To more than 8,000 students and many faculty members, the West 60th to 62nd Street area is a base of operations for those who filter through Fordham University’s Manhattan campus every day. To most Upper West Siders, though, Fordham’s outpost between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues is an obscured outcropping of academia tucked to the south of Lincoln Center’s grand plaza and easily forgotten.
It will be hard for anyone to ignore Fordham, though, as it embarks on a planned expansion of its West Side campus that will include five new buildings and take 20 to 30 years. And since he returned to the university in 2003, the burden of seeing this project through has fallen on the shoulders of Fordham’s 32nd president, the Rev. Joseph McShane.
“Some people say Fordham is in the Bronx, but we’ve been in Manhattan for a long time,” McShane said. “I’m down there two or two-and-a-half days out of the week. The university’s involvement has been long-standing. We’re not just there as a school that happens to be in the neighborhood. The law school has a law clinic. The business school is heavily involved with the neighborhood. And the School of Social Service has outreach programs that have developed deep roots throughout the West Side.”
McShane was born and grew up in New York City, attending Regis High School on the Upper East Side, but the academic life took him to many other cities—Boston, Chicago, Syracuse, Scranton—before his return home five years ago. The University of Scranton initially drew him away from Fordham after an earlier term as a professor of theology and dean in the 1990s, but the pull of the big city eventually proved too much “New York is home,” McShane said.
His objective since 2003 has been to make Fordham the leading Catholic university in the country. The Upper West Side expansion plan is a big part of that goal. Fordham first arrived in the neighborhood in 1961 when its law school moved in. Seven years later, a major classroom building and residence hall followed. Currently, the campus houses four graduate schools and one undergraduate college on a seven-acre site that was originally designed for only 3,500 students.
The proposed growth would add five new buildings and 2.36 million square feet over the next several decades. Obviously, there are plenty of hurdles to clear before anything happens.
“It’s very, very crowded,” McShane said. “The challenges are getting through the planning process. Part of that is making sure we’re in conversation with and responsive to our neighbors not just at Lincoln Center, but up and down the West Side. We believe this will bring our offerings to a new level.”
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