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The Debate And Politics Surrounding Columbia University’s Expansion In Harlem

The article "The Radiant University: Space, Urban Redevelopment, and the Public Good" has been added to the Resource Center best practices database.

This article examines the debate and politics surrounding Columbia
University’s expansion plan and the state’s approval of the use of
eminent domain. I am interested in how supporters of the expansion plan
constructed the significance of urban space and history in relation to
assertions about the city’s economic future.

Originally published in the April issue of City and Society, the article examines the debate and politics surrounding Columbia University’s expansion plan and the state’s approval of the use of eminent domain. The author, Steven Gregory, director of Columbia University's Institute for Research in African-American Studies, focuses on how supporters of the expansion plan constructed the significance of urban space and history in relation to assertions about the city’s economic future.

As the author explains, the article is less about romanticizing the past, than about understanding the political, legal and discursive strategies that were deployed—and hotly contested—to re-imagine and reorder the socioeconomic, cultural and political uses of the built environment.

Columbia University expansion supporters mustered a visual rhetoric that stoked modernist anxieties about urbanism and, more to the point, the disorderly street. 

"I argue that this discourse of transparency—framed as a solution to urban blight—served to elide the asymmetrical power relations than underpin urban land use decisions and, as a result, masked the social consequences of elite-driven development policies," Gregory writes.