***** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/16/07 *****
WEST HARLEM COMMUNITY GROUP ASKS HUNGER-STRIKING COLUMBIA STUDENTS TO WITHDRAW DEMAND REGARDING UNIVERSITY'S PROPOSED EXPANSION
Tom DeMott: 917-969-0669
Nellie Bailey: 646-812-5188
Luis Tejada: 212 234-3002
Five days ago, on November 11, the Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC), a four-year old West Harlem community group opposing the Columbia University expansion plan, asked the Columbia students who had been on a hunger strike since Wednesday, November 7, to withdraw their demand that the University recall its 197C rezoning application. They rejected our request at that time, but today we are asking them again.
We do not want the students' health and welfare to be sacrificed in waiting on Columbia to engage in an honest dialogue and negotiation with the community on the rezoning application. For that to happen, President Bollinger and the Board of Trustees would have to respect the ten points raised by the Community Board as necessary to bring the Columbia plan into conformity with the community plan. The students are correct when they say that this could be accomplished, and they have done a great job bringing the true nature of Columbia's eviction plan out in the open, but we have all seen over the past five days that Columbia is stonewalling them, as it has stonewalled the community, on this issue.
The students attempted to focus in on six points concerning the expansion, and Columbia would not even make the basic commitment to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement exclusively with the Local Development Corporation. This refusal reveals Columbia’s underhanded strategy of dealing with elected officials in back-door 11th-hour negotiations in order to circumvent the comprehensive demands developed on LDC committees by grassroots people. Columbia and its politicians want to sweep the work of community members under the rug and invent some last minute deal that will be put forth as purported "mitigation" of the devastation the Columbia plan will wreak in the community. The students should not starve themselves any longer trying to change this bought-and-paid-for scenario. It is clear that the fix is in regarding Manhattanville.
We have supported the advocacy efforts of the students on their other important demands for a democratic and inclusive education and those talks have been concluded. We will continue to work with them as we advocate for real community planning that does not cause displacement nor depend on the use of eminent domain.
Coalition members are extremely concerned for the well-being of the students. Having dealt with the Columbia administration for four years on its proposed expansion plans, the CPC is fully aware of Low Library's intransigence, deceitfulness, and cold-blooded ruthlessness. Accordingly, the CPC calls upon the students to withdraw their demand regarding Columbia's 197C application with its reliance on bulldozing a community and eminent domain and to concentrate on their other advocacy.
The striking students and their supporters will be conducting a vigil and press conference tonight at the sundial on the Columbia campus at Broadway and 116th Street.