University Senate April 28, 2000

 

 

 

Report of the Physical Development Committee: 1999-2000

 

Following the work program decided upon by the committee at the end of the last academic year, the committee this year focused on those areas for possible physical development by the University that seemed most appropriate for a committee of the Senate, i.e., those that involved not engineering problems, but rather issues of university and academic policy. Its hope to obtain a listing of departmental and program desires for additional space has been disappointed; for reasons partially having to do with the

difficulties of sorting out realistic requests, partially because of the apparent sensitivity of the decision-making process involving competing claims for space within the University. A draft of the long-term planning for the University's future needs, discussed with the committee by the Provost at the end of the last academic year, is still, we understand,

under preparation, and we look forward to the opportunity to discuss it when it becomes available.

 

Consequently, the committee this year focused on the supply, rather than the demand, for developmental possibilities. Here the main opportunities lie north of the campus, at the so-called Pharmacy site on Amsterdam Avenue and in the area at and north of 125th Street west of Broadway. We have spent considerable time following the planning process for this area, where Community Board 9 and West Harlem Environmental Action have initiated, with the University's support, a participatory planning process. The Committee endorsed that process, and forwarded a letter indicating its support to the Community Board. A copy of that letter, together with the plan discussed in it, is attached to this report.

 

The Committee then took the initiative to bring together some of the interests within the University considering possible activities in this area. The committee met with Dean Bruce Ferguson of the School of the Arts and with Professor Donald Melnick of the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC). Representatives of each discussed their needs with the Committee, and we expect to continue to be involved in plans for Columbia's involvement in the area. The committee further met with Professor Lionel McIntyre, of the University's Urban Technical Assistance Project, whose offices are located in a University-owned building at 131 Street west of Broadway, for a presentation on the possibilities of the area.

 

The committee has also been informed in general terms of the University's involvement in the application for a Technology Zone in the area north of 125th Street, and has viewed that approach with favor, as meeting a number of objectives: expanding the University's research capacity and generating economic benefits that should inure both to the community and to the University. We hope to explore further the University's involvement in the Zone, in which it is cooperating with the Empowerment Zone, and where it is seeking partners for potential new media activities. The University sees its involvement as perhaps centering on new media, with the presence of the School of the Arts in the Zone a major advantage. The Committee hopes to meet with Executive Vice Provost Michael Crow, Richard Schaffer, consultant to the University and the Empowerment Zone, and Professor Lionel McIntyre early in the next year, and looks forward to informing and involving the Senate fully in the thinking going into the proposal.

A last matter is of substantial concern to the Committee. Planning for the development of the 110th Street site is moving ahead at a much faster pace than had earlier been anticipated, as a result of a series of decisions recently made by the University. Those decisions now call for the development of retail space on the ground floor, a laboratory school, available to children of faculty, with tuition assistance of yet unspecified nature made available, and a certain number of scholarships made available for the children of community residents. Above that are to be located apartments, perhaps larger rather than smaller apartments.

 

There are a number of issues involved in these decisions that the committee believes should be of interest to the Senate. They include:

 

The nature and feasibility of the proposed school, likely of limited size at that

location;

The extent to which alternate locations for such a school have been explored;

The size and intended users of the apartments, whether to attract top names to the faculty in competition with other schools or to meet the needs of existing junior faculty and existing faculty with children.

 

The committee sees these issues as in part connected to the relationship of the University with the community; if the University is truly interested in a viable, integrated development of the area north of 125th Street, where it already owns significant property, a development of mutual benefit to it and the community, the location of a school open to

both, might be given serious consideration. The most suitable use of the Pharmacy site, further, may not be for an Olympic-size swimming pool, although such a facility is indeed needed; its location should be examined in the context of a comprehensive survey of possible locations.

 

The Committee voted to call the lack of its involvement, and the lack of involvement of the Senate generally, in these plans to the attention of the full Senate.

 

For the committee,

 

Peter Marcuse, Chair