February 17 2012

The Challenges of Campus Planning in New York City, New York

Cornell's proposed Tech Campus

The proposed design for Cornell's Tech Campus.

As a Cornellian, I was very excited back in December to hear about Cornell University’s winning bid to construct a technology and engineering campus in New York City (NYC). NYC will provide 10 acres of land on Roosevelt Island and $100 million in infrastructure improvements for the campus, which will exemplify the cutting edge of sustainable architecture and construction. This development got me thinking about a broader question for the Big Apple: What are the biggest challenges of constructing an academic campus in New York City – a place well-known to have limited space, complicated building approval processes and opinionated residents?

Columbia University has managed to maintain a walled-in compound for its campus in Morningside Heights – the ‘buildings surrounding a green’ model that one might traditionally associate with an academic campus. However, Columbia’s campus planning website acknowledges that “today, an urban campus isn’t defined by gates and walls, but by weaving the university into the fabric of city life.” As such, the university is looking to extend its reaches northward into Manhattanville, where it will take a more contemporary integrated approach. Their plan intends to create more academic space while also bringing public green space, retail, and restaurants to an area of desolate and underutilized streetscapes.

In contrast to Columbia, New York University (NYU) is composed of buildings tucked into spaces throughout NYC’s Greenwich Village. They too have a plan to expand; Titled NYU 2031: NYU in NYC, this plan intends to create an additional 6,000,000 ft2 of campus space. The plan appears to be well researched and clearly presented, taking the utmost care to respect the City’s existing urban fabric and avoid significant stopping blocks of public and government disapproval. Their planning process exemplifies how rigorous NYC’s permitting procedures are. In January 2012, the Department of City Planning certified NYU’s plans after five years of public input and community board presentations. This certification merely kicks off another process – seven months of official Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, involving many more approvals by City and community entities.

Many Cornellians are excited about our school’s new endeavor in NYC and the Bloomberg administration is eager to open up the City to the growing tech sector. Still, there is much speculation about the effect the new campus will have on fellow residents of Roosevelt Island.

What other challenges might urban campus planning entail?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

Nina Coveney

Nina Coveney graduated from Cornell University in 2011 with a B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies. When she began as a blogger with Global Site Plans, she worked for the Town of Ithaca, New York Planning Department. She then transitioned - in writing and real life - to New York City where she began working in the Events department of the Bryant Park Corporation. She hopes to eventually pursue a Master’s Degree in urban planning and design. A native of the New York City metro area, she blogged about trends in sustainability, housing, transportation, and adaptive reuse in both Ithaca and the Big Apple until April 2012.

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Engineering, Environment, Infrastructure, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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