Content warning: This article discusses issues of sexual violence.
Columbia’s Vice President for Manhattanville Development Marcelo Velez was taken into police custody on Monday. Velez, who has worked for the University for 25 years, was charged with aggravated sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and two counts of sexual assault by contact for an alleged incident with a girl under the age of 13. According to court records, the assault is reported to have taken place on Jan 2. inside a guest room at Velez’s home in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey—just steps away from a local elementary school.
The relationship between Velez and the young girl is unknown at present. The report that led to Velez’s arrest was made by the child’s mother.
Velez’s current role at Columbia tasks him with overseeing the University’s $6.3 billion expansion into West Harlem, an initiative that has sparked controversy among local residents. Under Velez’s leadership, the University bought out and tore down the local McDonald’s and Tuck-it-Away self-storage, which has led to multiple lawsuits concerning the University’s improper use of eminent domain. Since 2016, Velez has been the University’s “point person” for the expansion, overseeing over $1 billion worth of capital construction during his time at Columbia.
As a result of these allegations, a University spokesperson told Spectator that Columbia has placed Velez on administrative leave and “will cooperate fully with law enforcement officials investigating this matter.” The University has yet to respond to whether or not his leave is paid. Velez is currently being held at the Bergen County Jail with no set bail as he awaits a court appearance that has not yet been scheduled.
This is a breaking news story; please check back for updates.