NYU Criticized for Lavish Renovations to New President’s Residence

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New York University has just completed renovations to its president’s apartment in Greenwich Village — a project that has some questioning the spending habits of the school.

The University has renovated a 4,200-square-foot penthouse duplex including four bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, and a rooftop terrace for new president Andrew Hamilton, expected to arrive in January from the University of Oxford.  The apartment is located in Greenwich Village and is set to become the president’s new residence.

The apartment, previously described by the college as “swanky,” is expected to become even more upscale as a result of the renovations, which include moving a staircase and a few existing walls as well as the placement of a new kitchen.  Documents filed with the city show that Dr. Hamilton will have two private entrances onto a terrace that overlooks Washington Square as well as the financial district skyline.  The college is spending $1.1 million on the project, which has raised eyebrows as colleges across the nation are under pressure to reduce costs and slow the rise of tuition prices, writes Stephanie Saul for The New York Times.

Colleges across the country have faced controversy over renovations to president’s homes, with Yale University spending $17 million on such a project last year.  The former chancellor of Vanderbilt University E. Gordon Lee faced criticism in 2006 after $6 million was put toward household improvements without full board approval.  Columbia University spent over $20 million on its president’s mansion in the early 2000′s.

NYU is not known for offering very generous financial aid packages while at the same time having one of the highest tuition rates in the nation.  The school faced criticism over spending in the past when loans were taken out for faculty vacation homes in 2013.

Expansion plans caused a protest this September as students, faculty members and neighborhood residents called it a fiscally irresponsible move, writes Melissa Cronin for Gawker.

In an emailed statement, John H. Beckman, an N.Y.U. spokesman, said, “This project has nothing to do with any one president; it is a renovation for the long term to turn what has been an event space for 15 years into a space that can both house N.Y.U.’s future presidents and host fund-raising events, visiting V.I.P.s, etc.”

Meanwhile, departing president John Sexton will remain in a university-owned Washington Square apartment and will also be given a $2.5 million payout based on his length of service as well as $800,000 in annual retirement benefits on top of his base pay as president, which ranks in the top 10 across the nation.

Although Dr. Beckman would not disclose the amount the college has offered to pay Hamilton, he made around $660,000 in his position at Oxford.

A 2011 survey from the American Council on Education discovered 37% of college presidents live in official residences with another 29% receiving housing allowances.  However, many complain of the lack of privacy that comes with living in these spaces, which are often used as event venues for the Universities.

A broker with the Oxford Property Group in New York, Stratos Costalas, said the apartment in question could rent for around $30,000 a month, mainly due to the rooftop terrace.