Columbia University officials may care about advancing human knowledge, and about nurturing young people. Their moral sensibilities may be highly refined when it comes to academic pursuits. But such virtues apparently do not prevent these guardians of learning from acting like thugs when thuggery seems convenient.
Columbia wants to expand into an area of Harlem called Manhattanville and is willing to abuse the state’s eminent domain power to do so. Who cares about morality and rights, or the foiled lives and livelihoods of innocent people, when there’s property to be nabbed, right?
It’s quite a scam, actually. Columbia has acquired many buildings in the neighborhood, but is not maintaining them. Because of Columbia’s own run-down buildings, the state has formally declared the neighborhood to be “blighted.” If the entire area is now condemned, full ownership can be transferred to Columbia. Which will clean things up immediately.
Meanwhile, Nick Sprayregen, the owner of several well-kept buildings in Manhattanville, is having trouble renting out units of his self-storage business because of the specter of Columbia’s eminent-domain grab. Plus, the firm that New York State used to determine whether the land is blighted had also been employed by Columbia itself — to advocate government approval of its expansion and possible use of eminent domain.
In short, we have only a perverse pretense of due process here. Columbia flunks Ethics 101 but gets an A in con artistry.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.