Fordham Reaches a Compromise on Its Expansion Plans
By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY
Published: February 24, 2009
Fordham University, after months of contentious discussions with community groups and elected officials, has reached a compromise on its proposal to turn its four-building site near Lincoln Center into a 12-building campus.
Details of the modified plans, which have won the approval of the Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, are expected to be announced in a news conference by Mr. Stringer on Wednesday.
The compromise will help Fordham move forward through the public approval process.
The new plans include what politicians and community officials call small but significant changes to the proposed 3 million square feet of classroom, office and dormitory space between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues and 60th and 62nd Streets. The new proposal involves cutting 206,000 square feet of space from the original expansion plan by moving some classrooms underground, devoting less space to parking and setting buildings farther from the curb. It also requires Fordham to consult with the community as the plans progress.
Mr. Stringer said that the compromise aimed to help Fordham, a major educational institution and employer, grow, especially when the city wants to diversify its job base. At the same time, the plans stop Fordham from building a dense cluster of towers.
“The goal was for Fordham to co-exist with the community,” he said. “This is going to enable Fordham to grow, and that benefits the city. It also preserves and protects the best aspects and qualities of the neighborhood.”
The development was good news for Fordham, which has been trying for more than a decade to add to its cramped West Side campus.
The university, which uses the Lincoln Center site for various graduate programs and has a larger campus in the Bronx, introduced its expansion plans four years ago. It received permission from the Department of City Planning on Nov. 17 to start seeking approval from various government agencies. But approval by the Planning Department only set Fordham on a path for more criticism. At a Community Board 7 meeting on Jan. 21, more than 150 local residents turned out to complain about the plans, saying the project was too tall and dense for the neighborhood. The board ultimately rejected the plans 31 to 0.
Since then, the university agreed to a dozen points it has worked out with Mr. Stringer’s office and received measured approval from community groups. Helen Rosenthal, chairwoman of Community Board 7, praised the compromise for its changes to the original plan’s height, density, parking garages and open space. She said the board hoped to keep working with Fordham as it moves through the process.
For example, board members would like the building heights further reduced for the proposed towers along Amsterdam Avenue, and would like the process allowing the community to review the design for Fordham’s buildings to have “a little more teeth,” she said. “We just don’t want to review it. We want to be able to sign off on it.”
The proposal now requires approval from the Planning Department and the City Council.
The Rev. Joseph M. McShane, president of Fordham, said in a statement that he was “delighted” with the compromise and called the plan “a good one that serves both the community and the university.”
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company