Columbia Expansion Negotiations to Begin

The long-anticipated negotiations for Columbia University’s Community Benefits Agreement will kick off this Friday, a necessary step for the university to gain the City Council’s approval for its $7.4 billion proposed expansion into Manhattanville.

Designed to be more sophisticated than the CBAs at Atlantic Yards and the Bronx Terminal Market, this time around area City Council members and the community board formed a local development corporation to talk on behalf of the community–whatever that is–and persuaded the city’s Economic Development Corporation to provide a mediator, John Bickerman. (Yes, that is his real name.) The Pratt Center for Community Development provided back-up.

Susan Russell, chief of staff for Councilman Robert Jackson and a member of the local development corporation, says the negotiations could last through the seven-month rezoning process that will begin shortly. She said the two sides will discuss how the project can provide affordable housing, jobs, health-care facilities and the like.

- Matthew Schuerman