Manhattanville’s 197-a plan goes forward

Community Board 9 and Columbia University presented different rezoning plans for Manhattanville. At the Planning Commission’s review session on October 1 7, 2005, the Commission determined that Manhattan Community Board 9’s independent 1 97-a plan for the future rezoning and development of Manhattanville met threshold standards. The plan culminated over 12 years of work by the Board. Under the City Charter and Rules, before environmental review of the 1 97-a plan can commence, the Commission must determine that the plan conforms to threshold standards for form and content, and for sound planning policy.

At the same session, the Commission discussed concerns that Columbia University planned to file a conflicting rezoning proposal covering the same geographic area to facilitate Columbia’s expansion into Manhattanville. Columbia’s plan would seek to rezone low-density manufacturing lots to allow high-density educational uses. While Columbia owns a portion of the lots in the area, it would potentially obtain more by eminent domain.

City Rules allow the Commission to coordinate the review of differing proposals for the same geographic area so that both plans are considered concurrently. At the meeting, both Community Board 9 and Columbia agreed to future dialogue to facilitate concurrent review of the plans. When Commissioner Richard W Eaddy asked about the possible outcome of the negotiations, staff members for the Department responded that three possibilities existed: the parties resolve their differences and the plans are reviewed without incompatible differences; the Commission decides between a narrow set of possibilities; and if the parties do not reach any compromises, the Commission decides what is the best outcome for the area.

The Commission was most concerned about issues related to eminent domain. While the Community Board’s 1 97-a plan is adamantly opposed to using eminent domain, Columbia stated that it may use eminent domain to accomplish the expansion of its educational campus. In response to Commissioner Karen A. Phillips, Columbia’s representatives stressed that eminent domain was important for utilities to be moved under the street. Commissioner Irwin G. Cantor noted that eminent domain was an issue and that Columbia should recognize that it will continue to be an issue until the date of the vote.

The Commission voted to issue a letter to Community Board 9, finding that its plan met threshold standards. Calling the 1 97 -a plan and Columbia’s proposal “radically different,” Chair Amanda M. Burden encouraged a dialogue between both parties, and requested that the Board make good faith efforts to identify common ground and achieve consensus wherever possible. The letter also stated that the Commission plans to consider both proposals concurrently so as to afford both equal consideration.

The scoping meeting to start the environmental review of the 1 97-a plan is scheduled for November 15, 2005. It is expected that the environmental review process will take six months.

CPC: Community Board 9 1 97-a Plan (N 060047 NPM – threshold determination) (October 1 7, 2005).

Cityland Comment: Details for the 1 97-a plan are available at: Although Columbia has not yet submitted ULURP applications for its proposal, its details are available at: http://neighbors.columbia. edu/pages/manplanning/index.html.

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