Filmmakers Dan Shor And Eric Norcross Explore Manhattanville, To See What Blight Looks Like In New York City

by Dan Shor on August 16, 2010

Manhattanville is an area in Harlem where Columbia University wants to build a new, $6.3 billion campus. But the owners of one gas station and two self-storage facilities in the area have for years now refused to sell. So, to invoke the use of eminent domain, Columbia got the state to declare the intended area of their new campus “blighted” – a vague, broad term that under New York law means the area is substandard or “insanitary,” deteriorated or deteriorating, or is “an area which has a blighting influence on the surrounding area.” This declaration was affirmed by the state’s highest court in June, 2010.

Substandard or insanitary, deteriorated or deteriorating – it sounds like it could be just about anywhere in New York City; you’d hardly eat a pretzel off the sidewalk in any of the five boroughs. Is Manhattanville so different from the rest of New York? What does blight mean in a place like New York?

OOTS News sent filmmakers Dan Shor (who may look familiar; he played Billy the Kid in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and Eric Norcross (he didn’t have a role in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) to Manhattanville. They came back with film of an area that, except for the “Get Columbia Out” signs, looks a lot like a lot of the rest of the city – they also stumbled on the possibility that Dan Shor’s pants may soon be condemned.

- Arin Greenwood

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  • Scott

    BILL S. PRESTON ESQUIRE and TED THEODORE LOGAN – WOO!!!!! According to his IMDB profile, Eric Norcross would have been a child when Bill & Ted was made. On the subject matter, is it better to have an establishment like Lincoln Center to increase foot traffic to an area than say a slum that attracts dancing street gangs (if you’re a jet you’re jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day). Think about it.

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  • Justin Chase

    “Blighted” is just about anywhere you find a sufficiently high concentration of low-class domestic (non-immigrant) Negros and immigrant (usually illegally) Latins (PRs, Dominicans, Guatemalans, and Mexicans) and they don’t keep up the housing/retail stock, bring gang banging with them, and drive the neighbothood into the toilet so that nobody will invest in that area anymore,

    Let Columbia take not only Manhatanville, but virtually all of Harlem and the Bronx, and ship the displaced Negros and Latins to Freshkills with some refugee tents a la Haiti.

  • Carolyn

    It’s scary the amount of power government currently has. I applaud you guys for taking a stand for the private owners.

  • the Success Ladder

    Great job on the site, it looks wonderful. I am going to bookmark it and will make sure to check often

  • Eric M. Norcross

    Good to see a lot of feedback on this. 16 FB recommendations and I’m pretty sure we crashed the Vimeo servers… no, I wish. Maybe on the next one.

    If anyone is truly interested in eminent domain and the level NY State has used it in the past, check out Robert Caro’s Pulitzer winning book “The Power Broker” – it’s a big read but it’ll knock your socks off. It’s the biographical story of Robert Moses, the man who reinvented bureaucracy and how Eminent Domain is used. It’s also a good character study of a many who tried to rebuild a city he passionately hated.

    He is the one who built all those ugly public housing projects (many of which you see in the video above). He built all the highways, expressways, off-ramps in New York. He built the Long Island Expressway, re-built Riverside Park, Central Park and on and on and on. He built many bridges and beaches – yes, he literally built beaches (Jones Beach was his biggest success). He was also incredibly racist – which is why there is no Riverside Park in Manhattanville – but a “blighted” neighborhood. Notice how Riverside Park stops at Harlem and then continues at Hamilton Heights? Whenever he was forced to build a playground in Harlem, he would decorate it with the imagery of “monkeys”.

    When the Interstate Highway system was enacted, state reps from all over the country met with Moses to learn how to use Eminent Domain to build them. He was the main influence and it all goes into what is happening today.

    Again, there’s a lot more to this story than most people realize.

  • http://none louis

    Some one is getting their pockets lined

  • Scott

    In response to louis:
    Isn’t it human nature to think internally? It’s so funny that people are always shocked by the discovery of others being dishonorable when trying to make a buck. It was our human nature thousands of years ago and its the same now. We have not changed, just the appearance of the world around us has thanks to eminent domain.

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