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Columbia Spectator Staff

The jury is still out on Manhattanville expansion, and it seems to be on everyone's mind.

Emily Lloyd spent part of this week in Paris working with the architects who are planning Columbia's northward expansion.

Students and faculty, strapped for more classroom space, are awaiting word as to how the new space will be used. And with the administration maintaining secrecy about specifics of the project, many Manhattanville area residents and business owners are wondering what the future of their neighborhood will look like.

Columbia's vision is for a new campus to be built in the area bounded by Broadway and 12th Avenue and 125th 133rd Streets, which is commonly known as Manhattanville. Though no definitive plans have been made public, the university is currently soliciting advice from urban planners and community leaders, encouraging discussion among the different schools within the University, One of the major hurdles to clear before Columbia can redevelop Manhattanville is the rezoning of the area, which is currently zoned for manufacturing. To get an area rezoned, an institution must initiate the Urban Land Use Review Process, which is a series of public and political reviews of the area and plans for its redevelopment. The ULURP process for Manhattanville is currently in its opening stages; in the next few months, the City Planning Commission will begin its review of the area.

That process will begin with a referral to the local community board, which will make suggestions and comments on the proposal, then send those to the Borough President who can hold public hearings. From there, the proposal goes to the City Planning Commission, which has public hearings and can recommend if the rezoning should go forward. Thereafter, it goes to City Council and then to the mayor for signature.

"It's a very public process, with lots of opportunity for comment," said Emily Lloyd, Columbia's executive vice president for government and community affairs.

And comment community members will. At present, Columbia is receiving lukewarm reception from politicians and residents of areas near Manhattanville.

"We want affordable housing to still be available, and for Manhattanville to be preserved," said George Goodwill, chairman of Community Board 9 (which includes Manhattanville in its district). "But we don't really even know what's going to happen. We've only heard general comments."

Goodwill noted that his constituents are skeptical of Columbia, since in the past the University has broken promises to work with the community. "But I know they've kept us informed on the ongoing projects," he said. "It remains to be seen how Columbia will include the community's interests in its plans."

Nick Zuhusky, manager of Despatch Moving and Storage Company on Broadway at 131st Street, had a plan for making sure such promises are kept this time.

"We've formed a coalition of people that are here," he said. "We just have to stay together, and let Columbia know exactly how we feel, and present our case to our state senator. There's a grand plan but no one knows anything about it. ... We don't know how much it will affect us or if we'll have to get out of here."

Daniel Fuentes, an employee of Katz Brothers Paint Corporation on 125th Street and Broadway, was less optimistic.

"Everyone's getting bought out," he said. "They won't let us stay here. It's like a big tentacle that's reaching in and wiping everyone else away."

As the civic rezoning process and neighborhood discussions move ahead, the University's plans have not yet been revealed to the public. Lloyd said that more concrete planning will begin once rezoning starts.

"We hope to know what we would propose by the time the rezoning process begins, which will probably be in the first half of next year," Lloyd said. "However, it's not as if everything will be locked into place. The discussions will probably continue for a year or more."

Some discussions will take place among an internal advisory committee made up of faculty, administrators, and student representatives, with Bollinger serving as chairman. In addition, a Senate task force--including students, faculty and alumni--will contribute to the plans.

There will also be a community advisory committee, to be comprised of 30 representatives from leadership organizations such as community boards and social service agencies. Lloyd emphasized that the University will continue to use the community as a resource for determining how to use the Manhattanville properties.

"We will continue to have public meetings throughout the fall, and meeting with elected officials to keep them abreast of what we're doing," she said.

Jim Capel, chief of staff for U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel, said that Rangel will most likely be one of the elected officials that the University plans to consult.

"The Congressman has not seen any plans," Capel said. "Right now there are a lot of different ideas and concepts being discussed. There is talk of perhaps a performing arts center, but nothing is certain yet. The hope is that the community and the university can share the property and work together. But right now we are still discussing possibilities."

In the meantime, there has been a great deal of speculation as to how Columbia might use any new Manhattanville buildings. Manhattanville could become the new home of the School of the Arts, which is currently scattered among several different locations on the Morningside Heights campus. Still, Lloyd would not comment on specifics of that plan.

"Until the money is put aside for the next budget, and we know that we can do the kind of building that we know will be necessary in Manhattanville, the decision won't be made," Lloyd said. "But I think that Bollinger is certainly very interested in providing more space for the School of the Arts."

Lloyd added that she hopes the Manhattanville area will be revitalized through Columbia's efforts.

"The primary benefit will be economic development. Bollinger thinks it is extremely important that the economic benefits come home to the community," Lloyd said, adding that the rezoning might lure more businesses and create more jobs in the area. Lloyd also stated that the Columbia administration was committed to helping find new locations for any businesses that would be displaced by the University's construction in the area.

"Whatever land we do acquire wouldn't be developed for quite a while, so those businesses can have a long and happy life there," she said.

Victoria Loustalot contributed to this article.