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Columbia's Baker Field Plan Gets Nod From Council Committee

By Carla Zanoni | April 5, 2011 4:11pm | Updated on April 6, 2011 6:28am

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — Columbia University's plan to create a new development on its Baker Field property in Inwood cleared a hurdle Tuesday when it was approved by a City Council committee.

The plan now heads to the full Council for a vote expected Wednesday.

City Councilman Robert Jackson, who represents the neighborhood and has neld community meetings on the plan, voted in favor of the measure.

Columbia plans to build a new $100 million, 47,700-square-foot field house at 218th Street and Broadway that includes a $3 million investment in the sports fields, which officials said would be more readily accessible for community use.

It's also planning a waterfront park that would be given to the city for public use.

But Columbia asked for a modification to the city's waterfront zoning rules, which normally require 15 percent of the project's land be turned over for public use, in order to build a larger facility. The decrease in public space sparked outrage in the neighborhood.

The city's Planning Commission allowed a modification, which allows Columbia to set aside just 1.5 percent of its property for public use.

Despite the vote, City Councilman Robert Jackson, who represents the neighborhood, will continue to work with Columbia to "finalize the terms of a community partnership agreement" that would provide additional amenities for residents, said Jackson’s Director of Operations and General Council,Susan Russell.

Inwood community advocate Susan Ryan, one of several who have clamored for extra concessions from the university, warned that approval of the plan without a firm agreement would set a "dangerous precedent."

"Our elected officials need to watch this, because to allow this happen here is short of the death knell for other communities," she said. "I would say this to Councilmember Jackson: 'You need to know that we will be watching how you champion this cause for our community and we will be watching how you follow through on the public commitments you have made."

Columbia University officials declined to comment on the vote.