November 5, 2012 | CUNY Matters, The University
CUNY’s $2.7 billion building program is beginning to deliver planned new facilities ranging from cutting-edge labs to entire campuses.
New labs with easy access to top medical researchers. A rooftop greenhouse. Custom-designed study carrels. A moot courtroom. Storefront access for English-learners. A childcare center with an environmental playground.
These are facets of buildings that CUNY is opening, planning or announcing this fall as part of the University’s ongoing $2.7 billion building boom. All provide commodious yet cutting-edge facilities that will enhance education and research. They include a Beaux Arts-inspired library in the Bronx, the start of design of a supercomputing center in Staten Island, a classroom building rising from the destruction of 9/11, new campuses for the New Community College and CUNY Law School, and new classrooms, studios and gallery space for Hunter College’s BFA and MFA students in Tribeca.
The projects “reflect the continuing modernization of CUNY facilities,” Chancellor Matthew Goldstein told the Board of Trustees in September. “We have never seen so many wonderfully designed, magnificent facilities and on-time budgets.” He credited “the extraordinary work of Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning, Construction and Management Iris Weinshall and her staff,” citing her focus on quality and accountability. Under her leadership, the University has taken back construction management from the state Dormitory Authority.
There is exquisite detail throughout. Take the child-friendly garden at Lehman College’s child care center, due to open this winter. Or Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College, which replaces a namesake damaged in the World Trade Center attack and now invites community interaction with a street-level café. (“A breath of fresh air in the midst of all these skyscrapers,” says Community Board 1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes.) Also the Law School, now in a gleaming Long Island City office building, that encourages aspiring attorneys to study their performances, which will be recorded by multiple cameras in trial practice rooms. (State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman was to headline the official opening in late October.)
Access is a byword. Take the new Inwood home of CUNY in the Heights, a 7-year-old continuing-education and workforce-development collaboration by Hostos Community College and BMCC. It moved from ill-ventilated quarters without elevators or provisions for people with disabilities into an inviting, $4.7 million, street-level educational emporium. “Our students do everything from upgrading their skills and attaining certification in specific fields to earning their GEDs and learning English as a second language,” says executive director Aldrin Bonilla. “We pride ourselves on some 40 certifications that can lead to employment in a changing economy.”
BMCC nursing student Katherine Mendez takes some courses there. “It makes my travel schedule much easier,” she says. “The professors and staff couldn’t be friendlier.”
When it comes to artistry, it’s hard to beat Bronx Community College’s North Hall and Library, which closes the quadrangle flanked by Stanford White’s Beaux Arts beauties of 1894 to 1900. Fiscal control and recession-lowered costs brought the project in well under budget. And that made affordable marble and slate floors, Guastavino tile ceilings (like those in the nearby Hall of Fame), pendant lights and custom-designed study carrels – plus 15 classrooms, 25 group-study rooms and a media desk where students can order streaming videos and check out iPads, laptops, cameras and calculators.
“I’m enjoying the great beauty of this building,” says chief librarian Teresa L. McManus. “It puts forward that Bronx Community College is all about academics. Students need a place to be, to study, to learn.” Adds student Dorian Whyte, North Hall “gives you a great initiation into what a real school is.”
CUNY’s Decade of Science – hallmarked by the forthcoming Universitywide Advanced Science Research Center and a companion building for City College – also fuels the building boom.
Lehman opens a $70 million Science Hall, the first in a three-building science cluster. With its rooftop garden and unique water recycling system, it seeks the top “LEED platinum” rating for sustainability, which would be a feat for an energy-hungry science building. President Ricardo R. Fernández predicts that with its new science muscle, Lehman “will change the direction of individual lives and research, that will lead to advances in fighting disease, malnutrition, climate change and other conditions.”
Hunter has taken two bold steps in the health sciences. One is buying a life-sciences medical-research floor at Weill-Cornell Medical College, where students and faculty can use that school’s resources. The other is to swap Hunter’s aging Brookdale campus on East 25th Street for a new tower to be built on city-owned land at East 73rd Street and the East River. There, Hunter will consolidate science, nursing and other health instruction, next to a planned outpatient care facility coming from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
“We will train the next generation of scientists, particularly minorities and women, in conjunction with Memorial Sloan-Kettering,” said Hunter President Jennifer Raab.
Mayor Bloomberg said the two buildings, expected to open by 2018, will “enable both Hunter College and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to carry out their lifesaving missions in outstanding, state-of-the-art facilities in a beautiful location.”
In August, CUNY launched New Community College in rented space at Manhattan’s Bryant Park. Plans call for forging a public-private partnership to erect a permanent home on the West Side. Recognizing Mayor Bloomberg’s “singular efforts to ensure an accessible, high-quality education to all New Yorkers,” Chancellor Goldstein awarded him the University’s prestigious Chancellor’s Medal at the college’s inaugural convocation.
“We’re creating a potentially game-changing model for community college education,” Bloomberg said.
Maria Lissete Estrada, one of the college’s first 300 students, said, “I’m inspired to have a bigger, better future for myself, and college is just the first step for me.”
Less glamorously, the University has committed $10 billion over 10 years to maintain every building in a “state of good repair,” resulting in 415 projects at senior colleges and 77 projects at community colleges so far.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn recently announced another $71 million for maintenance, which the state will match. Coming are upgrades to the heating, cooling and electrical systems at Bronx Community College, a modern fire alarm system for Kingsborough Community College, replacement of a crumbling façade at LaGuardia Community College, upgrades to the theater, including elevator replacement at Queensborough Community College and more.