O’Donnell Condemns Columbia University Decision to Break Long-Standing Community Agreement

Applauds Community Board 9 Resolution in Opposition
February 18, 2011
Assembly Member O’Donnell has learned that Columbia University has reaffirmed its plans to install a university academic center in empty space at the School of Social Work, despite a long-standing agreement with the community that the location would be reserved for retail use.

Yesterday, in response to this news, Manhattan Community Board 9 passed a resolution by near-unanimous vote in opposition to this decision and called on Columbia to “continue its commitment to find a retail tenant for its ground floor retail space at the School of Social Work.”

The Community Board resolution also noted that despite Columbia’s claims to be unable to find a retail tenant for the space, “local merchants who were interested in the space were quoted rents far above the going rate for this kind of space in the neighborhood.”

After receiving the news that Community Board 9 had overwhelming passed the resolution, O’Donnell remarked,

I applaud the Community Board for taking this stand. Columbia's decision to renege on their part of the bargain is merely the most recent example in a long string of broken promises to the community. This continuing disregard for community wishes is outrageous. Given this negative history, what reason do we have to believe that Columbia can or will be a trustworthy partner in any community endeavor in the future?

In a letter to Columbia President Lee Bollinger on August 17, 2010, Assembly Member O’Donnell had expressed his great concern with the decision that the space would not be used for retail purposes. In that letter, O’Donnell called on Columbia to “finally start living up to its claims of being a good neighbor, rescind this decision, and make good on its long-standing agreement to use the ground floor as retail space.”

Assembly Member O’Donnell never received a response from President Bollinger to his August 17th letter.