At Columbia, Italian-American group files sues over building’s use

TRD New York /
Aug.August 24, 2012 04:00 PM

A new lawsuit against Columbia University does not seek money, but rather changes in order to bring a building more in line with the donors’ intended goals, the New York Times reported.

The property in question is La Casa Italiana, at 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, a city landmark built in the 1920s by an assorted group of Italian immigrants and Italian-Americans. The structure, to which Columbia University has a 500-year lease, previously served as a center for Italian education at the university. The lawsuit, filed in The State Supreme Court this week by the non-profit Italian-American advocacy group the Italic Institute, alleges that Columbia has lost sight of the original mission for the building. The plaintiffs say that the property has become an “enclave for Columbia staffers and traveling European academics, including many in disciplines wholly unrelated to Italian history and culture.”

According to the suit, Columbia owes “a fiduciary duty of obedience to the donor families to ensure that La Casa is used to diffuse Italian history, culture, art and literature to promote the educational and spiritual uplift of Italians in America.”

The New York Times sought comment, but Columbia declined.

Columbia’s Italian department no longer occupies the building. Rather, the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, a center for research on Italian society, culture and science, is the occupant. The building is owned by the Italian government. [NYT]Zachary Kussin

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