Nick Sprayregen, one of the last property owners resisting Columbia’s expansion into West Harlem, has rarely had nice words to say about the university. But today, following a 50-minute meeting, it sounded like he had found new friends—or, more accurately, potential business partners.
“The subject of the conversation moved to my swap idea, and they were interested in discussing it, which was the whole point of them calling the meeting,” Mr. Sprayregen, whose family owns four Tuck-It-Away storage warehouses in the expansion footprint, told The Observer. “I told them I would be prepared to provide more details if indeed it is something in conceptual form that they would be prepared to entertain. That’s the way it was left, basically with us agreeing to get together again. In the meantime, they will continue doing their thinking and they asked me to give them more details of the swap.”
The university’s overture would help remove any possible objection that City Council members might have against the expansion with just a few weeks to go before they vote on the project. If successful, the swap might also help meet one of the university’s recently announced goals: new housing for university affiliates to alleviate the influx of new residents that the expansion is expected to create.
In September, Mr. Sprayregen outlined “the swap” for The Observer: He trades three properties west of Broadway for two properties Columbia owns to the east. Mr. Sprayregen would end up with more total land mass but would save the university the trouble of going through eminent domain.
He said the university, represented at the meeting by Robert Kasdin, senior executive vice president, and Bill Lynch, a lobbyist, wanted more details about how many apartments Mr. Sprayregen would want to build on the new site and how many would be affordable. He said he expected they would meet again before the holidays.