Columbia Wins Fight for West Harlem Campus

Nick Sprayregen’s six-year battle to stop the state from taking his buildings in West Harlem on behalf of Columbia University’s expansion apparently came to an end on Monday, when the United States Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled earlier this year that the state could use eminent domain to take property for Columbia University’s planned 17-acre adjunct campus, which would include 17 buildings for science, business and arts education and faculty housing north of 125th Street, near the Hudson River.

Mr. Sprayregen, who estimates he has spent more than $1.5 million since 2004 trying to hold onto his property, a group of buildings housing a self-storage business, had hoped to challenge the New York court’s decision that condemnation served a public purpose.

His lawyer, Norman Siegel, opposed the state’s finding that the neighborhood was blighted, a condition for eminent domain, and what he said was the collusion between the state and Columbia.

In all likelihood, Mr. Sprayregen said Monday, the battle is over. “The Supreme Court let stand an abuse of eminent domain taking place in New York,” he said. “We had hoped for a different result. This is truly a dark day for all Americans who care about the sanctity of private property rights.”

The university has already acquired the bulk of the land it needs. Work is expected to start next month on the first building at the new campus, the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, on land Columbia already owns. The Greene family and foundation donated $250 million for the project in 2006.

“It’s a once in a century opportunity for a great university,” said Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia.

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