Columbia Goes Direct to the People

Columbia University’s press office kindly sent us (unsolicited) a PDF of a mailer sent out to 50,000 area residents “to help inform and educate them about Columbia’s proposed Manhattanville expansion project.” Another “liar flyer” a la Atlantic Yards?

Well, like Forest City Ratner, Columbia is also using the mailer to help build a citizens’ army of supporters for the project, this time via a reply card that permits residents to volunteer “to speak in support of the project at public hearings.”

Unlike Forest City, however, which deftly avoided showing any images of skyscrapers, Columbia’s propaganda actually gives a glimpse (if only a glimpse) of what the project will look like.

More importantly, Columbia evinces an unusual honesty when it comes to the number of construction jobs that the Manhattanville expansion will create. Forest City advertised that its project would create 15,000 construction jobs, since it is industry practice to multiply the average number of construction workers expected to be on the job at any one time by the number of years the construction will last. Hence, (1,500 construction jobs) x (10 years) = 15,000 “construction jobs.” Columbia claims that during its expansion, there will be “1,200 construction jobs created each year for at least 22 years”—which, using industry math, the university could easily have inflated to 26,400 “construction jobs.” But they didn’t.

Is this the difference between college math and developer math?