Is Columbia really destroying Harlem’s authenticity?

Because of ignorant people like me, Columbia’s selfish and corporate interests are destroying the authenticity of nearby communities. This was the accusation I faced from a group of activists after I asserted that I undoubtedly supported Columbia’s expansion into Harlem. I was being accused of being an accomplice to the latest social sin: gentrification.

The controversy began in 2003 when the University announced a plan to construct a new campus in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattanville. The Manhattanville campus, a 17-acre site located just north of the Morningside Heights campus, will consist of more than seven million square feet dedicated to teaching and cutting-edge research. It will also feature facilities for cultural, recreational, and commercial activities.

And yet, there are people—some of whom are Columbia students—who are vehemently opposed to this plan. Their arguments are based on an urban social phenomenon called gentrification. The term was defined by the British sociologist Ruth Glass as the “arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, and a related increase in rents and property values.” The activists stress that this socioeconomic shift will inevitably produce a cultural change in the area. This immoral and artificial process would, in turn, strip Harlem of its authentic character and cultural heritage.

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By Christian Zaharia | February 19, 2015


One thought on “Is Columbia really destroying Harlem’s authenticity?

  1. The New York Times September 15, 2000 CHARLES V. BAGLI Section B; Page 1; Column 2 Columbia University is talking with Donald J. Trump about creating a satellite campus near Lincoln Center at the developer’s vast Trump Place project on the Hudson River.

    The New York Post May 17, 2001 TRUMP DITCHES COLUMBIA CAMPUS PLAN Lois Weiss Pg. 044 Sources say the university has balked at The Donald’s asking price, which is roughly $400 million. As The Post reported, the campus would have featured the Donald J. Trump School of Business and a theater school.

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