Statement of John Sexton
New York University
Before the New York City Planning Commission
For the Public Hearing on the NYU Core Project
April 23, 2012
Dear Chairwoman Burden:
New York University's success and essence is derived from its location in Greenwich Village. The strength of the "Core" at Washington Square is fundamental to the success of a University that increasingly extends its network of talent flow—students and faculty—across both New York City and the world.
The University currently has five separate academic and research hubs in New York: the "Core" at Washington Square, the 1st Avenue Health Corridor, Downtown Brooklyn, Fine Arts on the Upper East Side, and a Midtown/Financial District presence for continuing and professional studies. Activities and growth are taking place across these hubs, particularly in Downtown Brooklyn and the Health Corridor. But with the exception of its operationally separate and distinct health/biomedical presence in the 1st Ave Health Corridor and engineering presence in Downtown Brooklyn, these hubs are modest. The vast preponderance of NYU's intellectual and academic assets are located at its Washington Square Core.
The University is comprised of 18 different Schools, each of which engages in its own specialized training, research and education, and each of which has its own unique space needs. Over the last few years, the University has for the first time, set out to understand, coordinate and better manage the space needs of the individual schools and provide a framework that organizes and prioritizes those needs and where they should be located. The goal was to limit the ad hoc and inefficient planning and real estate strategies that had poorly served the University and strained its relationships with its surrounding neighbors.
During the past decade, the University also engaged with the individual Schools to reorganize, renovate and right-size their physical space, based on decompression needs and projected faculty hiring. That exercise allowed us 1) to meet a set of critical space needs; 2) to make informed decisions to move some schools and programs outside the Core as appropriate (i.e., moving Nursing to the Health Corridor).
What remains now is a set of pressing space needs with very limited existing opportunity for future development within the Core. It is only by utilizing the Superblocks for added mixed-use academic and student and faculty residential spaces that NYU can meet the space needs of its schools, departments, programs, faculty, and students over the next two decades.
The Superblocks provide unique opportunities. They enable NYU—which has been accustomed to making the best of retrofitted space in 19th and 20th Century buildings—to have de novo space designed to meet the needs of a 21st Century institution of higher learning. They enable NYU to time the creation of space more carefully to academic need and planning, rather than relying on the vicissitudes of the real estate market. And they enable NYU to save substantial money by building on land it already owns, rather than paying for new land. The inability to develop these blocks to meet the needs of its schools will arrest NYU's academic momentum and advancement, particularly in the fields of the performing arts, the life and physical sciences, and k-12 education training and research.
The Superblocks are critical to the University's future in allowing us to:
- Provide space for a transformative expansion of the Tisch School of the Art's Institute for Performing Arts. Artists in training must have access to facilities that will best train them to move directly into professional theaters. This performing arts space is to include studios, workshop spaces for lighting, design, costumes, and most importantly a fly-loft theater with a proscenium and trap, the first such theater to be built at NYU. This is a highly specialized space that is compatible with the Zipper building in terms of timing and structure.
- Grow the Physical and Life Science Departments on the Loft Blocks, which will require the displacement of dozens of classrooms starting in 2021. Those classrooms, studios and auditoriums will be accommodated in the northern superblock in the specialized subterranean classroom and student annex, which can accommodate the sizes and formats that are needed given the de novo quality of the space that can be built to maximize state-of-the art teaching requirements and technology.
- Provide short-term (by 2021) and long-term (by 2031) solutions for the Steinhardt School of Education and other Schools that have critical space needs to recruit and retain leading faculty by providing adequate research and training space. Across the University each year, 60 new faculty are hired and increasingly are coming with space demands that support research and specialized training. These important faculty office and research team spaces can be placed in the Zipper building and be the main components to fill the Mercer and LaGuardia Buildings.
These initiatives, alone, could require all of the available academic square footage that can be brought on over two decades on the Superblocks. The Superblocks will also accommodate:
- At least 90 housing units for faculty.
- At least 1,000 beds for first-year students. This allows the University to move out of leased facilities, providing a higher level of predictability and improving the long-range financing of student housing.
- A new athletic facility to replace the existing Coles Athletic Center, built in 1981.
- A university-affiliated hotel to primarily accommodate the thousands of visitors who come to the campus for a range of activities from parent's weekends and prospective student visits, to executive education participants and faculty participating in scholarly conferences.
I am providing additional details in the attached document. Thank you for your and the Commission's time and its review of our application.