By Cathy Rainone
John Jay College of Criminal Justice has a brand new campus. Opened last fall, the 625,000-square-foot vertical building cost $600 million and boasts innovative spaces and technologically advanced forensic facilities.
“We’ve been waiting … for 13 years,” says Robert Pignatello, senior vice president and chief operating officer of finance and administration at John Jay, who has overseen the project since planning began in 1998. “It’s an unbelievable building that is changing how we feel about ourselves, that is changing how the external world looks at us.”
Located at 524 W. 59th St., between 10th and 11th Avenues, it consists of a 10-story tower and three-story midblock structure anchored to John Jay’s Haaren Hall, the former Haaren High School. The building has a rooftop plaza, known as Jay Walk, with a lawn, outdoor dining areas, and a space for a vegetable garden that Pignatello says will be cultivated by the students. Magnolia trees were already blooming on the plaza in early March.
The structure features 56 state-of-the-art classrooms, an emergency-management lab, a high-rise simulator, a Black Box theater, a moot court, several lecture halls, a cafeteria and the John Jay Express Services Center — a one-stop shop for financial aid, bursar and admissions services. On the ground floor facing the 11th Avenue entrance, there’s a coffee shop open to the public and an art gallery.
And inside the new building, students can study or hang out in its sprawling spaces, which have comfortable chairs and couches.
“People love the new building,” says Pignatello. “It’s not only more space, it’s better space. Now it feels more like a real campus.”
The move to the new building has been under way since October 2011, taking place in four stages, with the conclusion scheduled for June 2012. When the move is completed, John Jay’s North Hall, a former shoe factory located at 445 W. 59th St., will be vacated but eventually house CUNY’s New Community College.
The new building has already become a sought-after location for television and commercial shoots. “The Good Wife” transformed one area to resemble a cafe for one of its episodes, “Gossip Girl” shot a scene in the JJ Café on the first floor, and Levi Strauss & Co. shot a commercial for its jeans.
John Jay’s move to the new structure required countless hours of coordination and planning, says Pignatello. So far 3,000 boxes and more than 120 truckloads of office items have been transported from various locations, mainly from the North Hall and Haaren Hall, and 18 academic departments and over 600 employees have moved there.
With more John Jay students spending time on campus, the college also has had to expand the wireless network to accommodate the increased usage. “After the opening of the new building we peaked at over 3,000 logins daily, with an average of 2,100 logins,” says Pignatello. “Prior to the new building we had peaks of 700 logins, with an average of 400 logins on the wireless daily.”
As with any other big construction project, there have been some glitches along the way. The college had expected to receive a temporary certificate of occupancy from the city in early August, so it could move administrative staff and faculty before the start of the fall semester. But it didn’t get the certificate until two days before the 9/11 memorial dedication ceremony at the college — three days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
“You make plans … but a lot of it is not under your control,” says Pignatello, “so you have to do lots of contingency planning.”
For the 15,000 students attending John Jay, the new building has become a focal point of the campus, which over the years has been scattered among several buildings to accommodate the growing enrollment.
“This has been an enormous challenge,” says Pignatello, “and also one of the most rewarding. It’s been an unbelievable experience and it isn’t over yet. It’s a very exciting time for our college.”
•15.000 students attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice
•The brand new campus is located at 524 W. 59th St., between 10th and 11th Ave., consisting of a 10-story tower and three-story midblock structure costing $600 million
•So far, 3,000 boxes and more than 120 truckloads of office items have been transported from various locationso
•Over 600 employees have moved there