Ethnic Studies with professors and hiring power
Major Cultures with classes on colonialism and race
responsibly through community input
Increase administrative support

This is what we are fighting for. Support the strike & sign the petition. Contact us at

Friday, November 2, 2007

Demands: West Harlem Expansion & Community Accountability

As students of Columbia University, we find it impossible not to take a stand when our university is actively ignoring the rights of the West Harlem community. Instead of engaging the community in respectful and open negotiation, Columbia is pursuing an expansion plan of disruption and displacement. We believe that the community has a right to affordable housing, living wage jobs, and a prominent voice in any development plan for its neighborhood. We believe that Columbia's plan must recognize the rights of all people regardless of their economic background or race.

The problems with Columbia’s plan are as extreme as they are abundant. According to Columbia’s own statistics, five thousand people would be placed at risk of displacement due to rent pressures engendered by the addition of university affiliates to the area – and this number is likely low. The plan seeks to bulldoze almost every structure in the area – including the current location of the Cotton Club and other community institutions – in order to create a 7-story underground "bathtub" upon which its structures would be supported. The university is planning to create buildings that are very tall, contextually out of place with the surrounding community. The university is also pursuing the use of eminent domain against property-owners who refuse to sell their buildings. While it claims to desire a productive relationship with Harlem, it is functionally colonizing a community and remaking the neighborhood in its own image.

The most basic problem with Columbia’s plan, however, is its wanton disregard for the basic principle of local democracy, something that the university’s humanistic ideals should hold as sacrosanct. Community Board 9 undertook a democratic, transparent process of many years to create a framework for development that took into considerations the needs of its residents. This plan conflicts directly with the expansion plan, which the university has stubbornly refused to revise. Despite the nearly unanimous rejection of the plan by the Community Board this August, the university is using its political muscle to push the plan through the approval process. The university’s basic principles should not be sacrificed on the altar of profit. We believe that Columbia must concretely apply the principles of the community's 197-A plan to its planned expansion.

As informed and active members of this institution, we refuse to allow the current expansion plan to go forward in our name. We stand in solidarity with the 10 demands made by the Community Board in August and therefore demand that:


1. Columbia withdraw its 197-C proposal to rezone Manhattanville immediately.

2. After withdrawing its proposal from the review process, Columbia submit its proposal to Community Board 9 for revision in line with the principles of the 197-a plan.

3. After making the relevant changes to its rezoning plan, Columbia negotiate a substantive community benefits agreement which serves to mitigate displacement created by the university’s presence and addresses job creation, environmental problems and university-community relations.