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


Columbia to Announce New Scholarships for Local Students

Columbia students who are among the university’s first Thompson-Muñoz scholars under a new program are seen on campus. From left: Yanette Rosario, Sorangel Liriano, Allyson Chavez and Jonathan Mangual. Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal

Columbia students who are among the university’s first Thompson-Muñoz scholars under a new program are seen on campus. From left: Yanette Rosario, Sorangel Liriano, Allyson Chavez and Jonathan Mangual. Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal

Columbia University is only a few blocks from the Harlem public school where Allyson Chavez spent her high-school years. But to her and her schoolmates, she said, the Ivy League institution often seemed little more than a steadily encroaching foreign entity where few, if any of them, would end up.

“It sort of seems like Columbia is this big bully trying to build more and more in Harlem,” she said of the school’s reputation in the neighborhood.

Ms. Chavez, 18 years old, did end up at Columbia—as one of 34 Thompson-Muñoz scholars, beneficiaries of a new grant program the university has created exclusively for students who grew up or went to school in the area surrounding Columbia and its new campus currently under construction in the West Harlem neighborhood of Manhattanville.

Amid continuing tension between the 260-year-old university and its neighbors over the school’s impact on the area’s accelerating gentrification, school officials on Friday are scheduled to formally announce the program participants. They will be toasted at a campus reception, which will be attended by administrators and alumni.

As part of the program, all the scholars will receive grants from the school that vary by need. A university spokeswoman declined to provide a range for this group of students, citing student privacy, but said the average Columbia undergraduate on need-based financial aid receives $42,000 in grants annually. The program, named for two Columbia graduates from Harlem, Dr. Albert Thompson and Carlos Muñoz, also offers students opportunities to meet privately with school administrators and community leaders.

Some in the Harlem area see the initiative as a step toward improving Columbia’s community relations. But others, including some of the program’s participants, have questioned whether helping a few dozen locals attend Columbia is enough to quell concerns about the school’s growing Harlem presence.

With its current verdant campus in Morningside Heights, Columbia has nearly 30,000 students and an endowment of more than $8 billion. A new $7 billion campus, which will add nearly 7 million square feet to Columbia’s upper Manhattan footprint, is under construction between 125th and 133rd streets, with some of the buildings slated for completion by 2016.

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By Mike Vilensky

Updated Oct. 16, 2014 10:45 p.m. ET

West Harlem Development Corp Gives $10M to Group Run by Chairman’s Sister

WEST HARLEM — The chairman of the board of the group charged with distributing $150 million in community benefit funds from Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus expansion resigned on Tuesday — just hours before his board chose the nonprofit where his sister is executive vice president to administer half of the group’s $20 million affordable housing fund.

Longtime West Harlem Development Corporation board chair Donald Notice sent an email to the board at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday saying he was stepping down immediately — three hours before the board overwhelmingly voted to pick the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to administer $10 million of the fund, said WHDC Executive Director Kofi Boateng.

Notice’s sister Denise Scott is the executive vice president for programs for LISC’s national office — and until January was managing director of the community development group’s New York office, which will manage the fund. LISC stands to earn fees of at least $600,000, at least 6 percent of the $10 million, for their services over the next three years but the total amount is unclear because a contract has not been finalized.

Boateng said Notice, executive director of West Harlem Group Assistance, Inc., had alerted the board that Scott was his sister and recused himself from the process. Sources, who asked not to be named, say it was suggested to Notice that he resign weeks ago when it became clear that LISC was likely to be awarded the contract but that he declined.

By Jeff Mays on October 2, 2014 12:40pm

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After 200 years, 125th still Harlem’s ‘main street’

When 125th Street was signed into existence 200 years ago, Harlem was a nondescript country village, a day’s trip north of New York City. The story of the street is the story of Harlem: its shifting economic fortunes, demographics, and popular image.

This article is the first in a two-part series exploring the past, present, and future of 125th Street, Harlem’s main street. Read part two here.

When 125th Street was signed into existence 200 years ago by surveyor John Randel Jr., Harlem was a nondescript village in the countryside, a day’s trip north of New York City. The street was intended to be the village’s major thoroughfare. Continue reading

St. Nicholas Park – Harlem Travel Guide – Sutro World

There’s year round activity here

St. Nicholas Park is located at the intersection of two Harlem neighborhoods – Hamilton Heights and Manhattanville. The nearly 23-acre park is situated between 128th and 141st Streets and St. Nicholas Avenue and St. Nicholas Terrace. Some of the land for the park was acquired upon the condemnation of the Croton Aqueduct in 1895, and the additional property was assembled between 1900 and 1909, which included the area at 128th Street known as “The Point of Rocks,” where General George Washington had positioned himself during the Battle of Harlem Heights in 1776. The name of the park is taken from adjacent streets St. Nicholas Terrace to the west and St. Nicholas Avenue to the east. These streets honor New Amsterdam patron saint St. Nicholas of Myra, whose likeness adorned the masthead of the New Netherland ship that brought the first Dutch settlers to New Amsterdam, and who is the inspiration for Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Landscape architect and Parks Commissioner Samuel Parsons designed the park himself. The park was built on a rugged mass of Manhattan schist following the steep and irregular topography of northern Manhattan. The imposing and Gothic-inspired City College of New York campus overlooks the park. Hamilton Grange, the summer home of our first Secretary of the Treasury and one of the nation’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was moved from nearby Convent Avenue into the park in 2008.

Facilities: Basketball courts, dog runs, playgrounds, barbecue area, and handball courts.

Now step inside the City College of New York, the “Poor man’s Harvard” campus and marvel at some of New York City’s beautiful Gothic-designed buildings. Then head on down to Harlem Stage Gatehouse for an intimate performing space in the landmarked Croton Aqueduct water system.

Transportation: Bus—M3, M4, M7, M11, M116. Subway—A, B, C, D to 110th, 116th, 125th, 135th, and 145th Sts.

Enjoy the show


  • More than 360 entries with over 2000 photographs
  • This visually rich app consists of detailed New York City visitor’s information from visitor centers, tourist websites, weather, news, holidays, sales tax, smoking rules, tipping and transportation to and from airports and in the city
  • Detailed descriptions which include uncommonly known cultural and historical facts, websites, phone numbers, hours of operation, prices, menus and hyperlinks that link entries and lead to websites for additional historical and factual information.
  • Entries sorted by name, category, distance, price, and neighborhood
  • Once click to websites, phones, online ordering, online reservations, current menus and more
  • Live calendar
  • Ability to share user comments and mark and save favorites
  • Ask the authors questions through in-app comments to get personalized feedback at your finger tips
  • YouTube videos
  • GPS enabled Google maps with walking, driving and mass transit directions
  • Access offline content anytime
  • Free upgrades for life

What’s inside

  • Nightlife and entertainment from jazz, Latin salsa, opera to classical music;
  • Theatre, dance, spoken word and more;
  • Restaurants featuring soul food to French cuisine and everything in between;
  • Unique ethnic retail shops;
  • Museums that celebrate various cultures;
  • Fine art galleries;
  • Majestic churches and gospel music;
  • Amazing landmarks;
  • Parks and free recreational activities;
  • Guest accommodations;
  • Free internet access and Wi-fi locations;
  • Authentic tours of Harlem;
  • Annual events and festivals;
  • Sales & Deals

Literally a guide in my pocket    

Posted by Max on 13th Jan 2012

I can only subscribe to what other people already have told about the guide. It’s just great that I can read a place description, actually give a call its manager, find it on a map and even hook up on its Twitter channel to keep my eye on it. Very smart!

Download the free Sutro World @ and purchase the Harlem Travel Guide today for $2.99!

Follow Welcome to Harlem on:

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Harlem – Columbia Submits Dueling Bid for $100M City Tech Campus

The library at Columbia University. (Flickr/

MANHATTAN — Much of the attention for the city’s bid to build a major engineering and applied science campus has focused on Cornell and Stanford’s dueling plans for Roosevelt Island.

But as the powerhouses from Ithaca and Palo Alto have waged high profile publicity campaigns to bolster their chances, closer to home, Columbia has been quietly toiling away to get the city’s nod — which awards the winner $100 million for infrastructure development.

Columbia unveiled an executive summary of its proposal Thursday for its Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering to be built as part of the university’s $6 billion Manhattanville campus currently rising on 17 acres in an industrial pocket of West Harlem.

The institute would occupy three buildings, and over 20 years grow to more than 1.1 million square feet of laboratories, classrooms and facilities encouraging collaboration with entrepreneurs, investors, New York-based enterprises and other outside partners.

Unlike Stanford and Cornell‘s plans, which would both add roughly 2 million square feet to city-owned land on Roosevelt Island, Columbia officials highlighted that its plans would be incorporated into the school’s larger campus rather than being a stand-alone research center.

It would add to its already-promised growth of Upper Manhattan, according to school officials.

“Experience shows that engineering and applied science thrives as part of a multidisciplinary university community that includes everything from cutting-edge research in the basic sciences and humanities to the entrepreneurship of a business school,” Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said in a statement. “That kind of dynamic intellectual mix that defines not just Columbia, but the genius of New York itself.”

Columbia’s institute would focus on new media, smart cities, health analytics, cybersecurity and financial analytics. It would collaborate with the Mailman School of Public Health, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Columbia Business School, among other university programs.

A rendering of Stanford's proposed $2.5 billion, 1.9-million-square-foot eco-friendly campus on Roosevelt Island. (Stanford University)

Columbia officials said its first phase of the institute, for 40 faculty and 600 students, would be complete by 2018. Eventually, the school would support 167 faculty and more than 2,500 grad students. The plan would roughly double the size of Columbia’s engineering faculty already expanding into new research disciplines, school officials said.

Just as the other schools have been promoting their illustrious connections with startups, like Stanford’s link to Google’s founders, Columbia also played up the history of inventions that sprang from its scientists and engineers, from FM radio and X-ray photography to the technology behind the iPod Touch.

The bids for the city are due by Friday.

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Harlem group sitting on Columbia-aid cash

Columbia University gave a West Harlem group $3.5 million, and all the community got for its money were some consultants and a temporary job program for teens.

The money is part of a $76 million pot of cash Columbia has pledged to the community to ease the burden of its controversial $6.3 billion expansion in the Manhattanville neighborhood.

But organizational problems continue to plague the group in charge of doling out the money.

The West Harlem Local Development Corp. was set up in 2006, but the group still has no executive director, no Web site and no means for the community to apply for the money.

“In these desperate economic times, it is crucial these funds be disbursed for the benefit of Harlem residents,” said Vincent Morgan, a Harlem resident and former congressional candidate.

Donald Notice, chairman of West Harlem LDC’s board, said the group was about a month away from having “everything in order.”

“We’re working extremely hard,” Notice said. “We don’t want to spend money and not have an infrastructure in place.”

He said the group did spend $302,000 last summer on a jobs programs for 200 teens and about $400,000 to hire consultants.


Hamilton Heights, Morningside’s northern neighbor, prepares for Manhattanville campus

The New York Times yesterday profiled Hamilton Heights, the neighborhood just north of West Harlem. Extending on the west side roughly from 133rd to 155th streets, Hamilton Heights boasts the picturesque campus of the City College of New York, a housing market that’s a lot cheaper than its downtown counterparts, and zero Starbucks stores.

The impact of Columbia’s Manhattanville campus on West Harlem has been much scrutinized. West Harlem residents have been vocal in both their support and criticism of the University’s expansion, but not as much attention has been paid to the other neighborhood, Hamilton Heights.

Perhaps because Hamilton Heights lies just outside of the expansion zone, The Times’ article suggests that residents are relatively happy with the University’s move and are curious to see how their neighborhood might be transformed:

Tom Smith, a professional clown who has lived in a three-bedroom co-op on Riverside Drive in Hamilton Heights for seven years, is torn about the new campus. He said he did not like the institution’s use of eminent domain to get its hands on some key parcels. “I’m not really an eminent-domain kind of guy,” he said.

Yet he thinks Columbia will help curb street crime, which in turn may make the area a more pleasant place to walk. “There will be a lot less chicanery and hustling going around,” he said.

Real estate agents predict a tremendous hike in prices. More restaurants and new types of businesses will crop up. But mostly, the influx of more people is expected to put Hamilton Heights on the map

Columbia University alters plan for promised moves it to other neighborhood school in West Harlem,

West Harlem residents are angry that plans for a new public school pledged as part of Columbia University‘s massive expansion have been scaled back.

Columbia promised in 2007 to create a new pre-kindergarten to eighth grade school as part of a benefits agreement for residents affected by its plans to build a new campus in Manhattanville – but officials said last week the school would only include kindergarten through fifth grade.

And the school, called Teachers College Elementary and set to open in the fall, will be located for its first year in East Harlem – across town from the affected neighborhood.

“A deal is a deal,” said Community Board 9 chairman Larry English. “It’s a violation of the spirit of the agreement.

“This project will forever alter West Harlem,” he said. “Columbia owes a greater debt to the community.”

Teachers College and city Department of Education officials said they had to scrap plans for a pre-K-8 school because there’s no space available big enough to house it.

“It really is all about space,” said Teachers College spokesman Jim Gardner.

He said Teachers College Elementary would only be in the East Harlem space for a year, and then hoped to open in a permanent spot in West Harlem.

“It is a temporary site. That’s temporary in capital letters. It was space that was assigned to us by DOE. We had no hand in this,” he said. “It is our hope and our expectation that the permanent site will be in West Harlem.”

Locals, who were presented with the plan at a CB9 meeting last week, also griped that the school would only take kids from District 5 – which covers a chunk of West Harlem but is mostly in East and central Harlem.

“It was a shocker,” said board member Vicky Gholson. “It’s not that Teachers College is the enemy or that Columbia is the enemy (but) it just makes no sense.”

The city’s Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on the 300-student school today. Even without the much-needed middle school and pre-K seats, Gardner said “it’s going to be a great school and it’s going to deliver and create an enormous community benefit.”

The school, for which Columbia pledged $30 million, was part of a $150 million deal Columbia agreed to in 2007 to gain support for its controversial expansion plans.

BY Erin Durkin

West Harlem Getting Ready for the Next Columbia

It’s a little late to help the residents of Manhattanville fight back against Columbia’s expansion this time, but hey, next time they’ll be ready!

The Observer and DNAinfo report that a promised rezoning of the area meant to protect against similar future development is finally happening. It would be Manhattan’s largest rezoning, covering a nearly 100-block area between Riverside Drive and St. Nicholas Avenue on the west and east and 125th and 155th streets on the north and south.

The proposed rezoning would encourage more commercial development in some areas, increase the allowed height of buildings to 12 or 17 stories, and allow new residential construction (but no neighbor-baiting sliver buildings). But maybe a few more fence removals would have made all this unnecessary.

Thursday, December 2, 2010, by Sara Polsky