much better served were they to integrate rather than dominate, swallow, subjugate or control the neighboring community… I say to residents, don’t worry you’ll join Brooklyn, and we’ll see them in court.”
Councilmember Helen Foster (abstained): “Having been familiar with an organization that has been unfriendly to a community and then once they want something makes all the promises in the world, I am suspect. ”
Councilmember Eric Gioia (abstained): “If you respect property, you have to respect property rights – for the big guy and the little guy.”
Councilmember Rosie Mendez (abstained)
Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (abstained)
Councilmember Peter Vallone (abstained): “I do have some serious problems with eminent domain used in this matter. But in deference to Councilmember Jackson, Dickens and Katz, I will abstain.
Councilmember Thomas White (abstained)By Courtney Gross on December 20, 2007, 4:55 pm
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