Unbuilt: Columbia Gymnasium Proposal (1968)

This is the building that provoked the student strike of 1968. It would have been built in Morningside Park at about 112th St. For the exact location, please see our neighborhood map. It would have contained a gym for the Columbia community on the upper level and a gym for local residents on the lower level, the side facing Harlem. This segregation, largely dictated by geography, security and scheduling concerns, was branded "gym crow" by militant students, a somewhat self-dramatizing appellation given the more serious civil rights issues facing the nation at the time. Here is a quote from Meredith Sue Willis's novel Trespassers:

"I knew the war in Vietnam was brutal and wrong. Possibly wrong on both sides, but assuredly wrong for the United States to be involved in it. I also knew it was wrong for a big institution like Columbia University to turn people out of their apartments and parks for its own expansion, and of course I opposed war research by universities and the manufacturing of napalm by Dow Chemical Corporation." (p.143)

In fairness to the University, they are hardly the only people in this city who have appropriated land in public parks for their private purposes - the Tavern on the Green in Central Park is surely more outrageous! When it didn't get built, the plans were sold to Princeton and used there, and the gym Columbia eventually did build elsewhere is not open to the community.

Columbia Gym, 1968

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