New York City Commits $10B to Higher Education Projects

A new report from the New York Building Congress announced that higher education institutions in New York City will undergo 463 construction projects totaling almost $10 billion over five years, ending in 2017.

The amount is almost twice as much as what has been spent by the institutions in the previous five years.

The report, “NYC EDU; Building a 21st Century College Town,” states that the construction is a continuation of $2 billion in investments already underway, showing a recovery from the recent recession, when many projects were put aside.  Almost $2 billion in construction is expected in this fiscal year.

Many of the upcoming projects “are massive in scope”, commissioned by large universities like NYU, Columbia and Cornell.

NYU will expand its campus by 1.9 million square feet, along with 14 other sizable projects such as a $345 million center for Urban Science and Progress in Downtown Brooklyn.

Columbia is planning to expand its Manhattanville campus by 6.8 million square feet, as well as creating a 450,000 square foot neuroscience research center.

Cornell Tech is a new program on Roosevelt Island with about 100 students so far, but has plans to enroll as many as 2,000 students in the coming years.  The school is just starting work on building its main campus on the island, which they plan to expand by 2 million square feet, costing about $2 billion to construct.

The report notes many other projects to be finished by other schools and teaching hospitals, stating that the big-ticket items are only “a fraction of the work.”

“Dozens of other institutions throughout the five boroughs are in the planning or construction phases with a wide range of projects designed to improve libraries, student housing, performance venues, athletic facilities, nursing programs, and other facilities that house a variety of academic disciplines,” the report says. “In addition to strengthening each individual institution, these projects are providing multiple benefits to the New York City economy in general and the construction industry in particular.”

Other recommended projects including a Mayor’s Office of Higher Education, to build on the city’s Allied Science NYC competition, and a collaboration on “big data” projects that would create efficient and “smart cities.”

Some, namely academics, feel the institutions should be putting money toward needs of the schools rather than increasing the footprints.

“NYU’s mission is not to make money for construction workers,” said Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at the school. “The thrust of their argument for expansion is economic…And we ought to be considering expansion in an academic context, not a financial one.”

Others fear that the expansion will come at the expense of much needed maintenance on buildings already in existence.

New York, home to 105 institutions of higher learning, boasts the nation’s largest student population.

“The residential market is increasing, but not this much,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, the trade group that issued the report. “Cultural facilities are doing well, but not quite as well. Higher-education may be the largest individual sector in the city doing this much construction.”