September 21, 2012, Bronx, New York – In the 39 years since Bronx Community College moved to its green carpet of a campus, overlooking the Harlem River, in the borough’s University Heights section, there has never been major new construction—until today.
Under a sun-filled September sky, the ribbon draped before North Hall and Library was cut at 11:13 this morning, officially dedicating the 98,600 square-foot, three-story structure. “North Hall and Library fulfills BCC’s own vision of the future,” BCC President Carole M. Berotte Joseph told the 250 assembled guests, describing the building as, “a place where students can avail themselves of the very newest information technologies in a setting that encourages education, dedication, collaboration, inspiration, and quiet contemplation.”
Other speakers included the chancellor of the City University of New York, Matthew Goldstein. As an occasional breeze unfurled flags behind him, Goldstein observed, “There is no community college in the United States that has a building of this quality, this stature, this style, this functionality, this elegance, than what we have here at BCC.”
Robert Stern, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, and whose firm, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, designed the imposing structure with Ismael Levya Architects, told the audience, “North Hall is much more than a book depository. It is a community’s living room. To see this building open and full of enthusiastic students is a dream come true for all of us.”
An exuberant Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. simply pointed over his shoulder and proclaimed, “This is magic!”
Audience members included previous BCC presidents Carolyn Williams, whose administration saw North Hall and Library grow from an exciting idea to a bustling construction site, and Roscoe Brown, Jr., famed both as an American educator and a war hero with the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.
Tours of North Hall and Library were conducted after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Visitors saw the 15 classrooms on the first floor, all fully equipped for multi-media and internet-enhanced lessons, and the library on the second and third floors, where stacks of books co-exist with rows of computers.
Hanging from the third floor balcony are a series of oil paintings depicting scenes of Bronx life. Executed by local artist Daniel Hauben, the collection he calls A Sense of Place is one of the largest public artwork commissions in the history of the borough, rivaling the murals of Ben Shahn that have adorned the Central Annex Post Office since 1939. Hauben attended this morning’s ceremony, where he was acknowledged from the podium to enthusiastic applause.
North Hall and Library completes the north side of the college’s main quadrangle. It advances the original concept of the University Heights campus, drawn up by the legendary architect Stanford White at the turn of the last century. The brick and stone façade extends the visual themes of the campus’s earliest creations, including the Hall of Fame for Great Americans and Gould Memorial Library, now the next-door neighbors of BCC’s newest addition.
Before 1973, the campus was home to the “uptown” branch of New York University. Some alumni from those years continue to contribute to the college, despite its change of identity, and the old NYU division of the National Society of Pershing Rifles, a military fraternal organization, is planning this year’s annual reunion on the campus. Graduates from that period include former Bronx Borough President and one-time New York City mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer, while the BCC era can point to such illustrious alumni as Dr. Richard Carmona, former United States Surgeon General and current candidate for the U.S. Senate from Arizona.
North Hall and Library officially opened its doors on August 27th, so even as this morning’s ribbon cutting ceremony took place outside, inside the scholars of Bronx Community College were already hard at work.