Columbia U gets OK to build Harlem campus

NEW YORK, June 25 (UPI) -- Columbia University can proceed with a controversial plan to build a $6.3 billion satellite campus in Harlem, New York's highest court ruled.

The Court of Appeals, unanimously overturning a lower court ruling, said the state has the right to seize private property to redevelop 17 acres west of Broadway, The New York Times reported.


The project qualifies for eminent domain because the state has determined the area is blighted and the condemnation would serve a public purpose, the appeals court said.

"This is an extremely important moment in the history of Columbia," said Lee Bollinger, the president of the Manhattan-based university.

Bollinger said the project would create thousands of jobs and help New York state "remain a global center for pioneering academic research."

Plans call for 16 buildings for science, business and the arts. The complex is to replace warehouses, factories, gas stations and auto repair shops.

The owners of four warehouses and two gas stations filed suit to try to stop condemnation.

Norman Siegel, who represents the property owners, argued private institutions are not permitted to benefit from eminent domain and said his clients would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.


"The decision sets a terrible precedent regarding the use of eminent domain," he said.

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