Columbia University’s science building approved

Fourteen-story science facility to be constructed at Broadway and West 120th. Columbia University sought a variance from BSA for a 14-story, 229-foot high, 163,052-square-foot science facility at 3030 Broadway and West 120th Street. The proposed science facility exceeded lot coverage, height and setback requirements.

At BSA, Columbia argued that its educational needs required a building with larger floor plates. In support, it submitted a consultant’s report that concluded that the university needed 28 new science labs exceeding 2,000 sq.ft. to facilitate interdisciplinary study. An as-of-right building would compromise its plan to have direct access from the new science labs to the existing physics and chemistry buildings. It would also reduce the lab size below 2,000 sq.ft. and eliminate a large lecture hall. Columbia added that an as-of-right building would be taller than its proposal, reaching an overall height of 317 feet. Adjacent buildings also impinged on the proposed design.

Residents and the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee opposed Columbia’s plan, arguing that an as-of-right building would be less bulky and would retain more of the existing view corridors along Columbia’s campus. The opponents also claimed that the proposed design clashed with the neighboring campus. In response, Columbia pointed out that Landmarks had reviewed the project’s environmental analysis and determined that the proposal would not affect views.

BSA, in granting the variance, noted that case law entitled educational institutions to significant deference in zoning waiver applications needed to meet the institution’s requirements. It found that adjacent buildings constrained the building design and Columbia’s need to have a state-of-the-art science facility created a hardship. BSA, disagreeing with the opposition, found that the building design would not alter the character of the neighborhood. In BSA’s opinion, the building would be more contextual than an as-of-right building.

BSA: 3030 Broadway (113-06-BZ) (Sept. 19, 2006) (Kramer Levin, for Columbia). CITYADMIN

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