Columbia Ignores Peril

When Klaus Jacob talks, important people take action. Except the important people paying him.

Jacob doesn't want to become a partisan player in the battle over the expansion. He just wants someone at Columbia to take his concerns seriously.

Ienuso acknowledges meeting with Jacob and says the university was "absolutely" taking his concerns into account, along with those of other scientists. But the school still has said nothing about hiring the risk-assessment firm called for in its own environmental-impact statement. Columbia has hired many firms to assess all sorts of risks, Ienuso says, though he and university spokeswoman La-Verna Fountain refused to identify any of them. Jacob asked Ienuso about the risk-assessment firm one last time in an e-mail in June, but the administrator didn't reply. Ienuso says the buildings will be constructed in accordance with the New York City Building Code, which has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to environmental disasters (a number of them written by Jacob). When asked whether the university intends to build a floodgate around its underground complex, Ienuso and Fountain repeated that details about the project's infrastructure would not be disclosed to the public or the press at this time.

"Common sense dictates that we would not put our students and our scientists at risk," Ms. Fountain said, adding that the administration was too busy to address any further questions about flooding.

Klaus Jacob
Cary Conover
Klaus Jacob
‘I’m trying to convince my own alma mater to do the right thing, and I can’t. And that’s bad news.’
Cary Conover
‘I’m trying to convince my own alma mater to do the right thing, and I can’t. And that’s bad news.’

Jacob believes that the university probably did attempt to hire a risk-assessment firm, since he was contacted last year by just such a company in California. The firm wanted to employ him to offer expert advice on the environmental risks posed by the Columbia expansion plan.

The scientist politely declined; he'd already given the university his opinion.

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