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Fordham University expansion plan criticized
By Carter Horsley   |   From Archives Thursday, October 20, 2005
The land-use committee of Community Board 7 last night expressed many concerns about the planned major redevelopment by Fordham University of its Lincoln Center campus.

Richard Asche, the chairman of the committee, remarked at the end of the lengthy meeting that he did not "think Columbia [University ever did anything this bad," a reference to the perpetual town/gown conflicts of both Columbia and New York universities with their expansion in their neighborhoods.

Fordham has been meeting with the city?s Department of Planning prior to having its plans "certified" into the city?s Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). Last spring, the university gave the community board a presentation of its plans, but a spokesman for the University, Joseph Muriana, told the committee last night that the plans had since been refined.

Hope Cohen, the board chairperson, wrote Amanda M. Burden, the chairperson of the City Planning Commission September 20 to express the board?s "deep and extensive concerns" about the university?s master plan.

"The Fordham Master Plan...," her letter stated, "would create a superblock campus walled off from its neighbors, our community. Fordham proposes 35- and 36-story academic/dormitory buildings...along the Columbus Avenue frontage of the campus (West 60th Street to West 62nd Street). It proposes lower fortress walls of academic/dormitory buildings (5-21 stories...)along West 60th Street and West 62nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues."

"And," her letter continued, "it proposes to pay for much of this construction by selling two parcels along Amsterdam Avenue to a private developer for development of luxury residential buildings to tower over Amsterdam Houses to the west (47-story Amsterdam & West 60th Street; 57-story Amsterdam & West 62nd Street."

Her letter maintained that "essentially, Fordham wants to take itself out" of the Special Lincoln Square Special District. In addition, the letter questioned the use of real estate development to underwrite not-for-profit capital and programming costs.

An article by Lois Weiss last month in The New York Post said that Fordham was "apparently in contract to sell its Lincoln Center area development parcels to New Jersey?s Fisch family of Continental Properties," adding that "while the price could not be confirmed, the University needs the sale to bring in at least $300 million to fund its own redevelopment plan that would double the size of that campus."

Mr. Muriana, assistant vice president of government and public affairs for the university, told the committee that the university will share refinements to the plan with the community and that it is a 25-year plan.

Michael Groll, the president of 44 West 62nd Corporation, the cooperative board of a nearby building, told the subcommittee that his building and 5 others on Columbus Avenue were concerned about Fordham?s expansion plans. "We were shocked" that it plans a more "fortress-like" plan that would put the campus "further away from its neighbors."

"Ignoring the region?s overwhelming traffic congestion and its attendant pollution, Fordham?s proposal calls for an explosive growth in parking on the site from 35 to 595 cars, a 17-fold increase!" declared Sidney Goldfischer, the president of the Alfred condo association of 161 West 61st Street, who spoke in opposition to the university?s plan and also wrote a lengthy letter about it to the committee.

Open public spaces, he continued, would be reduced by 50 percent, adding that "The Law School, library and new dormitory would be so close to the existing buildings that they would virtually re-create the dark and stifling airshafts of the 19th Century tenements that were condemned and demolished in 1957."
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.