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NYU to Build New Student/University Center and Largest Performance Center in Lower Manhattan

March 15, 1999

Structure to Be Built As-of-Right on Site of Current Student Center New York University President L. Jay Oliva today announced that the University will use a $15 million gift from Helen and Martin Kimmel to build a new center for student and university activities. Dr. Oliva also announced that the Skirball Foundation has donated $15 million towards the creation of a dedicated, state-of-the-art performance space to be constructed within the new center.

The 210,000 sq. ft. (153,000 sq. ft. above grade) development – the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life – will be built on the site of the current student center (LaGuardia Place and Washington Square South). The current student center will be demolished following commencement in May 1999. The 12-story project (with two floors below grade) will be built as-of-right and is expected to cost some $70 million. A construction time line of approximately two years has been set. (Copies of a rendering of the new structure are available to interested news organizations)

The University has selected the renowned firm of Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo Associates – whose work has included projects at the Holocaust Memorial/Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as headquarters work for the Ford Foundation, Fiat, Lucent Technologies, and UNICEF – as the project architect.

Elements of the building – which will be a beautiful, signature, white stone structure on the south side of Washington Square – include the 1,022-seat Skirball Center for the Performing Arts; student dining space for 300; function spaces for banquets; space for student clubs and activity programming; and student lounges. The structure will also have a large rooftop conference, dining and gathering center constructed of glass, with glass ceiling panels that can be opened for open-air dining and activities; the rooftop facility will be funded by a gift from the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation in memory of the late Richard Rosenthal, an alumnus of the Class of 1936. Overall, the new Kimmel Center will provide significantly increased space for university and community activities.

The construction of the new university center is part of a strategic, two-decade effort to provide NYU with the state-of-the-art facilities necessary for a prestigious international research institution. Other aspects have included two $1 billion fundraising campaigns; the recruitment of renowned faculty; the construction and rehabilitation of academic space; and the construction, acquisition and leasing of space for student housing, recreation and sports, and health services.

Dr. Oliva said, “NYU has changed so much. When the current student center was built, virtually all our students were from this region, we housed very few students, and telecommunications technology meant a rotary phone.

“Today, 80% of our freshmen come from outside the city. We house some 9,000 students in lower Manhattan, triple the number we housed just 15 years ago. We have the largest contingent of international students of any U.S. university. And we have consolidated our campus here in the neighborhood where NYU started in the early 19th Century – Greenwich Village.

“These changes are profound. We are in the process of doing something few universities have the opportunity to do – transforming our essential nature. We are not just building a residential campus; we are building the infrastructure of a cohesive university community.

“That is why this particular project is so important. Our four-decade-old student center has been a great resource for this University, but it is no longer adequate to the changed environment here on Washington Square. We need a new, centrally located university building that demonstrates our commitment to a changed student life, both resident and commuter; that focuses on the importance of the performing arts to this University; that provides us with space to come together as a community for ceremonies and major events; and that symbolizes and builds on our growing campus spirit.

“Moreover, this will be a beautiful structure. I am, in particular, looking forward to being in the glass-enclosed rooftop room under the stars, overlooking Washington Square Park, with a view of the Empire State Building to the north and the World Trade Center to south. It will be a unique and fantastic New York experience for the entire University community, and an appropriate vista for an institution that bears the name New York University.

“We are most grateful to the Kimmels for their generosity. In providing us with these gifts, they show great faith in this institution and in the efforts we are undertaking to make it even better. With this beautiful building, they are helping to shape the future – both physical and spiritual – of this University, and the NYU community owes them a great debt.”

Helen L. Kimmel has served on the NYU Board of Trustees of New York University since 1993; she became a member of the Board of Trustees of the NYU Medical Center beginning in 1984 and is now a Trustee of the School of Medicine Foundation. In 1994, she was honored by the United Hospital Fund for her exemplary leadership on the Medical Center Board.

A longstanding benefactor of the University, Mrs. Kimmel established a chair in pharmacology at the NYU Medical Center in 1991. Since then, she and her husband have also created a chair in molecular immunology at NYU’s Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, have helped establish the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, and have generously supported various other programs at the University.

In addition to being a member of the NYU Board of Trustees, Mrs. Kimmel is chairman of the Committee on Trustees and serves on the Committee on Facilities and Design and the Committee on Health Initiatives. She also serves on the Board of Governors and Executive Council of the Weizmann Institute of Science; is a vice president of the American Committee of the Weizmann Institute (to which she and Mr. Kimmel have contributed generously); and is a member of the Association of the Metropolitan Opera. She has also been a trustee of the World Rehabilitation Fund and the Eye Research Institute.

Mr. Kimmel is the co-founder and chairman emeritus of the real estate management and development company Kimco Realty Corporation. He is also a member of both the Board of Governors and the Executive Council of the Weizmann Institute; a vice president of the American Committee of the Weizmann Institute; a trustee of the Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, MA; and a member of the Board of the United Jewish Appeal, as well as a committee member and former chairman of its real estate division; a founding member of the Metropolitan Opera Patrons and a member of the Metropolitan Opera Club; and a former chairman of the Long Island Division of the Israel Bonds Organization.

The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, which will also be designed by Kevin Roche, will house a 1,022-seat theatre, including an orchestra pit and state-of-the-art equipment for staging plays, dance recitals, musicals, and other performing arts programs. The facility will include dressing rooms, rooms for set design and construction, and rooms for costuming; a “black box” theatre for smaller performances; the Arthur T. Shorin Musical Performance Center, with practice and group rehearsal rooms; and additional performance space for workshops, acting and dance rehearsals, and small recitals.

Dr. Oliva said of the “NYU is justly renowned for its programs in the performing arts. Yet, for years, our students and faculty have had to strive to work excellent programs into inadequate performance space. The Skirball Center will change all that. It is a manifestation of this University’s commitment to education in the performing arts, and it will be a great resource for the entire University and our community. We are very grateful to the Skirball Foundation for this generous gift and to NYU Trustee Morris H. Bergreen, who attended the University, for his commitment to this project and to our vision of the University.”

The Skirball Foundation has also been responsible for the establishment of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, a leading science research institution; the Jack H. Skirball Center for New Media and Film at the Tisch School of the Arts; a professorship in genetics at the NYU School of Medicine; and for generous contributions to NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life and the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies.

The current student center was built in 1958 with a gift from the Loeb family. Over the years, the current student center has proven increasingly unable to fulfill the needs of NYU students. NYU’s student activities have increased significantly; today there are some 250 registered student clubs. Because of University-wide space limitations – requiring the use of the Loeb Center building for all-University events – and increasing student demand, some 50% of requests for space are denied. The current building has no freight elevator, no loading dock and only two passenger elevators. And it provides minimal space for major university ceremonies and events, and minimal lounge areas for students.

The University has set a high priority on identifying “swing” space to house the programs located in the current student center, which includes student activity space, student support offices, and dining facilities. Other University buildings and privately owned locations are being identified.

The floors of the new structure dedicated to student clubs and activities will continue to bear the Loeb family name. In addition, one of the spaces in the new structure will bear the name “Eisner-Lubin,” the name of the auditorium in the current student center.

New York University, the largest private university in the U.S., was established in 1831 in New York City’s historic Greenwich Village to serve the emerging middle class and new Americans. Through its 13 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, dentistry, business, education, nursing, public administration and policy, social work, and the cinematic and performing arts, among other areas.

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: John Beckman | (212) 998-6848


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