Columbia Opens Morningside Park Gym
But Not in Morningside Park
Columbia University dedicated a new gymnasium Saturday-on-campus, several blocks from the original Morningside Park site that helped prompt students' occupation of five buildings and their violent eviction by New York police in April 1968.
The last lawsuit stemming from those events-by two students injured during the evictions, against Columbia and the New York City Police Department-was settled out of court last month, when the police department agreed to pay about $15,000 damages.
But the new gym inevitably recalled the demonstrations in which several hundred Columbia students-joined by many others after the police raid-demanded that the gym not be built on park land and that community residents not be limited to separate facilities in it.
At the dedication Saturday, Columbia president William J. McGill called the new gym "a symbol of the university's commitment to the city," and said Mor- ningside residents would be able to use it once Columbia's physical education program requirements had been met.
"It symbolizes what it symbolizes," Andrew W. Cordier, McGill's predecessor, who took office shortly after the 1968 strike and presided over the decision to move the gym, said yesterday. "I'm delighted that it's finished and that it's now in use."
"I made a very careful check in the community and decided that the park site was not a good thing to pursue, "he added. "In fact, the previous administration already stopped work on it."
"The gym in my judgement would have been better on its original site, would have served the needs of the community as well as the university better," Grayson L. Kirk, who as president of Columbia in 1968 called in the police, said yesterday, "but the circumstances made that impossible.