In a blow to Fordham University’s plan to expand its Lincoln Center campus, Community Board 7 unanimously rejected the school’s development proposal in a Jan. 21 full board vote.
The board acted on a resolution passed by the Land Use Committee last month, however, last week’s vote took the rebuke a step further and altered the committee’s resolution to remove the possibility of Fordham returning to the board with another plan.
The full board voted to strip the committee resolution of language that stated the board would strongly consider approval if Fordham reduced the floor area to 2.5 million square feet, “substantially” reduced the height of the buildings on Amsterdam and Columbus avenues and mitigated potential school overcrowding issues.
Helen Rosenthal, chair of the board, said the committee’s proposed modifications did little to assuage community opposition to the project.
“We had enough discussions with Fordham. They understand what needs to be done,” Rosenthal said. “They need to reduce the bulk and the height.”
Striking the language from the new resolution was a goal for Fordham Neighbors United, a group of eight residential buildings surrounding the campus.
“We believe the board resolution should be a clear refusal,” said Howard Goldman, zoning counsel to the group.
The resolution was sent to the City Planning Commission on Jan. 26. Borough President Scott Stringer will also have an opportunity to consider the proposal and render an opinion. The City Council will ultimately decide the fate of the plan.
Fordham has said the new expansion will allow the university to accommodate the 8,000-plus student population and attract prospective recruits from around the country.
“Fordham finds itself in desperate need of space,” said Thomas Dunne, the school’s vice president of government relations and urban affairs, at the board meeting. “It has always been a good neighbor and I ask the community board to approach this plan with an open mind.”
The plan would add nine new buildings for dormitories, a library and graduate programs, and two luxury apartment towers that would be sold or leased to fund the school’s endowment. Commercial space would be created as well.
Most of these new buildings would be on the perimeter of a “superblock”—the area between West 60th and 62nd streets and Amsterdam and Columbus avenues—with the middle of the campus available for public use. The highest buildings along the perimeter reach 550 feet while buildings in the mid-block are around 300 feet.
“Of course CB7’s vote against the Lincoln Center development plan was a disappointment,” said Dunne in a statement following the meeting. “Nonetheless, this is a process, and we’re really still in its early stages. Fordham will continue negotiations with city officials, and we look forward to their feedback on the plan.”
People in opposition to the plan, which made up most of the meeting’s attendees, packed into the American Bible Society’s boardroom, holding signs reading “No to the Fordham Fortress” and “Education Yes, Luxury Development No.”
Since Fordham first brought the idea to the board in 2005, the school has made changes to meet community demands, including a redesign of the new law school, more entrances and shifting some of the building bulk to the middle of the campus. However, the board, in last week’s resolution, called the alterations “cosmetic.”
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