Assembly Member O’Donnell Denounces Columbia’s Failure To Improve Access At 125th Street In Harlem

February 22, 2024

Today, New York Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell (AD 69) publicly denounced Harlem’s Columbia University’s continual failure to fulfill its moral obligation to West Harlem.

Other areas in Harlem include Morningside Heights communities, echo-ing community members’ and elected officials’ calls for immediate elevator installations at the 125th Street 1 train station. 

Since 2022, community organizations and elected offices have called on Columbia University to commit to collaborating with the MTA to plan, design, and fund the installation of elevators at the 125th Street station.

This was a direct response to the development of Columbia’s Manhattanville Campus, which currently includes the Forum, David Geffen Hall, and Jerome L. Greene Science Center. Despite the rapid construction of their buildings – with new developments underway – and the increasing number of Columbia affiliates who use this station daily, Columbia seems content that the 125th Street 1 Station remains inaccessible, even to its own community. 

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell said, “With a growing Manhattanville campus, a $13 billion endowment, and $179 million in annual property tax exemptions, Columbia should be stepping up to plan and fund this project. Instead, after years of urging Columbia to engage in discussions and collaborate with the MTA and community members, there is nothing to show for it.”

This isn’t the first time Columbia University has shirked from its responsibilities to the community.

In 2009, an agreement was reached between West Harlem and Columbia University, known as the West Harlem Community Benefits Agreements (CBA). The CBA stipulates that in exchange for building their Manhattanville Campus, Columbia must provide certain benefits to the community, including widening the escalators to improve station accessibility. However, this project remains incomplete to date.

The Manhattanville and Morningside Heights communities are home to thousands of seniors, individuals with physical disabilities, and parents with young children. Yet, the only fully accessible station along the 1-line between 96th Street and 225th Street is at Dyckman Street. As Columbia continues to expand across Manhattanville, West Harlem, and Morningside Heights, there is an increasing call to President Minouche Shafik from community members for the university to match its growth with an equal commitment to community development. Individuals seeking to urge Columbia to fulfill this project can sign Assembly Member O’Donnell’s petition here

The campaign to make the 125th Street 1 train station fully accessible is backed by elected officials, including Congressmember Adriano Espaillat, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, and Council Member Shaun Abreu, as well as local groups such as the Morningside Heights Community Coalition (MHCC), We Act for Environmental Justice, Morningside Retirement and Health Services (MRHS), and Manhattan Community Board 9 (MCB9).

Photo credit: O’Donnell.

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