Activists set to protest Columbia expansion

By Sarabeth Sanders | March 07, 2011 05:03PM

Columbia University

A local activist group is planning to gather outside Columbia University’s Morningside Heights campus tomorrow evening to protest the university’s $6.3 billion expansion plan, putting officials on the defensive.

“Hey Columbia, where are the jobs?” taunted a statement by the Coalition to Preserve Community sent to members of the press this morning. The group alleges that Columbia, which in December received the U.S. Supreme Court’s green light to proceed with construction at its 17-acre Manhattanville site, had falsely touted the creation of 7,000 jobs in order to get the plan approved. But now that construction has begun, the CPC says it’s been repeatedly rebuffed in its efforts to obtain employment statistics from the Columbia University Employment Information Center, which opened five years ago near the expansion site.

In a statement provided to The Real Deal, a Columbia spokesperson said the university has hired 900 local residents for full-time, part-time and temporary positions since the employment center opened. And since the Manhattanville campus’ “ramp-up phase” beginning in August 2008, the university has awarded $19.5 million — or 68 percent — of its construction contracts in the project area to minority, female and local residents.

“The Columbia University Employment Information Center has been actively engaged in reaching out to the Upper Manhattan community to identify local residents who might be eligible for employment with the university,” Columbia said, adding that services offered include training workshops, job search coaching and referrals.

Nonetheless, the CPC, which has been protesting Columbia’s expansion plans for years, said it will demand that the university “cease and desist” from its construction efforts in Harlem. “All we see is Columbia’s continual effort to bully and gentrify, and to continue its eviction process using eminent domain,” the group said in a statement.