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Columbia University Is Still One Of NYC’s Largest Landowners

New York Land
Pulitzer Hall at Columbia University

CORRECTION, APRIL 27, 3 P.M. ET:  An earlier version of this story overstated Columbia’s real estate footprint and included locations Bisnow was not able to verify as being owned by Columbia. We have removed all information we were not able to independently verify.

Columbia University is still one of New York City’s largest landowners, according to a new study by The Columbia Spectator, the Ivy League school's student newspaper.

According to an October estimate by The Real Deal, the University owns 216 properties. Reporting from the student newspaper contradicts this count, saying that Columbia owns a greater number, through entities affiliated with the Morningside Heights-based institution.

While TRD's database includes buildings with “The Trustees of the University of Columbia” listed as their owners, the Spectator’s count drew on public documents from the university’s finance department.

A spokesperson for the university told Bisnow the Spectator article overstates its footprint and includes properties the university leases and some it has no affiliation with, but declined to disclose the current number of properties owned by Columbia, or whether the institution had made more acquisitions since TRD published its estimate in October.

Columbia University far outstrips other private universities in the city in terms of its real estate holdings, making it the largest university landowner in the city with at least 216 properties. Public records from the Department of City Planning found that New York University owns 119 buildings, while Fordham University owns 25, the Spectator reported.

The university is midway through an expansion process, including a $6B development from 125th to 134th Street, as part of the school’s Manhattanville campus that has been underway for 15 years and is reportedly “not even a third complete,” University President Lee Bollinger told the student publication in November.

Columbia entered into a Community Benefits Agreement with the local community in West Harlem to prevent displacement from the project, which includes providing $4M in legal assistance, $20M in affordable housing and $76M in other resources as the university embarked on its plan to build 6.8M SF over a quarter century.

A Columbia spokesperson told the paper it takes the Community Benefits Agreement seriously and hasn't violated it.

One community group, the Morningside Heights Community Coalition, told the Spectator that it has long advocated for the university to include affordable housing in its acquisitions, but has seen little willingness from Columbia.

“We’ve been in a lot of fights with Columbia over the years,” former MHCC President Laura Friedman told the Spectator. “Believe me, you win a few, you lose a lot.”