Highest NY Court Upholds Columbia University Expansion Plan

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New York's highest court has ruled in favor of Columbia University's expansion plan over 17 acres in West Harlem, and the state's plan to seize private property in its footprint.

In their unanimous decision, the judges found the use of eminent domain for a university served a public purpose, and that courts must defer to the state's finding of blight.

Columbia's proposed $6.3 billion project includes up to 16 new buildings for housing, laboratories and other facilities, two acres of public open space and tree-lined sidewalks.

Nick Sprayregen, who has refused to sell his four warehouses to Columbia, says he decision is a blow for private landowners.

"It means that entities such as Columbia or a developer can bring on their own blight into a neighborhood and then benefit from it," he says.

Sprayregen says Columbia University caused the blight itself by buying up properties in the area. In its decision, the Court of Appeals says studies indicated neighborhood blight before Columbia started purchasing land.

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