Photo: Google Maps
This is exactly the eminent domain blog post you would expect from us! It has all of the elements that we love to write about 1) it’s about eminent domain 2) it took several years to evolve 3) it deals with an interesting property in NYC 4) there was money involved.
So here goes!
This week it was reported by various news sources that Columbia University bought a three-story industrial building in Manhattanville for $33.6 million. For those unfamiliar with the NYC landscape and its neighborhoods, Manhattanville is also known as West Harlem or West Central Harlem. Technically, the neighborhood is bordered on the north by 135th Street; on the south by 122nd and 125th Streets; on the west by Hudson River; and on the east by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and the campus of City College.
Columbia University bought the property almost a decade after it used eminent domain to take
a nearby property from the owner, Nick Sprayregen who passed away in 2016. Sprayregen was known as a “self-storage mogul” and the family are owners of Tuck It Away storage. The University bought 3300 Broadway between West 133rd and West 134th Streets from the Sprayregen family officially on October 2, 2019.
The sale comes years after Sprayregen, who waged a six-year and almost $2 million battle against Columbia University, tried to stop it from using eminent domain to make the purchase after he refused to sell his nearby property at 3261 Broadway. The property was planned to be used for the college’s 17-acre expansion plans.
In 2009, a judge ruled that Columbia couldn’t use eminent domain to take control of the property. A year later the decision was overturned in an appeals court and Columbia University eventually bought the land from the New York State Urban Development for around $17 million. The sale was completed in 2012. Gerald Sprayregen, father of Nick Sprayregen, said he got a little compensation for giving up his property, but nowhere near as much as they were worth. “I was very unhappy with that,” he said.
The Broadway property is part of Columbia’s $6.3 billion expansion project in the neighborhood. Things are moving right along, as the university has about a third of its buildings either open or under construction. Those familiar with the neighborhood know the location as home to a parking garage and the El Mundo department store.
Perhaps time and a bit of cash heals all wounds. Gerald Sprayregen told reporters that he’s excited about Columbia’s plans for the neighborhood and hopes to seem them completed soon.
“I just think that what Columbia is doing there will be the most beautiful thing,” he said. “I’d like to eventually see it. And at the age of 84, I can’t wait too long.”
Mr. Sprayregen can’t wait and neither can we. After all, it would mean a follow-up blog post!