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Community Tells Columbia it Can Build Sports Complex if it Becomes a Good Neighbor

By Carla Zanoni | October 7, 2010 9:35pm | Updated on October 8, 2010 12:28pm

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — Residents and members of a local community board sent a message to Columbia University saying it can build a sports complex in Inwood — but only if the school agrees to be a good neighbor.

Community Board 12's land use committee approved Columbia's application Wednesday to waive zoning and design requirements that were standing in the way of the school's plan to build a 47,500-square-foot sports complex on its property at Baker Field.

The waiver seeks to bypass a zoning requirement stating that the school must set aside 15 percent of its land for public use.

In response, the board attached a stipulation requiring that the school provide benefits to the community in exchange for the complex, and also address the crowds, noise and bright lighting issues residents say have plagued the existing sports complex.

"This is good," Board 12 member Liz Ritter said during the meeting, "but it doesn't go far enough."

Joe Ienuso, Columbia's executive vice president of facilities, told the board that he was aware of many concerns from the community and reassured residents that the school was addressing the issues.

"We are in a relationship together," he said. "We're not going away."

Most Inwood residents who spoke at the meeting were not opposed to the university’s plan to build on the site, but said the school must meet certain terms in order to get their full support.

Requests centered on the resolution of longstanding sources of tension in the community, such as bright stadium lighting on 218th Street, traffic congestion, and noisy air-conditioners and heating vents.

Residents also requested educational opportunities for neighborhood children and adults, and additional security in the area, including at Inwood Hill Park.

"I'm very happy to work with you," 15-year Inwood resident Carolyn Hoare told Ienuso during the meeting. "We just want to see results."

The community board will vote on its resolution Oct. 26 before submitting a recommendation to the City Planning Commission by the end of the month.

The commission will then vote on the application that, if approved, will head to the City Council for a final decision.