- How will the local community benefit from this expansion?
- How many construction jobs will be created by realizing this long-term plan?
- What is Columbia doing to ensure that local and minority- and women-owned businesses obtain contracts?
- Will local residents benefit from these new job opportunities?
- What kinds of businesses will be in Manhattanville? Will Fairway be affected?
- Why does Columbia need more space?
- Will the expansion take place in all of Manhattanville?
- How will the University use this expansion?
- How will Columbia schools relocated to Manhattanville retain a sense of integration with the rest of the University?
- How much of the space does Columbia already own or control?
- Will any of the buildings be preserved?
- Will this new urban campus close off the existing street grid?
- Why does Columbia need all 17 acres?
- How would a continuous basement benefit not just Columbia, but people who live and work in the neighborhood?
- Why can't Columbia meet only part of its space needs in the mixed-use educational area in Manhattanville and develop other new spaces elsewhere?
- Why has Columbia asked the Empire State Development Corporation to use its eminent domain power to acquire property on this site?
- Are other development options available that would meet Columbia's needs and bring the same benefits to the community without using eminent domain?
- Doesn't Columbia already own most of the land?
- Would ESDC approval of a general project plan still be needed if Columbia were able to negotiate purchases with all private property owners?
To Learn More
Where is Manhattanville?
Manhattanville is located at the southwestern edge of West Harlem, just north of Columbia's main Morningside Heights campus (see maps), bounded by the Hudson River and St. Nicholas Avenue between 120th and 135th Streets. The area was one of old New York's most important 19th-century villages. For decades, the area between the Hudson River and Broadway was a center of trade and light manufacturing, a legacy that can be seen in the onetime auto industry facilities like the Studebaker Building on 131st Street and the Nash Building on 132nd Street.
But in the second half of the 20th century, the area steadily lost private-sector jobs and became a locale for large warehouses, gas stations, auto repair shops, and parking lots, as well as a few remaining light manufacturing businesses.
Although the historic name may not be immediately recognized by some, it remains in wide official use: The local U.S. Postal Service designation is the Manhattanville Station (located at 365 W. 125th St. between Morningside and St. Nicholas Avenues); the New York City Housing Authority maintains the Manhattanville Houses on the east side of Broadway between 129th and 133rd Streets; and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Manhattanville Bus Depot is located in the area.
Columbia has grown incrementally through ad hoc development for decades. To grow strategically, the University had been looking for additional space for many years. Of all the sites considered for expansion, the old Manhattanville manufacturing area in West Harlem made the most sense:
- a primarily nonresidential area characterized by warehouses, parking lots, auto repair shops, and gas stations
- a contiguous space offering a minimum of five million net square feet, plus space for support services
- proximity to public transportation
- proximity to Columbia's Morningside Heights and Washington Heights campuses
- an area that would provide an opportunity for the University to expand its already extensive community service programs to anchor the University as a committed neighborhood partner
Columbia also investigated a nine-acre parcel in Riverside South, between West 59th and West 62nd Streets. But for a variety of reasons, including limited size and significant distance from existing campuses, such options were less than ideal. Consideration was also given to whether some facilities should be moved outside of New York City, but ultimately, Columbia's core identity and unique qualities come from the fact that it is located in New York City. And University leadership believed that the local communities in Upper Manhattan should share in the long-term economic, educational, health and civic benefits of Columbia’s growth.
In 2002, after conducting extensive community outreach and consultation, the New York City Economic Development Corporation issued the West Harlem Master Plan, which recommended Manhattanville for new development. Although there are a small number of people living in 135 apartments in seven walk-up buildings on the northernmost corner of this 17-acre site, it was an area zoned for light manufacturing, of which very little remains.
How will the local community benefit from this expansion?
- Nearly 6,000 new University jobs with competitive health, educational, and retirement benefits
- An average of 1,200 construction-related jobs per year for the next quarter century
- More than $20 million in University funding to support affordable housing initiatives
- An additional $76 million in University funding to meet community needs
- Publicly accessible open spaces and improved, pedestrian-friendly streets—part of an environmentally sustainable urban design
- New commercial life, including local shopping, and dining, as well as a range of public amenities
- A permanent site for the new Columbia-assisted public secondary school for math, science, and engineering
- Teachers College-assisted K–8 public school in partnership with local community
How many construction jobs will be created by realizing this long-term plan?
Full construction of the revitalization plan is projected to generate an estimated average of 1,200 construction-related jobs in New York each year for nearly a quarter century.
What is Columbia doing to ensure that local and minority- and women-owned businesses obtain contracts?
The University is committed to ensuring that minority-, women-, and locally owned (MWL) businesses participate fully in Columbia's contracting opportunities. During fiscal years 2002 to 2005, more than $112 million—about 36 percent—of Columbia's major construction contracts went to MWL firms. Beginning in 2006, the University extended its MWL goals to include all construction, repair and maintenance spending. And during the past two fiscal years, Columbia contracted for $127 million with MWL firms, representing close to one-third of its total construction and repair and maintenance spend.
In addition, Columbia joined with the Mayor's Commission on Construction Opportunities to ensure that we are doing everything possible to support the growth of these businesses.
Will local residents benefit from these new job opportunities?
Columbia has a long track record of hiring locally. Today, nearly 30% of the University's staff live in Upper Manhattan neighborhoods. The University looks forward to continuing to serve as an engine of long-term jobs for a diversity of local citizens.
What kinds of businesses will be in Manhattanville? Will Fairway be affected?
There will be locally owned stores, restaurants, and other community amenities in the ground floors of buildings along West 125th Street, Broadway, and Twelfth Avenue. In renting out these spaces, the University will maintain its long-standing policy of favoring local entrepreneurs serving local consumer needs.
Fairway Market is not within the project area and will not be relocated because of Columbia's long-term campus plan.
Additionally, we are committed to supporting and building on the historical and economically important arts and culture aspects of Harlem.
Why does Columbia need more space?
Today, Columbia has significantly less space per student than other top-ranking universities. It has half the space of Harvard and a third the space of Princeton and Yale. If Columbia were not taking steps toward gradual, well-planned expansion, it would be difficult for the University to remain a local center for world-class intellectual excellence and cutting-edge academic research and patient care in the decades ahead.
Columbia is not alone in planning to expand: University of California, San Francisco; Yale University; University of Pennsylvania; and University of Michigan, among other schools, including City College of New York, are engaged in strategic growth initiatives.
As we look toward meeting the challenges that will face the city, the nation, and the world in the future, Columbia anticipates adding hundreds of new researchers as part of the proposed expansion. They will form a thriving community of scholars collaborating across scientific disciplines to address the signal challenges of our time—from understanding and treating disease to developing new technologies to, for example, improve agriculture and manufacturing and promote a sustainable environment.
This is the kind of research that will serve New York City as an engine of economic growth, where more companies will want to build on research breakthroughs to develop revolutionary cures and technologies. It will also create thousands of new jobs locally at Columbia—and hundreds more in the private sector—for people with a diversity of skills and experiences, including experienced workers with specialized skills and those who are seeking to build a career as they first enter the workforce.
More than a century ago, Columbia leaders had the foresight to move from what is now the Rockefeller Center area in Midtown Manhattan uptown to Morningside Heights, allowing the University to grow as new fields of knowledge grew during the 20th century. Since then, Columbia has become a national and global leader in scientific and medical breakthroughs, patient care and intellectual excellence, and arts and culture.
Over the past century, Columbians have earned 85 Nobel Prizes. Columbia faculty members have developed such technological advances as blood banks, cancer treatment drugs, and insights into the relationship between genes and Alzheimer's. The University's long-term growth is essential to continuing this service to society.
Will the expansion take place in all of Manhattanville?
The gradual expansion will take place in the old Manhattanville manufacturing area in West Harlem, primarily on the four large blocks from 129th to 133rd Streets from Broadway to Twelfth Avenue (see maps).
How will the University use this expansion?
The plan seeks to establish a vibrant, new urban campus not only for education and scholarship, but for local economic opportunity and civic and cultural life. It also provides a new platform for the University to engage with its community, increasing involvement in local public schools, after-school programs, public health, legal services, and many other University–community partnerships that enhance the quality of life for everyone on and off campus. (A list of community service programs is available online.)
This roughly quarter-century project will, by the year 2030, provide a projected total of 6.8 million square feet of space above- and below-grade for teaching, academic research, and civic and commercial activity, as well as below-grade parking and facilities support. The plan is based on the understanding that it is impossible to know today all the new areas of learning and discovery that might arise decades into the future.
What is known, however, are elements of the first phase of the campus plan. They include:
- the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, led by Nobel Prize-winning scientists who will conduct research with implications for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and motor neuron diseases, among others;
- new homes for Columbia Business School, the School of International and Public Affairs, and the School of the Arts, which would partner with and add to the cultural activity that is one of Harlem's historic strengths;
- open space to be utilized by the community and the University;
- a University-assisted public secondary school for math, science, and engineering geared toward high-performing students in Upper Manhattan that opened in temporary space at P.S. 125 in September 2007.
The first phase would also include renovations to University-owned buildings on the south side of 125th Street—Prentis Hall as part of the new School of the Arts and the 560 Riverside Drive faculty apartments, which would have a new lobby on 125th Street to further enhance pedestrian activity along this important corridor.
According to the National Science Foundation, the $48.5 million that New York's leading research institutions spent on engineering research and development in 2005—some $30 million of that by Columbia alone—pales next to the top three national leaders: Georgia Tech ($286 million), MIT ($207 million) and Stanford ($156 million). New York must do better than that to build an economy for the future that is less dependent on Wall Street's inevitable ups and downs.
Columbia plans to meet this challenge by assembling the greatest concentration of brain power anywhere in the world. This commitment to scientific innovation requires the addition of more than 500 new researchers, who will collaborate with current faculty on a series of ambitious initiatives aimed at solving the signal challenges of our time.
How will Columbia schools relocated to Manhattanville retain a sense of integration with the rest of the University?
The Manhattanville campus will be very close to the Morningside campus, less than five blocks away. Although the distance is easily walked, there is also public transit with buses and the subway on Broadway. Columbia currently provides shuttle service with vans that Columbia runs between its various campuses and athletic facilities in Morningside, Manhattanville, Washington Heights and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. More important, the Manhattanville campus will itself become a new center of academic, cultural, and civic life in the surrounding West Harlem community.
How much of the space does Columbia already own or control?
Currently, Columbia controls more than 80% of the lots on the project site through ownership or through contracts or options to purchase certain parcels. Those portions of the project site that are not under Columbia's control are either privately owned (including one lot that is owned by Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Edison) or are owned by the City of New York. Two of the city-owned parcels are currently leased to an affiliate of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for use as bus depot/parking and service facilities.
For more information about the property currently owned by Columbia, visit the Phased Development section of this site.
Will any of the buildings be preserved?
Yes. Prentis Hall (632 W. 125th St.), the Studebaker building (615 W. 131st St.), the interior of the original West Market Diner, and the Nash building (3280 Broadway) will be preserved and restored. The Studebaker building has already been renovated for adaptive reuse as University administrative offices, and some 800 Columbia employees now work there.
Will this new urban campus close off the existing street grid?
No! This isn't a traditional college campus design with iron gates and closed streets. Columbia's plan for a 21st-century urban university keeps open every street in the existing grid and reanimates them with academic, commercial, and cultural activity. The plan provides street-level retail opportunities for local entrepreneurs and local consumers along 125th Street, Broadway, and Twelfth Avenue. It also improves pedestrian access to the Hudson River waterfront and better connects residential areas with the new waterfront park from 125th to 132nd streets. Although some streets will need to temporarily close for safety purposes during construction, specifically, 130th, 131st, and 132nd streets, the completed plan leaves every existing street open to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Why does Columbia need all 17 acres?
Essential to achieving the public interest values of a pedestrian-friendly, environmentally sustainable urban design of this long-term campus plan is the construction of a contiguous basement that will provide parking, loading, and a range of shared infrastructure support facilities for all of the new academic buildings. This underground parking, loading, and support facility cannot be built without ownership of the contiguous properties in this well defined, 17-acre zone.
The contiguous basement is an essential element of the pedestrian-friendly urban plan for these blocks that was selected by the U.S. Green Building Council as part of a national pilot for sustainable neighborhood design. Without the contiguous basement, the University would only be able to construct from 31% to 65% of the space called for under this long-term plan. As a result, not only would the environmentally sustainable elements of the proposal be lost, but the University would need to seek scattershot development in other areas of Upper Manhattan—which we believe serves neither the academic commitment to a cohesive environment that fosters interdisciplinary teaching and research, nor the goal of reducing ongoing friction between University and community over unpredictable future growth.
How would a continuous basement benefit not just Columbia, but people who live and work in the neighborhood?
In a classic New York mixed-use public space like Rockefeller Center, it's possible to see how providing a unified underground space for parking, truck loading and support services allows for a virtually unbroken line of street-level activity and publicly accessible open space that draws people and constant activity. At the same time, placing support service, parking and loading underground is significantly better for the local environment.
A shared loading dock will significantly reduce the amount of street-level truck traffic in the community. It will allow for a reduction in noise, exhaust and pedestrian disturbance compared to a more common alternative of having two street-level truck bays for each building.
Coordinated entrances and exits will reduce the number of curb cuts on the entire site from more than 18 to only six, increasing the amount of space available for active ground floor uses, such as shopping, dining and community services.
Placing services underground makes it possible to avoid building windowless walls above ground and force active uses away from the street level. It also means that building heights don’t have to be increased to accommodate these basic services above ground.
The central energy center will be more efficient than individual heating and cooling facilities for each building, thereby limiting emissions.
In short, the continuous basement is an important element of Columbia's urban plan for these old industrial blocks that has been selected by the United States Green Building Council as part of a national pilot for sustainable neighborhood design that meets the community’s own goals for this area.
Why can't Columbia meet only part of its space needs in the mixed-use educational area in Manhattanville and develop other new spaces elsewhere?
The long-term plan for a mixed-use educational area is focused only on the four large blocks from 129th to 133rd Streets (as well as the small triangle created by 125th Street) from Broadway over to Twelfth Avenue, plus the smaller blocks east of Broadway from 131st Street to 134th Street. It is designed to be fully transparent in its long-term goals, clearly defining the University’s proposed expansion over the next quarter century on these specific blocks. This plan intentionally moves away from ad hoc, unplanned growth that causes ongoing disputes with community. If the University had to look elsewhere to meet its full space needs, it would have to look at other development sites that would be potentially more disruptive in the community—which is what Columbia is seeking to avoid with this predictable, clearly defined plan for the old industrial area of Manhattanville.
What about traffic and parking concerns?
The University plan provides parking to minimize potential impacts and locates parking facilities underground as part of an overall effort to maximize above-ground areas for academic, retail, and open spaces and create a pedestrian-friendly environment.
What else will the University do to make sure that the expansion occurs in a way that protects and enhances the local environment?
Columbia is committed to using sustainable design and meeting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards regarding materials, energy alternatives, and water recycling. And the University has already committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2012 as part of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC.
Columbia will place heating, cooling, truck delivery, parking, and other services underground to ensure pedestrian-friendly, environmentally appealing streets and public spaces. Additionally, Columbia's proposal has been selected for a national pilot program for its environmentally sustainable "green" design.
The Manhattanville design and construction team, University Facilities, the Office of Environmental Stewardship, and Environmental Health and Safety staff, with input from the Mailman School of Public Health, have been working with the public interest group Environmental Defense Fund to develop a state-of-the-art plan to minimize the impact on air quality during construction in the Manhattanville area. For example, construction equipment will use new, cleaner diesel engines, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and verified particulate filter in the exhaust.
If you have any questions about this project, please contact the Columbia University Facilities Services Center at (212) 854-2222, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or e-mail Construction Coordination at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University also has established the Office of Environmental Stewardship, which organizes interdisciplinary and interdepartmental teams to lessen the University's environmental footprint and advance environmental stewardship and sustainability practices. Columbia is known for its path-breaking research and academic programs on the environment, including architecture, earth and environmental engineering, the causes of asthma, and public policy.
Read more about Columbia's environmental sustainability efforts in the e-newsletter Sustainable Columbia.
Why has Columbia asked the Empire State Development Corporation to use its eminent domain power to acquire property on this site?
The University does not have the authority to use eminent domain. Eminent domain is a public power exclusively reserved for governmental agencies to acquire land for public purposes in exchange for fair market compensation. Eminent domain can be exercised only after a public review process that determines that the property taken will be used for a public purpose. In this case, that determination will be made by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a New York State public benefit corporation.
As a nonprofit, mission-driven institution committed to teaching, academic research, patient care, and public service, Columbia has asked the ESDC to adopt the University's general project plan (GPP) and to determine the appropriateness of exercising eminent domain to acquire certain private properties for public purposes—and of exercising other ESDC powers to facilitate acquisition of city-owned properties.
Columbia has not and will not request the use of eminent domain with respect to any occupied residential properties. The only properties at issue with respect to eminent domain in Manhattanville are commercial; their current uses are as warehouses and gas stations, and as with any acquisition, owners would be compensated at fair market value.
Are other development options available that would meet Columbia's needs and bring the same benefits to the community without using eminent domain?
The Department of City Planning and the University both evaluated a range of alternative scenarios, including developing only the sites the University currently owns or controls and developing those sites plus sites currently owned by public agencies. The alternatives examined included variations on the 197-a Plan proposed by Community Board 9. None of the alternatives would have allowed for a continuous below-grade space large enough to eliminate traffic, parking and loading from the streets; nor would any of these alternatives meet Columbia's educational needs for an open, integrated campus possessing large floor plates for modern academic and academic research buildings; nor would these alternatives have allowed for the creation of the open space and other public benefits that will accompany the project.
The alternatives also would leave the University having to look elsewhere for more space in the near future. Within the proposed building heights, these alternatives would permit development of only 31 percent to 65 percent of the space Columbia will need in the decades ahead to remain a world-class research University in New York City. While one of the alternatives considered would have provided enough floor area for the entire project, it would have required density (e.g., floor area per square foot of land) twice that as the rezoning allows and result in buildings far taller than those proposed by Columbia.
Doesn't Columbia already own most of the land?
The University has worked successfully over the past few years to negotiate fair deals with almost all of the landowners in the Manhattanville area—many of whom speak enthusiastically of Columbia's good faith and fair dealing in meeting their economic and business needs and helping them find convenient new locations that will keep jobs in New York City. The University continues to seek negotiated purchases and is eager to reach fair agreements with the two remaining major property owners.
While Columbia remains committed to reaching mutually beneficial agreements with the two property owners, it has requested that the ESDC consider exercising eminent domain in order to ensure that commercial developers do not stand in the way of achieving the city's and the state's public interest goals in the University's proposed campus plan.
Would ESDC approval of a general project plan still be needed if Columbia were able to negotiate purchases with all private property owners?
Yes. Even if Columbia is successful in buying all remaining above-ground property, the general project plan (GPP) would still be needed for the ESDC to facilitate the transfer of city-owned sites, including below-ground property from the City of New York for construction of the large contiguous basement, extending from West 129th Street to 133rd Street between Twelfth Avenue and Broadway. This basement would centralize parking, truck loading, freight distribution, and other services underground—thereby reducing ground traffic congestion, noise and exhaust, and enhancing the pedestrian-oriented urban environment.
Who would be affected by eminent domain in Manhattanville?
There are only two commercial property owners currently subject to the eminent domain process. Columbia has not requested that eminent domain be used to acquire any of the small number of occupied residential properties (with a total of approximately 135 residential units) that cover less than 4% of the proposed project area.
By negotiating win–win purchases from local property owners in the 17-acre expansion zone, the University currently owns or controls more than 80% of the parcels in the planned campus area. Columbia continues to hope that such agreements can also be reached with the remaining commercial property owner—as it has successfully with all other private landowners in recent years. If eminent domain is exercised by the ESDC with respect to the remaining commercial properties, the owner would receive fair market value of the properties as compensation. Such compensation is an essential element of the ESDC’s exercise of eminent domain, and Columbia would be fully responsible for paying the costs of obtaining these properties.
What will Columbia do to help people who are living on the site?
There are 135 occupied residential units in the project area (see maps). Columbia has made a commitment to relocate residents of these units to equal or better housing in the area. Residents in the Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) program will retain their "sweat equity" toward ownership and will have the opportunity to own their units sooner. The University will provide these TIL residents replacement housing, and it will ensure a net 10 percent increase in such affordable units. Columbia will also provide moving and relocation assistance to interested residents. Read more here.
Columbia has not and will not request the use of eminent domain with respect to any occupied residential properties. The only properties at issue with respect to eminent domain in Manhattanville are commercial; their current uses are as warehouses and gas stations.
What kind of research will Columbia do?
The University anticipates that many different types of academic inquiry will occur in Manhattanvile, reflecting the various interests of the academic departments that will be located there. Investigations of history, business, the arts, and other research will all happen in the new facilities. As new areas of intellectual discovery emerge in the decades ahead, Columbia will be well positioned to craft its growth and research to adapt to future challenges.
A centerpiece of the new facilities will be the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, a new research and teaching facility that will serve as the intellectual home for Columbia's Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative. The center will include laboratories in which Columbia scientists will explore the causal relationship between gene function, brain wiring, and behavior. The center will be led by renowned neurobiologist Thomas Jessell and Nobel laureates Richard Axel and Eric Kandel. The work done there will play a key role in helping to fight devastating diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and will be instrumental in helping to improve the lives of those suffering from autism, dementia, and schizophrenia. The center is made possible by a gift from Dawn M. Greene and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, to honor her late husband, Jerome L. Greene (Columbia College '26, Columbia Law School '28), a prominent New York lawyer, real estate investor, and philanthropist.
What is a Level 3 research laboratory?
Federal and professional standards define four biological safety levels for laboratories, 1 through 4. At Columbia, all but two laboratories currently operate at biological safety Levels 1 or 2, like thousands of other clinical and research settings throughout the world. Level 3 labs can already be found at most academic medical centers in New York City today, and the materials used in Level 3 labs are found in virtually all hospitals. Weill-Cornell Medical School, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and Rockefeller University on the Upper East Side, as well as New York University's medical center in Midtown East, all have such labs in busy, densely populated New York neighborhoods.
Among the projected uses would be a bio-safety level 3 lab, which is a room or collection of rooms within a building where researchers would work to find cures for diseases that pose major public health challenges.
Researchers at Columbia's two Level 3 labs at the Mailman School of Public Health are working to address health challenges that affect people in our community and throughout the world.
The Manhattanville campus plan does not include any Level 4 (the highest hazard level) labs that often attract public concern.
What safety measures will Columbia have in place?
Columbia is committed to the highest standard of health and safety in the workplace, environment, and community. Guidelines and policies are in effect to maximize health and safety in all aspects of academic research, including in all laboratories on its campuses. Upper Manhattan is our home, too. Hundreds of Columbia faculty and their families already live adjacent to the area in 560 Riverside Drive, and thousands more will work and study there. So this is a concern and value we all share.
Columbia has a team of 30 specially trained professionals who inspect our facilities, identify and control hazards, plan for emergencies, and provide training and education to the University community to ensure we operate as safely as possible.
University research facilities are regularly inspected by the New York City Fire Department and are subject to inspections by other city, state, and federal agencies. Columbia University Medical Center recently partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and conducted an environmental review of all its facilities, including laboratories.
Does Columbia do any classified research for the government?
No. Columbia's internal statutes explicitly forbid the University from taking part in classified research. The mission of the University is the discovery and communication of knowledge, a value that would be impeded by the restrictions of classified work.
How can I get more information about Columbia's plan?
A good place to start is this Web site. You can also request printed materials from the Office of Government and Community Affairs by emailing email@example.com or calling (212) 854-2871. Copies of our self-guided tour to view the area first-hand are also available. Take the No. 1 subway to the 125th Street station and walk around between 125th and 133rd Streets, between Broadway and Twelfth Avenue. There are several city buses that travel to this area as well. Check the MTA map at www.mta.info.