Phi Beta Cons

Columbia Piggybacks on State Power

The university is pulling out all the stops to expand by getting its hands on 17 acres of real estate in New York City.
Fair enough, except (as Julia Vitullo-Martin reports) it is insisting “on retaining eminent domain as an option (to be exercised by the state of New York) if it can’t purchase privately all the land it believes it needs.”
Moreover, Columbia justifies its demand by arguing that the area is “’blighted,’ a condition that automatically allows the state to exercise eminent domain.” 
To an extent, this is true. But a main cause of the area’s stagnancy is the city’s onerous zoning laws.
Columbia is a powerful institution that ought not be laying claim to the government’s power of eminent domain. It ought to be made to play by the same rules as ordinary citizens. Says one critic, “If they [the campus] wants more property they should buy it fairly like anyone else.”
And government should not be abetting Columbia’s arrogance and piggishness.

Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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