John Jay College wins major expansion approval

John Jay faced the largest space deficit in the CUNY system. On January 5, 2005, the Planning Commission approved the 513,500 sq.ft. expansion plan for John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which, with its link to John Jay’s Haaren Hall along Tenth Avenue between West 58th and West 59th Streets, will create a unified urban campus occupying the full city block from Tenth to Eleventh Avenues between West 58th and West 59th Streets.

In addition to John Jay’s Haaren Hall along Tenth Avenue, the 160,700 sq.ft. city block contains a 320,000 sq.ft. warehouse, housing a newspaper distribution center, a general contractor’s office and two parking lots, and a below-grade rail line for Amtrak’s Empire Line. The manufacturing building would be demolished and a small 6,580 sq.ft. development platform constructed over the Amtrak rail line for the expansion.

The full-block campus, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, would concentrate the majority of the new floor area along Eleventh Avenue, with lower scale development along the mid-block to more closely correspond to the scale of existing buildings at the mid-blocks of West 58th and West 59th Streets. A 297-foot tall glass-facade building would front Eleventh Avenue, extending east for 173 feet and lowering to varied heights between 40 and 70 ft. in the center of the block. A large roof-top open space for the faculty, staff and students would occupy the area between Haaren Hall and the new tower on Eleventh Avenue.

Two 98 ft. by 28 ft. parallel signs running along Eleventh Avenue will be mounted, one over the other, to comprise one large 4,704 sq.ft. sign identifying the school. A new dramatic entrance at Eleventh Avenue, a new main entrance at the center of the block on West 59th and the existing doors at Haaren Hall will provide three access points to the full-block school.

Special permits were required to allow the bulk of the project’s floor area to be centered on Eleventh Avenue and for the dramatic 98 ft. by 56 ft. signage.

At the Commission’s December 8, 2004 public hearing, CUNY and John Jay College listed the difficulties faced by the current space deficit, which CUNY stressed was the largest existing space deficit in the university system. John Jay College stated that the unique nature of the College as a training center for “future U.S. security and intelligence” created “legitimate” security concerns, which restricted any possible public access to the school or the proposed open space. In response, Anna Levin, Chair of Community Board 4, pointed to Fordham Law School as an example of private open space designed to be secure and accessible to the public and noted that additional security gates were one of many possible approaches available to the College.

In approving the project, the Planning Commission noted that the community and John Jay College would continue discussions with regard to the open space. Commissioner Dolly Williams recused herself from the vote and Commissioner Lisa Gomez abstained.

ULURP Process: The Dormitory Authority of New York, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration on August 4, 2004. Community Board 4 approved on October 6, 2004, recommending that the green space be open to the public, the developers follow “green” building practices and the City undertake an independent traffic study of the area. Borough President C. Virginia Fields approved with similar conditions on August 23, 2004.

The City Council’s review of special development permits is not mandatory under the Charter. The Council did not elect to review the John Jay College permit actions, making the Commission’s action final.

CPC: John Jay College (C 050002 ZSM – special permit for signage, height, and setback), (C 050003 ZSM – special permit to develop on Amtrak railyard), (M 970087(B) ZSM – cancel restrictive declaration) (January 5, 2005) (Mustafa Abadan – Design Partner, T.J. Gottesdiener – Managing Partner, Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP). CITYADMIN

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