City Planning Commission approves Fordham University's Lincoln Center expansion
BY Bill Egbert
April 23rd 2009
Fordham University's Lincoln Center mega-expansion took another step forward Wednesday, winning approval from the City Planning Commission.
The aim of the plan is to increase the size of Fordham's crowded West Side campus near the cultural center. Built for 3,500 students, it now serves 8,500.
The plan, however, has met resistance from local residents concerned about the project's scale.
"We are grateful for the time and energy chairperson Amanda Burden and her fellow commissioners and the staff have put into considering the university's plan," said Fordham's president, the Rev. Joseph McShane.
"And pleased that their decision recognizes the importance of Fordham's Lincoln Center campus to the university, local community and to the city."
The Jesuit university will pay for the expansion by selling to private developers the rights to build residential towers on the property, which covers W. 60th to W. 62nd Sts. and Amsterdam to Columbus Aves.
Community Board 7 had voted against the plan under the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure because neighborhood residents didn't want the city to approve the envisioned 50-to-60-story towers without first seeing detailed building plans.
But Fordham officials say they have yet to line up developers, and can't provide design details.
In an effort to accommodate Fordham and ease local concerns, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer crafted a compromise that reduced the planned height of towers along Columbus Ave., widened sidewalks and improved public access to the campus.
This alternative formed the basis of the plan approved by the Planning Commission yesterday, but many in the local community continue to oppose the project as designed. It still includes towers along Amsterdam Ave. that are double the height zoning regulations allow.
"Fordham's neighbors continue to have serious concerns about the size and scale of the fortress-like design and the lack of open space in the current proposal," said Michael Groll of Fordham Neighbors United, local residents opposed to the scale and density of the plan.
"While Fordham's development is undoubtedly important to the future of New York City," Groll said, "it should only take place if the university respects the future of the very neighborhood where it resides."
Community Board 7 wants a mandatory "second tier" review of specific building designs and while Stringer did get Fordham to agree to "consult" with the board on building design, there is as yet no binding requirement.
If the project wins final approval from the City Council, Fordham plans to begin construction as soon as possible.