University Senate

April 27, 2001


Annual Report of the Physical Development Committee: 2000-01


The Physical Development Committee has considered a number of issues this year.


  1. The proposed new building for the School of Social Work occupied the most of our time. The committee early recommended the exploration of alternatives to the 113th Street site, which would only house a part of the school, and was pleased with the open-mindedness and flexibility of the University in reviewing the possibilities. The final decision, to locate the entire School in one building, with more floor space than the two 113th Street buildings combined would have had, and using the adjoining lot on 121st Street for housing for the School of Law, with possible partial use of the existing building on 122nd for additional Law School housing, seems to have satisfied all of the key interested parties, including a community-based committee chaired by State Assemblyman Edward Sullivan. We feel that’s quite an accomplishment!
  2. Faculty housing is contemplated for the site on the north side of 113th Street, and thus far thinking is along the lines of four apartments per floor, perhaps ten floors, senior faculty in front, junior towards the rear. The reuse of McVickar will also need to be planned, likely for housing, but that is still substantially in the future, and no details have been developed as yet.
  3. The proposed new building on the east side of Broadway between 110th and 109th streets also occupied the Committee’s attention. The building will be used for commercial purposes on the bottom floors, a school on the next several floors, and faculty housing above that. While the Committee expressed some concerns about the nature of the school, and in particular the limitations the University placed on efforts to explore possible joint operation with the New York City public school system, we felt this issue was more appropriately a matter for the External Relations Committee. Confining ourselves to physical development issues, we Committee felt the uses proposed for the site were appropriate. We will review detailed plans when they are available.
  4. The Committee expressed major interest in possible University developments at and north of 125th Street, with the understanding that the dominant role in planning here belongs to the community. The Committee walked the area and met with the vice-chair of Community Board 9 at the end of its tour. We have heard and approved the plans of the School of the Arts for the Prentis building on 125th street and adjacent property. We were particularly pleased with the efforts of the School of the Arts to link its development plans to the interests of community groups involved in the arts, and we feel it important to stress the involvement of such groups in current and future planning for the building. Beyond that, we believe that there is substantial potential for use by the University, perhaps jointly with the community or others, of space north of 125th, but that we should await the outcome of community initiatives there. If Columbia is not invited to participate in planning and/or development of the area, we should not press, but if we are invited, we believe the University’s response should be favorable.
  5. There is some as yet inchoate interest in the northwest corner of the Morningside Campus for a science center, but the site has many difficulties, and exploration is at a preliminary stage.
  6. Preliminary consideration is being given by the University for development within the Riverside South development project area off the Hudson River above 59th Street. This would be a major decision for the University, and we feel Senate involvement at an early stage would be vital. We have been assured that, if and when the University’s consideration moves to the serious stage, our Committee would be involved.


Our relations with the administration have been in general excellent. In particular, Emily Lloyd, Executive Vice President for Administration, and her staff, have been very cooperative. We thus have the feeling that, on intermediate range issues of physical development, we are well informed, and in a position to keep the Senate likewise informed. We do not yet have quite the same feeling as to matters of long-term physical development; that is, we do not feel like participants in a long-term physical planning process, nor in the consideration of those major decisions that will impact physical development in the long-term future, involving new campuses, Riverside South, and other long-term priorities. We hope next year to focus further on such long-term issues.


We should also mention our excellent and important relations with the External Relations Committee of the Senate, under Prof. Eugene Litwak. As our committee mandate in the Senate by-laws notes, many of the issues we consider have significant implications of concern to that Committee, and attendance at each other’s meetings, and some overlapping of membership, have been very useful.


Respectfully submitted,


Peter Marcuse, chair