Expansion Plan Faces Criticism

University Maintains That Plan Will Further Mission


Published: September 27, 2007

LINCOLN CENTER—On Mon., Sept. 10, the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) held a public hearing on the proposed Master Plan to expand Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. Thirteen speakers on behalf of the neighboring community spoke against the proposed design, while offering support for one another by nodding their heads and applauding each other’s comments. Only dead silence followed after members of the Fordham community spoke in support of the proposal.

Nitza Milagros Escalera, assistant dean of student affairs at Fordham Law School said that the proposed expansion of the school is necessary. There is no space for a student lounge or student organizations, and the cafeteria can only accommodate 280 students for a school of 1500, she said. If the plan is completed, there will be an additional 1,865 beds for dormitory space (in addition to the current 822 beds), and 1,607,565  gross square feet (gsf) added for both academic and dormitory purposes, according to Table A-2 of the Environmental Impact Statement

(EIS) Draft Scope of Work.

However, that opinion was in the minority at the hearing. “We will be living in a fortress if Fordham gets what they want,” Doreen Moresco, a resident of the Alfred, the luxury condominium located at 161 W. 61st St. said.

The “fortress” that Moresco mentioned refers to Fordham’s proposal to provide about 2.5 million gsf of newly constructed floor area to its superblock bounded by Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues and West 60th and 62nd Streets, according to the (EIS) Draft Scope of Work.

The plan will be carried out in two phases over the next 25 years, with Phase I being completed by 2014, according to the EIS Draft Scope of Work.  This phase would include the construction of a new Law School, new dormitory space, 155 accessory parking spaces, private development of two new residential buildings with parking, and a student center.

Phase II would include creating more space for the Schools of Business, Social Services and Education, an expansion of the Quinn Library, a new theater, additional dormitory facilities, an additional 110 parking spaces, as well as the demolition of the existing Law School building and an extension of the Lowenstein Center on Columbus Avenue, all to be completed by 2032, the EIS states.

One resident of the surrounding neighborhood said that “the massive design is appalling.” Fordham should be part of the neighborhood, and not a fortress above it, he said.

John Kehoe, FCLC ’85, and member of the board of advisors, said Fordham is a “source of enlightenment to the community” and it needs to continue its educational mission by expanding. Not one new academic building has been added since the FCLC campus was built, he added.

In addition to the size of the proposed project, some residents are concerned with the university’s plan to sell the southwest corner at Amsterdam Ave. and West 60th and northwest corner at Amsterdam Ave. and West 62nd to partially finance the redevelopment. One resident of the Alfred said that she understood the university’s need for more space, but didn’t understand “why they are using desperately needed space for luxury condos” instead of more affordable housing.

Anna Levin, a resident of the Coliseum Park Apartments at 30 W. 60th St. fears that the addition of more luxury housing in the neighborhood will have negative socioeconomic impacts. “It is going to skew the mix of the neighborhood,” she said. The many low- and moderate-income households offer diversity to the area, she also noted.

The Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, was not at the hearing, but he said in a statement that the goal of the sale of the property is to “make it possible for the university to expand the instructional space and facilities that it offers its faculty and students in a timely fashion, and achieve this expansion of instructional space without endangering our ability to offer financial aid to our students.” If the property were to sell for less, then the university would have to choose between financing capital projects or funding financial aid, he said.

However, Dr. Sidney Goldfischer, president of the board of advisors of the Alfred, disagrees with this method of raising revenue. “If Fordham wants to build on that site, they should do it the way every other private institution does it: by philanthropy and borrowing loans at a low rate,” he said.

Delia Peters, FCLC ’85, and chair of the FCLC board of advisors, said that developing facilities is crucial to encourage the programs at Fordham. “We have to keep the programs nourished and growing,” she said. Peters also noted that several performances by the Fordham theater department and the B.F.A. program are open to the public for inexpensive rates throughout the year, and these students do not even have the proper facilities.

Several residents of the community noted that the EIS should take into consideration the other developments in the area such as subway construction at Columbus Circle, redevelopment at the Red Cross building, Lincoln Center redevelopment and the Harmony Atrium, and the expansion of John Jay College.

Within 30 days of the scoping meeting, the lead agency will issue a final scoping document, after hearing all of the comments throughout the scoping meeting, as well as taking written comments for ten days after, according to the Protocol for Public Scoping Meetings for the NYC DCP.

“Over the past two years, Fordham has been in a dialogue with the elected and community leaders from the West Side regarding its master plan for the Lincoln Center campus,” said Fordham Public Affairs in a statement to the Observer. “We look forward to continuing that dialogue. In the end, we are confident that we will develop a plan that satisfies the needs of the University and the community.”