Testimony of Joseph M. McShane
University President, Fordham University
New York University
Before the New York City Planning Commission
For the Public Hearing on The New York University Core Project
It was none other than John Sexton, the President of NYU, who continued this new “turn of phrase” in his 2007 paper “Fire and Ice: The Knowledge Century and the University.” Asserting the 21st century will be known as the “knowledge century”, “one in which the driving forces in the economy are ideas. This is a call for New York to reinvent itself as the “idea capital”.
Universities fit comfortably into this version of the emerging world. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said nearly 50 years ago: “if you want to build a class city, build a great university and wait 200 years.” His insight is true today –except yesterdays 200 years became twenty.” That in essence is what NYU’s plan is all about, as universities have become a prime economic engine in the emerging “knowledge –based” economy.
It is reported that this ICE sector already contributes about $26 billion to New York City’s economy, up from $21.8 Billion in 2005. And it employs approximately 180,000 individuals even at a time of economic stress. While the FIRE Sector still remains a significant part of the NY City economic landscape, most of the growth in New York City is coming out of the knowledge economy –the ICE Sector.
Why has NYU proposed this specific plan? It is confronted by the reality that it is dwarfed in terms of its overall space per student, both academic (learning and research spaces) as well as needed support facility space, by its peer institutions that compete nationally with it for students. By way of clear comparison, with respect to academic space alone NYU’s space is dwarfed by its peer institutions’ average of 328 gsf/student compared with 144 gsf/student for NYU. Greater academic program and support space is simply essential to operate a major cutting edge research university.
NYU’s proposed plan has taken a city-wide approach. Of the total proposed 6 millions square foot increase by location, about 1/3rd will be located within NYU’s Washington Square Core, where it already owns the land on two superblocks. Another 3 million will be developed in remote locations – especially in Downtown Brooklyn and the eastside health corridor – and less than 1.5 million square feet within the broader local neighborhood. Out of respect for its surrounding community and following a mandate that NYU took on to be sensitive to its impact on the neighborhood, NYU, has chosen to seek approval to develop on its own property.
This is analogous in spirit to out decision at Fordham, where expansion and development was restricted to our won land and campus at out Lincoln Center Campus on the Upper West Side. Here, NYU’s decision will impact two super Blocks, where a significant percentage of its own faculty lives, and this has understandably led to the discomfort of some with the plan. But, it reflects willingness on the part of NYU to make difficult decisions – and aim for a proper sort of balance between the interests of a major institution and its surrounding community – that is the only to operate in a dense urban environment where space is scarce. This plan requires: No residential displacements, NO up-zoning, OR ANY eminent domain. In addition the project will creat2 18,200 construction jobs and 2, 600 long-term employment opportunities.
NYU has listened to the concerns of the community. Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer’s has played a role in helping craft a compromise plan that recognizes the importance of NYU to the economic and cultural well being of the city. Thus the Draft Plan being considered by the City Planning Commission is already a compromise plan that incorporates those major changes, which dramatically reduces the overall size of the project while making it more amenable to public considerations.
This ultimately is for the good not merely of NYU, but also for the city in which it engages in its authentic public service. NYU of course is part of the very fabric of this city and its institutions. It would be difficult if not impossible to find a sector of the City’s intellectual economy to which NYU is not a significant contributor. The central shift toward an idea-laden, creativity- based economy in New York will be significantly strengthened by NYU’s Plan. I endorse it and I urge you to approve the proposal.