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John Sexton, President of New York University, Advocates for NYU 2031


Statement of John Sexton

President

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.

Sincerely,

John Sexton
President


New York University: Projected Needs in Detail

 

As part of its 2031 planning, NYU is locating fully half of its projected space needs in remote locations outside the neighborhood, and projects are well underway in two of those locations: the 1st Avenue Health Corridor and Downtown Brooklyn. Space at the Core will be at a premium and reserved for Schools and projects that require proximity to the existing disciplines and faculty located at Washington Square.

By that criteria, the following is more detailed analysis of space needs in the Core over the next decade.

The Tisch School of the Arts: The Tisch School is one of the most highly regarded schools of the cinematic and performing arts in the world. Its student body expanded by 300% between 1983 and 2008, yet its square footage has remained the same over that period. To address the space squeeze that has developed and to be able to continue to recruit faculty and students and to remain competitive, it needs 150,000- 280,000 gross square feet GSF near its existing assets in the core for an Institute for Performing Arts, to include:

  • A fly-loft theatre with proscenium and trap (which does not exist within the NYU
    inventory)
  • Studios for practice and performance
  • Workshop spaces for set and lighting designers, costume design, etc.

The Fundamental Life and Physical Sciences: Building the sciences is a key priority for NYU in achieving excellence. Current plans call for an expansion of neural science, physics, chemistry, biology, environmental studies, and big-data science. The space needed for science growth is projected to beat least 270,000 GSF over the coming decade.

  • Approximately 150,000 GSF of the 270,000 GSF needed will be accomplished through relocation out of the core of administrative offices and functions.
  • The other 120,000 GSF will be accomplished through the transformation of current classroom space in existing buildings into science research labs. This conversion is dependent on the approvals for the superblocks in order to accommodate a critical mass of classrooms.

The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development: Steinhardt is undertaking a critical building campaign to decompress facilities that are sorely outdated, and insufficient for its faculty and students. Steinhardt has moderated its student growth, but increased its recruitment of faculty (65 new full-time faculty have been hired since 2000) and particularly research-active faculty. Steinhardt is expanding into space being vacated by the College of Nursing, which is moving to the 1st Avenue Health Corridor. In addition, the School projects a need for an additional 170,000 GSF of space within the core to include:

  • Offices and laboratories to support all funded research of current faculty and newly recruited faculty, spaces such as offices, laboratories, training facilities and clinical space.
  • Specialized training and research labs for disciplines such as communication and speech disorders.
  • An expansion of education and research center labs for training k-12 teachers, particularly with an emphasis in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math-Education (STEM-E) fields.

Social Science Research: Across the social science disciplines at NYU, faculty are recruited,
encouraged and interested in participating in funded research. However, the acute lack of
space at the University has severely restrained the ability of faculty to compete for research
dollars and for the University to recruit faculty In these fields. Space requirements for research
exceed the standard office and shared conference space; grant-based research requires teams of faculty and graduate students working together. Proximity to the existing social science departments for this growth at the core Is Imperative. There Is an immediate need of at least 50,000 GSF to accommodate existing research projects that are within the social sciences.

Classrooms: NYU's classrooms experience a very high degree of utilization—approximatelv 400 classrooms serve over 50,000 class attendees on a typical weekday. NYU's older classroom stock is challenged by our ability to develop a set of classrooms whose size, lay-out, and technological capabilities match our pedagogical needs; and further, classrooms in upper floors of buildings have caused major delays in elevator traffic and ability for students to move around the facilities.

For that reason, a future plan to convert older manufacturing buildings to new science laboratory space is more compatible with the building layouts than successive classroom renovations. A series of renovations already conducted to transform classroom space to science have proven extremely successful.

In addition, the below-grade space on the northern superblock allows the creation of a highly specialized subterranean classroom and student annex space. Such space can accommodate the exact 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.

Capacity for New Initiatives and Recruitment: Each year, the individual schools of NYU
propose school-specific and cross-school teaching and research initiatives. Taken together,
these initiatives require added space which totals at least 50,000 GSF (projected as 500,000 GSF over the next decade). Current planned and proposed initiatives include:

  • Institute for Cities, the Environment and Sustainability, which draws on faculty and research from multiple schools already located at the Core. These spaces are mainly office, conference, research and laboratory space.
  • Global Health Initiative, which similarly draws on multiple schools. Again, these spaces are mainly office, conference, research and laboratory space.
  • Entrepreneurs Center, a living lab for NYU entrepreneurs to nurture promising ventures, foster community and peer groups and connect NYU entrepreneurs with the NYC entrepreneurial community.

Adequate Study Space for Students: A standard rule of thumb for a research university is that it should provide study area "seats" for one quarter of its student population. At NYU, this
would mean we should have over 9,600 seats, yet the University provides fewer than 3,000. The University must add library-like seating, dispersed across the University spaces, and particularly in the Core. The superblocks provide a critical pathway to accommodating these vital spaces.

Student Housing: Approximately 20% of students are housed in buildings that NYU leases in the neighborhood. The University aims to reduce the reliance on rental buildings so as to provide predictability and improve the long-range finances of student housing. The University maintains a four-year housing guarantee to its students and aims, particularly, to keep freshmen at the Core. The University requires 330.000 GSF at the Core to accommodate owned student housing. reducing its leased facilities to a manageable 10%.

Faculty Housing: In order to recruit leading faculty from around the country, the University must provide competitive packages including housing opportunities. The superblocks provide critical new/added space to allow the University to provide housing for faculty.

University-Affiliated Hotel: NYU consistently draws people to New York City for both academic and nonacademic purposes, and its location in Greenwich Village makes the University an even more attractive destination. These activities—ranging from academic conferences and guest lecturers to alumni reunions and commencement—attract thousands of visitors who require temporary accommodations at an affordable price point.

NYU 2031

This is one of the numerous statements of support voiced by members of the New York City community in favor of NYU 2031, the development proposal which the City Council approved in 2012.

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