Columbia Finds Spot for 27 Families

Columbia University is continuing to hammer away at the objections to its expansion plan as it goes under review, this week announcing that it found a spot to move 27 of the 132 households it would have to displace from buildings that it wants to take over for a new campus in West Harlem.

The school said it would construct a new 42-unit elevator building at 148th Street and Broadway—about a mile away from where the families are currently living—which would be large enough to accommodate the displaced families and then some.

The replacement housing has been virtually a precondition for getting the Bloomberg administration's backing on the expansion and the university has long pledged to find it. The tenants are participating in a city program known as Tenant Interim Lease, or TIL, in which renters in city-owned buildings can buy their buildings and turn them into co-ops. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development said it agreed to the switch because it would take less time for Columbia to construct a new building than it would for the city to rehabilitate the old ones, which is a precondition for the turnover.

Neither HPD nor Columbia offered a timeline, however. According to HPD spokesman Seth Donlin, the two parties are still discussing whether the city would contribute financially to the project but the tenants would still be able to purchase the new units for $250.

Whether the tenants will go for it is another matter: Columbia says it has spoken with the tenant associations and will meet with the residents in the coming weeks.

As for other residents in the footprint, Columbia spokeswoman La-Verna Foundatin said in an e-mail, “We continue to work, as promised, to provide equal or better housing in the area. We will continue to do so until we have accomplished this goal.”

See below for Columbia’s press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Columbia University Announces Purchase of Site To Be Developed as New Housing for Manhattanville Residents in City’s TIL Program

TIL Tenants to become Homeowners Sooner in New Buildings

New York, Sept. 19, 2007 – Columbia University today announced that it has obtained a site within the community that it will develop to provide affordable replacement units for the tenants currently living in the two buildings within the campus expansion area that are part of the City’s Tenant Interim Lease Program (TIL). Residents of the TIL apartments, which are currently owned by the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), would be able to purchase these new cooperative units at the same price they would have under the current TIL program.

The plan represents a significant step forward for the affected residents in the TIL program because it not only shortens by a number of years the time they would have waited to become permanent homeowners, but it also ensures they will move into a brand new building. This plan will also reduce the number of moves such residents would normally make under the program.

“We have said all along that Columbia is committed to ensuring that the small number of current Manhattanville residents will have equal or better affordable housing in the area because of our long-term expansion,” said University President Lee C. Bollinger. “This agreement with the City not only fulfills that pledge; it also ensures that these residents become homeowners in our community – in modern apartment buildings – even earlier than they would have otherwise.”

“The Bloomberg Administration has made affordable housing one of its highest priorities for New York’s future,” said HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan. “With this site, Columbia will make new, affordable homes available to these Manhattanville residents even sooner than we would have otherwise and, by adding new units, takes an important step towards ensuring that the University’s long-term growth is a win-win for all parties concerned.”

The site, which Columbia recently acquired, will allow for the development of a new 42-unit elevator building. The project will include 27 replacement units for the TIL tenants, 11 replacement units for the vacant units in the TIL properties, as well as a 10 percent addition of total affordable units. Vacant units in the new building will be made available as new, affordable, cooperative housing to eligible families.

A not-for-profit developer will be identified to build the new apartment building, which will be built in accordance with HPD guidelines. Columbia will cooperate with HPD and the tenant associations to ensure that tenants obtain all the homeownership rights and benefits of the TIL Program.

Discussions with the TIL tenants are ongoing: HPD has consulted with the Boards of the tenant associations about the replacement plan and will meet with the affected tenants in the next few weeks to present the plan in detail.