Coming Thursday To West Harlem: Columbia’s Eminent Domain Fight

Just when news started to slow for the summer on the development front, New York’s Empire State Development Corporation dropped this bombshell in the agenda for its monthly meeting [PDF]: Columbia University "Land Use Improvement Project and Civic Project Findings."

Translation: the state will unveil the blight study, the first step in the use of eminent domain for Columbia’s 17-acre West Harlem site.

The one major holdout left in the footprint is Nick Sprayregen, owner of Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage, which has numerous properties in the area. Mr. Sprayregen has bankrolled much of the opposition to the project, particularly on the legal front, and has previously vowed to challenge the use of eminent domain.

"Columbia had numerous opportunities to amicably resolve this, but they chose not to, and the battle lines are drawn," said Norman Siegel, Mr. Sprayregen’s attorney. "This controversy has been brewing for at least five years."

We’re waiting on a statement from Columbia.

The eminent domain issue is the second of two major legal hurdles to the expansion, which comes as the university says it needs to build new facilities to remain competitive. Last December, it passed the first obstacle: approval by the city and City Council of a rezoning for the area.

[Update: Columbia declined to comment]. Coming Thursday To West Harlem: Columbia’s Eminent Domain Fight