On Monday, as the City Planning Commission gave its nod to Columbia University, the school tried to give a little good news to West Harlem as well. Columbia promised to build another 160 housing units on its new campus to offset gentrification pressures its employees would bring to the surrounding neighborhood.
That would bring the total residential space that the university will build for students and other affiliates on the new campus up to 820 units.
The size of the total expansion will remain the same at about 6.8 million gross square feet spread out over about five blocks, meaning that Columbia would be adding apartments at the expense of research space. So, as the giant institution tries to gain the approval of the community and politicians, it is hard not to see Columbia losing some of the academic space that it had said it desperately needed to retain its stature as a world-class research institution.
The university has not announced just how big the shift is; nor are they calling this a sacrifice exactly.
“We believe that the academic research component in the plan that is emerging would be sufficient to guarantee Columbia and New York City as a global center for science and technology,” Robert Kasdin, senior executive vice president at Columbia.