Court clears big Fordham U. expansion

Fordham Law in Crain's New York, August 20, 2010

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Long-planned expansion of its Lincoln Center campus on Manhattan's West Side gets green light after judge dismisses suit by a neighboring condo building

By Amanda Fung

The plans include adding six new buildings to Fordham's Lincoln Center campus, between W. 60th and W. 62nd Streets and Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.
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Commercial Real Estate, Education, Fordham University

Fordham University can proceed with its long-planned expansion of its Lincoln Center campus on Manhattan's West Side after all. Late Wednesday the New York Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought late last year by the board of managers of the Alfred Condominium, which is located in the center of the campus, to block the new development.

In October of last year the condo's board filed suit in the New York State Supreme Court against the city and Fordham claiming that the city did not have the right to allow the school to develop new buildings within its campus. The city had approved Fordham's expansion plans in June 2009. The plaintiffs also claim that the school does not have the right to sell two nearby parcels of land, the proceeds from which it plans to use to fund the construction of a new law school.

“We are disappointed with the results and we are still reviewing the opinion,” says Elliott Meisel of the law form of Brill & Meisel, who represented the Alfred, adding that his clients plan to appeal the decision.

“We were hoping the court would rule in our favor, but this case is not closed,” says Thomas Dunne, Fordham's vice president for government relations and urban affairs, adding that the lawsuit has been costly and is also slowing down its expansion plans, which has been 25 years in the making.

The plans include adding six new buildings to its Lincoln Center campus, between W. 60th and W. 62nd Streets and Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. The first phase of the plan involves the construction of a new law school. The university will later add a Graduate School of Business Administration with dormitory space; a Graduate Schools of Social Services and Education with dormitory space; a new space for the Quinn Library; and a Theatre for the Dramatic Arts.

One of the Alfred residents' complaints involve a walkway connecting 62nd Street to the 38-story residential tower. The residents claim that Fordham reneged on its promise to modify or reconstruct the walkway in its expansion plans, according to Mr. Meisel. The school plans on building the new law school and its dormitory where the walkway is located.

“Petitioner has failed to show that the City respondents' actions, decisions and determinations…were made in violation of lawful procedure,” the court ruling stated. “The approval had a rational basis.”

Fordham said it is in desperate need for more space. Today its Lincoln Center campus houses roughly 8,000 students, two times more than its capacity. Currently the school has 106 square feet per student, according to Mr. Dunne. “That is unacceptably low,” he added, noting that the national average for schools is 360 square feet per student.