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Kate Scarbrough / Staff Photographer

Residents of Cathedral Gardens, at 110th and Manhattan, aren't happy with Barnard's management.

Barnard students who live in Cathedral Gardens often praise the building's amenities, but the building's permanent residents aren't as pleased with Barnard's management of its facilities. In 2005, Barnard partnered with the private developer Artimus Construction to build a condominium called Cathedral Gardens at 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue. The building was supposed to comprise student and faculty dormitories, middle-income housing, a 9,500-square-foot community space, and a communal garden, but six years later, there's still no community space or garden—and according to the permanent residents, it's because of a faulty governance structure. Cathedral Gardens is unique among residential halls because of its joint public-private ownership. Students and faculty occupy 45 units in the bottom half of the building, and private residents unaffiliated with the college occupy 25 units on floors seven through 15. Barnard acquired the plot of land from the city in 2005 by agreeing to develop the community space and the garden. The agreement makes it Barnard's responsibility to fill the space and create the garden, but non-college residents say they have a right to know why this isn't happening. Community space, communal garden The façade of the community space, which overlooks 110th Street, has had brown construction paper boarding up its windows for five years. Half of the space was supposed to be converted into a day care center, but after the space was deemed a fire hazard, Barnard selected Goddard Riverside Community Center—a not-for-profit that provides tutoring and shelter to Upper West Siders—to fill it. But Goddard still has not filled the space. Spectator reported in January that it was expected to be operational in the community space by this fall, but slow fundraising and building renovations have delayed the move until spring 2012, according to Barnard Vice President for Community Development Vivian Taylor. The building's permanent residents said there's not much they can do about the holdup because of the building's governing structures. Cathedral Gardens has three boards—one for Barnard affiliates, another for permanent residents, and a third, joint board that addresses building-wide issues­—and the permanent residents said there's a fundamental lack of communication between the boards. Belinda Anderson, the chair of the non-Barnard board, wrote in a recent letter to Community Board 7—which represents the Upper West Side—that Barnard has not adequately communicated its plans to the building's permanent residents. "Given the significance of the community space to the residential unit owners, it would be reasonable for CB7 to assume that Barnard's administration presented its plans for the public space to the Joint Board first, before going to CB7. It did not," Anderson wrote. Litter and trash have begun to accumulate in the space intended for the garden behind the building, and Anderson said the non-college board is frustrated it cannot do anything because "we're not the ones with the keys to the gate." Taylor, who is also a member of the condo's joint board, said the garden will be evolving soon. "At our next board meeting, we'll be discussing the plans for the garden, which will soon become a community space used by the young people who are served by Goddard," Taylor said. But in the meantime, residents aren't satisfied—including Alma Gomez, Social Work '79, who has lived in the building since it opened. "We were supposed to be involved with the community space—we wanted to be—and now Barnard is saying we're not allowed to use it," Gomez said. "We wanted to plant things in the garden and they didn't even want us to do that." 'Ongoing disputes' Barnard's inaction on the community space and garden belie a larger concern among the building's permanent residents that Barnard is not fulfilling its end of the legal deal it made in 2006. "It's emblematic of the broader issue, which is Barnard College being completely ignorant of their responsibilities about joint management of the building," Anderson said. For one thing, Anderson said, the joint board comprises three Barnard board members and two non-Barnard board members, leaving the building's permanent residents unable to fight less than favorable decisions. "We're having these ongoing disputes about the shared expenses. Now they've just started billing us for things we're not obligated to pay for," Anderson said. Even making sure that the joint board had non-college members was a struggle, Anderson added. "I've had to drag Barnard kicking and screaming to appoint these members, to get them to meet with us, to basically do everything they're supposed to do," Anderson said. The unusual three-board structure also makes it difficult to solve problems in the building, especially since, permanent residents said, Barnard has managed the boards inefficiently. Bill Sica, who has lived in Cathedral Gardens since it opened, has had a leaky roof "since day one," he said. "The weekend of Hurricane Irene it was so bad I didn't sleep for three days," said Sica, the vice-president of the non-college board. "All I was doing was emptying buckets. I felt my blood pressure going up—I almost went to the emergency room at St. Luke's. I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't eating. There was just constant water coming in." While permanent residents blame Artimus, the developer, for these issues—they are currently battling the company in court—they said Barnard has still made it difficult to work towards solutions with the three boards. Despite Sica's appeals to the joint board, only two roofers have looked at the leak in five months. Taylor said that the college board aims to make the living experience in Cathedral Gardens beneficial for all residents. "For many years now, we've been working closely with the non-college residents so that all of the building's residents are well-served," she said. "To that end, we are always striving to strengthen that relationship as that will only benefit our residents and entire community." As vice president for community development, Taylor said that she cares about having strong ties to Harlem and Morningside Heights residents. "As a Harlem resident myself, I am even more personally invested in contributing to my community," she said. But according to Anderson, the relationship between Barnard and the building's permanent residents has always been strained. "I'm hoping it doesn't get to the point of us seceding from the union," she said. "We've got a building that's literally Siamese twins, it's not like we can just draw a line down the middle and say, 'This is yours and this is ours.' But Barnard is just not paying attention and caring enough to be diligent." finn.vigeland@columbiaspectator.com

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