Columbia University West Harlem Expansion

Columbia University Expansion Area - View from the southeast

In the spring of 2004, Columbia University first unveiled its plans for creating a north campus on this 17-acre area to the west of Broadway and north of 125th Street. The plan was the embodiment of a vision by Columbia president Lee Bollinger to increase Columbia's international stature, in part, by expanding the size of its campus. From the perspective of a developer, this site seems optimal with its stock of (relatively) inexpensive low-rise industrial buildings and proximity both to the Hudson River and to mass transportation on the IRT #1 Broadway subway line - one stop from Columbia's main campus. There is also a civic government delighted to see every possible square foot of Manhattan rebuilt with luxury buildings for the well-to-do.

Understandably, there was a significant amount of opposition to this bold act of gentrification. Around 1,600 people were employed in this area and around 400 people live there. Development would ultimately push skyrocketing housing costs even higher, replacing longtime community residents with well-heeled students and midtown yuppies. It also conjured visions of Robert Moses' Urban Renewal projects of the 1950s and 1960s (as well as the Atlantic Yards abomination) where eminent domain is used to force owners to relinquish their property against both their will and the will of the community.

From an aesthetic point of view, there is also the loss of an old, gritty vestige of Manhattan's manufacturing history bequeathed by previous generations. So I decided to spend a few hours up here documenting what will undoubtedly soon be just a fading memory.

For further reading:

Columbia University Expansion Area - View from the southwest
Columbia University Expansion Area - View from the northwest
125th Street
129th Street
130th Street
131st Street
132nd Street
133rd Street
135th Street
Jerome L. Greene Science Center
701 West 135th Street
Columbia University Expansion: Broadway
IRT Viaduct
Lee Brothers Warehouse
Manhattanville Bus Depot
The Studebaker Building
Twelfth Avenue

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