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Upper Manhattan Community Board 'Ties' On Vote Over Inwood Columbia Sports Complex Plan

By Carla Zanoni | October 27, 2010 8:09pm

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER MANHATTAN — Community Board 12's official position on Columbia University's plan to build on its Baker Field Athletic Complex in Inwood is that it has no position.

That's the message sent by a tied vote Tuesday night regarding a resolution to approve the plan for a new 47,500-square-foot sports complex on its property at Baker Field.

The board voted 13 in favor and 11 against with two abstentions — the two abstentions are counted as "no" votes, accounting for the official outcome being considered a tie.

Seven board members recused themselves from the vote because of conflicts of interest involving financial ties with Columbia University or the Parks Department.

A rendering of Columbia University's plan to create approximately 27,000 square feet of waterfront property near 218th Street and Indian Road in Inwood.
A rendering of Columbia University's plan to create approximately 27,000 square feet of waterfront property near 218th Street and Indian Road in Inwood.
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Columbia Univesrsity Facilities

The tie vote means that after more than a year of reviewing and debating, Community Board 12's stance — or lack of an official stance — on the project will not be considered by the Department of City Planning or City Council when they make a final decision on the project.

Despite the tie, Joe Ienuso, Columbia's executive vice president of facilities, said the school remains committed to working with the Inwood community to become a better neighbor.

He touted the school's accomplishments at already addressing some of the community's concerns over the project, including granting free public access to its athletic complex, attempts to reduce stadium light glare and the installation of an official community liaison for the school.

Ienuso said the school also plans to provide further educational services for the community, improve parking and traffic conditions and work on environmental sustainability measures.

The university plans to hold two regular community meetings on its complex each year to continue a dialogue with Inwood residents.

In early October, Community Board 12's land use committee approved Columbia's application to waive zoning and design requirements that were standing in the way of the school's plan to build the complex.

The waiver sought to bypass a zoning requirement obligating the school to set aside 15 percent of its land for public use.

Public opinion was split at the board meeting Tuesday night with community residents and organizers speaking for and against the proposition.

"We haven't been shown enough and I ask that the board postpone the vote," said Inwood resident Gail Addiss, adding that as an architect she had lingering questions about the project.

Another man who lives on 217th Street, a block away from the complex, was pleased with the plan, saying, "Thank God Columbia University is our neighbor and not some God forsaken truck depot or something else we already have in Inwood."

Elected officials from the area were also divided.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said he was not convinced he could support the project as the school had failed to consult him.

Councilman Robert Jackson, whose district includes Columbia, said he would support the school's plans while pushing to have community concerns addressed.

The project now goes back to the Department of City Planning for a final ruling.