Fordham expansion plan modified by Council

Fordham University expansion plan approved. Image: Cooper, Robertson & Partners. Image is for master planning purposes only and does not represent completely designed buildings.

Changes to height and bulk of buildings along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues among modifications. The City Council modified Fordham University’s long-term master plan to expand its Lincoln Center Campus in Manhattan. Located on a superblock bounded by Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues and West 60th and 62nd Streets, the existing campus consists of three buildings, with a total floor area of 731,075 sq.ft., that are connected by a one-story, elevated structure known as the “podium,” providing internal circulation between the buildings. Fordham’s original proposal included constructing seven new buildings arranged primarily around the perimeter of the campus, and selling or leasing land to develop two private residential buildings. The original proposal would have resulted in 3,020,480 sq.ft. of total floor area.

At the City Planning Commission’s March 4th hearing, opponents of the plan focused criticism on the plan’s overall density, claiming that the “fortress-like” campus would be excessive in the already dense Lincoln Square neighborhood. The Commission made several modifications, including reducing the project’s overall floor area by 144,000 sq.ft., and reducing the maximum height of the building envelopes for several of the proposed towers along the perimeter of the superblock.

Opposition to the project remained when it reached Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee hearing. A representative of Manhattan Community Board 7 said that it supported the Commission’s modifications, but believed that the private, residential buildings proposed along Amsterdam Avenue would be “far too high,” and would be out-of-character with the neighborhood’s architecture. The representative requested that the Council create a design review board to ensure community input regarding future construction in Fordham’s 25-year expansion plan.

Howard Goldman, attorney for Fordham Neighbors United, also spoke in opposition, stating that the project’s overall bulk was too much for the neighborhood. Although Goldman acknowledged the efforts of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and the Commission, he believed more needed to be done to fit the project within the surrounding urban context and better relate it to Lincoln Center.

Chair Tony Avella closed the hearing without a vote to permit further discussions between Council Members and Fordham. When the Subcommittee reconvened on June 10, Council Member Gale A. Brewer announced several modifications to the project. Among the agreed-upon modifications, Fordham agreed on a narrower but taller building profile along Columbus Avenue, opening up space for a 3,500 sq.ft. public atrium. Fordham also agreed to lower the proposed height of the tallest residential building on Amsterdam Avenue to 598 feet. All other buildings constructed on the campus would be lower than 598 feet. Brewer also stated that two community members with design, engineering, planning, or architectural credentials would be appointed to a seven person Fordham University Design Review Commission to review the design of two proposed residential buildings on Amsterdam Avenue and plans for retail and ground floor space targeting independent small businesses.

The Subcommittee and Land Use Committee approved the modified proposal, and the full Council followed suit on June 30, 2009.

Review Process
Lead Agency: CPC, FEIS
Comm.Bd.: MN 7,Den’d, 31-0-3
Boro.Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 12-0-0
Council: App’d, 50-0-2

Council: Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus (June 30, 2009).

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