Columbia Climbs Big Hurdle to Expansion

Development board OK's use of eminent domain to clear some holdout property holders.

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To the dismay of a number of Manhattan property owners, New York state officials have cleared the way for Columbia University to expand its campus, the Columbia Spectator reports. The vote by the Empire State Development Corp. allows Columbia to use eminent domain to clear out a handful of owners who have refused to sell their property in a largely industrial part of western Harlem.

The expansion has been opposed by some residents, business owners, and community leaders for years, and the most recent ruling has been called "unjust and cruel" by the expansion's most harsh critics.

In July, the development corporation labeled the area "blighted." Consequently, the schoolrecently argued that its construction project would benefit the public. School officials say the project will create 14,000 construction jobs and 6,000 new university jobs.

At least one critic of the plan, who may be forced to sell his property to the school at a predetermined price, accuses Columbia of buying up property in the area prior to the July ruling and purposefully neglecting it to make the case for eminent domain.

Those protesting the eminent domain claim have pledged to contest the ruling.