Nellie Bailey, Norman Siegel, Tom Demott and several others spoke at the rally at the offices of the Empire State Development Corporation:
From the Columbia Spectator:
Local activists protest eminent domain appeal
Despite the Empire State Development Corporation's formal appeal of the eminent domain ruling, the Coalition to Preserve Community protested on Thursday.
By Kim Kirschenbaum
Published Friday 29 January 2010 03:04am EST.
Opponents of eminent domain took their protest beyond the boundaries of Manhattanville on Thursday afternoon.
Members of the Coalition to Preserve Community, a local group opposed to the use of eminent domain for Columbia’s campus expansion, traveled with Harlem residents and other anti-expansion activists to the offices of Gov. David Paterson and the Empire State Development Corporation. There they staged a demonstration, and several delegates entered the building to deliver a letter to Paterson, attendees said.
“The purpose of this was twofold: We wanted to request in a letter to Gov. Paterson to declare a statewide moratorium on eminent domain, and we also wanted to demand that the ESDC drop their appeal,” Harlem Tenants Council president Nellie Bailey said.
The protest was in response to recent legal developments surrounding the planned Manhattanville expansion.
The New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division declared eminent domain for the project illegal in early December. This was a major setback for the University, which has not yet struck deals with two landowners in the 17-acre expansion zone and thus must use eminent domain to acquire the properties. ESDC formally appealed this decision on Jan. 8. Plaintiff Nick Sprayregen—the owner of Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage—and his lawyer, Norman Siegel, expect the Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, to hear oral arguments in June.
Speakers at Thursday’s event included members of Coalition to Preserve Community, the Movement for Justice in El Barrio, the Mirabal Sisters, and the Harlem Tenants Council.
“I was impressed with the diversity of the people who were there,” Siegel said. “Most were from West Harlem, but there were people from Brooklyn, Queens, and there was high energy.”
Following the protest, a seven-member delegation from the group entered the office building to deliver a letter signed by the demonstrators to Paterson and ESDC officials. The letter requested that Paterson declare a statewide moratorium on eminent domain and that ESDC drop its appeal. Members of the delegation said they wanted to deliver the letter directly to Paterson, but were told they could not do so. Eventually, one protester was able to deliver the letter to the governor’s chief of staff.
“Columbia’s all-or-nothing expansion remains nothing more than a land grab,” the letter reads in part.
CPC member Tom DeMott, said, “Any time you have people from a community, especially people from a low-income community, come to Madison Avenue to protest outside a governor’s office and a state agency that has a history of carrying out oppressive policies toward low-income neighborhoods, it’s real significant.”
University officials could not be reached for comment, but have previously emphasized that Columbia is not a direct party in the case.