Monday, October 27, 2008


With the opening of the new Harlem Piers just west of 12th Ave., Manhattanville is receiving lots of attention these days. Be it Fairway, Dinosaur BBQ, Talay or the Hudson River Cafe, it is now clear that this area is becoming a go-to destination Uptown. In this post, I'll peel back some of the layers regarding the development there, both in terms of what's currently happening as well as the future of this controversial yet vital area.
Beneath the Aquaduct, from the south end looking north.

Here's a shot of the North end space now occupied by Talay and Body circa 2003,

As it is today.

For a long time this area has slid further and further into decrepitude...

but since the announcement of Columbia's expansionist agenda,
the landgrab has commenced. Long time small business owners have been bought out and those that resist will most likely be forced out. Neighborhood institutions such as Fairway,

and the relocated Cotton Club, stand to gain as they are just outside of the area of Columbia's two stage annexation.

As a way of bolstering their claim of Community improvement, Columbia is engaging in a huge environmental assessment and remediation effort. Everything from ground water to air quality will be sampled, analyzed and hopefully corrected.

Needless to say that after almost 6 decades of industrial use, the land underneath this area has major oil, gasoline, benzene and other contamination (such as lead from paint and leaded gasoline).

One of the worst contributors is the Manhattanville Bus Depot (sorry City, you also are getting forced out in Phase 2).

Here's a shot of the Doll House Factory--one of the more controversial losers in this plan.

And the Eritrean Society, Floridita,

and one of the few gas stations in the hood.

Clearly this is still a hugely controversial issue. But I like the changes I see so far. The remaining top 5 concern include:
1) Environmental Remediation of the current site
2) Compensation and fair treatment of existing small businesses
3) Disaster management for the new Science labs
4) Holding Columbia to their pledge of 1000 afforable housing units
5) Ensuring that Community relations stay positive and mutually beneficial by conserving the history and relevant architectural elements of this area.

It is my hope that no one ends up marginalized by this process.


Anonymous said...

seems what you are doing is forcing families from what was once a cultural mecca, creating another cash cow like williamsburg. its really a sin, but no ones going to stop you, so enjoy.

just think about it during the holiday season.

yojimbot said...

Jason0s2, who is the "you" in that statement? Criticism is best received when specific and unemotional.

Unknown said...

"land grab" and "expansionist agenda" does not equal "5) Ensuring that Community relations stay positive and mutually beneficial by conserving the history and relevant architectural elements of this area." of this Harlem "hood" have fallen into "decrepitude" but does that mean that we must stand behind Columbia in what seems to be a clear and long expected move for broad gentrification.

yojimbot said...

Good points Aaron. I feel the gentrification blow can be much softened by #4--adding 1000 units of affordable housing. Obviously this is something CB 9 and other groups need to keep a close eye on. Let me also add that the environmental degradation of this area cannot be underestimated. Cleaning up this heavily polluted site is a big community service (albeit a self-serving one).

Anonymous said...

Calling Manhattanville a "cultural mecca" is a bit too much of a stretch, unless your idea of culture is heavily invested in self-storage.

aaron: No one here is saying we have to stand behind Columbia, but reflexive, unthinking opposition isn't going to help anyone.

First off, please acquaint us with someone -- anyone -- who is being displaced by the CU expansion and isn't getting an upgrade in their housing as part of the deal.

Second, what would you propose as an alternative? Do you want to keep the area in the state that it is in? Is your alternative truly better than the likely outcome of CU's investment if, as yojimbot suggests, the community holds them to account on their commitments?

Not everything Columbia does should be assumed to be evil.

New Haarlem said...

Good development should build on what was already in place thus preserving a sense of place that makes the area unique while upgrading and improving facilities for local inhabitants. Demolition of the existing fabric and replacing it with a canyon of generic Piano-designed glass giants is not the answer. The area needs site-specific design and competent urban planning. Its a delicate situation - without some sort of intervention, Manhattanville will flare up and fade away, but with too much the area will become grossly overdeveloped. At its current trajectory, Columbia will not be able to provide the area with the the balance of development and preservation that it so desperately needs.

Ken Mac said...

another great post, love that first pic

uptownflavor said...

Just posted a link to a Times article about how Columbia will be relocating Dinosaur as part of their big plan. An interesting addendum to your profile.

yojimbot said...

Thanks for all the feedback...UptownFlavor, that's an interesting spot for Dinosaur BBQ, I think it is a better location overall. From what I hear it will be 1 yr before they move though.

Anonymous said...

Yep. I think that is what the article said.

Anonymous said...

The cynical Columbia secret bosses be messing with Obama the way they do with their cynical Bill of Rights and all their cynical superstition based initiatives. Every time something good be going on at Columbia they tried to stop it. This is why Columbia be needing to lose in Manhattanville just like they did in Morningside Park in 1968.