M'ville Expansion Clears Last Major Hurdle, State Approves Eminent Domain

Making room for Columbia's Manhattanville campus expansion, the Empire State Development Corporation unanimously voted to invoke eminent domain on private commercial properties in the project area.

The state's decision on Thursday, will allow the state to seize land from two holdouts who have not struck property deals with the University. In exchange, the landowners--Nick Sprayregen, the owner of Tuck-It-Away Storage, and the Singh family, which operates two gas stations in Manhattanville--will receive market rate compensation.

Through the ESDC's invocation of eminent domain, the state will take over these commercial properties and then transfer ownership to Columbia, with an understanding that the land can be put to better civil use by the University. Columbia has said it needs control of all the land in its development site in order to build the campus expansion according to the plans approved by the New York City Council last year.

The 17-acre site of the future campus is comprised of four blocks from 129th to 133rd streets between Broadway and 12th Avenue, as well as property on the north side of 125th Street and east of Broadway from 131st to 134th streets.

Though the ESDC has voted in favor of eminent domain, the battle may still be far from over. Sprayregen said that he and his lawyer "have already begun our preparations for the next step, which will be to file our petition contesting the findings of eminent domain." He added later, "I will have no choice but protect the interests of my family to the very best of my ability. I am cautiously optimistic that we will prevail in the courts."

For further updates and analysis, check back at columbiaspectator.com

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