Columbia University May Expand, Court Says

     (CN) – Columbia University won its bid to develop a $6.3 billion satellite campus in Harlem after New York’s State Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the state could use its power of eminent domain to take private property.

     The court ruled that Columbia can go ahead with its plan to build a 17-acre campus on a site located in the Manhattanville section of West Harlem.
     The court’s decision overturned a lower court ruling that prohibited the state from using its power to seize private property without the consent of property owners within the area.
     Among those who argued against the state’s finding that the area was run-down enough to justify the are three gas-station owners and a storage facility owner. There are also seven residential buildings located within the site.
     The ruling said the state has held it “will not exercise its eminent domain power to acquire these seven buildings at any time while they remain occupied by residential occupants.”
     The ruling determined that the new campus qualified as a “land-use improvement project,” a “civic project” in the alternative, and that the courts must give deference to the state’s “findings of blight,” regarding the area.
     The university is planning for about 2 acres of publicly accessible open space, a retail
market along 12th Avenue and tree-lined sidewalks. The university’s 16 new buildings will house, among other things, teaching facilities, academic research centers, graduate student and faculty housing, as well as an area devoted to services for the local community, the ruling states.

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