Press | October 24, 2011

Columbia University to Build Affordable Housing Complex for Displaced Residents

By Abby Mitchell and Miles Johnson

Columbia Daily Spectator


The University recently announced its plans to begin construction at the end of this year on a 12-story affordable housing building at 148th Street and Broadway for residents displaced by the Manhattanville expansion.


The University acquired the space in September 2008 to house residents from two buildings owned and managed by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, currently located between 132nd and 133rd Streets.


The tenants are all part of the HPD’s Tenant Interim Lease Program which helps residents of city-owned buildings organize into tenant-owned co-ops.


The building will total 42 units for residents, and the ground floor will also give a home to the Meeting With God Pentecostal Church, formerly located at 130th Street and Broadway.


While construction is underway, the University has placed the church in a temporary University-owned location on the same block.


“You might be wondering what will happen to the unit that the church is in now, and that has not been decided yet,” said Columbia spokesperson Dan Held at a Community Board 9 meeting Thursday.


Demolition of the existing buildings will likely begin next month, followed by two years of construction. The project will be carried out by Magnusson Architecture and Planning, a New York City-based firm.


This building has been in the works for a long time and was included in the Environmental Impact Statement, which details the potential consequences a construction project may have on the environment, filed by the University before the expansion project began.


The EIS says that the new building “would be of the same or better quality” of the existing units, claiming that the rent and opportunities to buy an apartment would not change.


The University has committed to pay displaced residents for the cost of moving, as well as a payment of $5,000 for each household to cover any additional expenses like installing a phone line or printing new address labels.


Aside from possible traffic changes or construction noise, the University maintains that this project will not disrupt the businesses nearby.


“Here’s what I know: the 99 cent store will remain as their lease indicates. The former Domino’s Pizza store will be used as a staging area and a field office for our construction space,” Held said.


Many West Harlem residents said they hope that the new buildings will bring new people and new businesses to the community.


“These stores have not been occupied and at the end of the day you need a mix of stuff to come in here,” said Kimberly Rosado, a West Harlem resident and Columbia graduate. “I think it could be for the better.”


Hector Nunez, a member of the Meeting With God Pentecostal Church, said that he and other congregants are excited to move into the new space, claiming it will be twice the size of their old church.


Though some of the members of Community Board 9 were pleased with the new development, many hinged their approval on the University using local residents for the construction jobs.


CB9 Chair Georgiette Morgan-Thomas urged the Columbia representatives attending the meeting to share hiring statistics and include CB9 in the process going forward.


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