On Friday, The New York Times published a piece profiling Nicholas Sprayregen, the Manhattan businessman attempting to take on Columbia University’s abuse of eminent domain. Despite his financial ability to take on Columbia, it only goes so far–after all, he is battling against a multi-billion dollar institution:
“I would have never thought four years ago that I would get involved in a civil rights issue; I had never before considered myself as part of a minority that was being stamped upon.” He does now. “This is about the powerful growing more powerful at the expense of those who have less. Columbia is not a public university; what they’re doing by threatening to use eminent domain is as unethical from a business perspective as anything I’ve ever come across. Property rights abuse is running rampant, but what’s unique in this instance is that eminent domain always seems to be used against the down-and-out, people who can’t afford to fight back in a meaningful way. I can. But I think it’s anti-American that I’m probably on the losing side.”
“People like to say this is just about money, that Columbia is the future and me and my business are so yesterday, but this is about right and wrong. Why should Columbia get to take my property? And why, now that there has been a change of zoning, shouldn’t I be able to stay here side-by-side with Columbia and develop my own properties?”
Meanwhile, on Saturday, The Times discovered the hidden history of the Manhattanville neighborhood, a history Anne Whitman, the other business owner trying to stand up to Columbia, has been trying to tell for years in her attempt to preserve her business.