University Senate April 30, 1999










This year our committee has wrestled with defining an appropriate role for itself and the University Senate in deliberations about the physical development of the University.

We have learned about a number of issues:



In order to develop a coherent and organized approach, the committee decided to try to put together both the demand and the supply side of the physical development equation. On the supply side, it was aided substantially by the Planning Framework document on space available on and around the Morningside campus that was prepared for Emily Lloyd. We reviewed all sites outlined there as possibilities for development, and decided, for various reasons, to focus first on the northwest corner.


In moving to obtain parallel information on the demand side, the committee was somewhat more frustrated. We have not been able to find an organized "wish list" of university schools, departments, and other units seeking space, nor a set of systematic criteria for evaluating requests for space. We did make an informal wish list, pieced together from conversations with various administrators, but we aren't sure if it is comprehensive. The committee has obtained a better understanding of the complexities of the process, involving sources of funding, capital budget and bonding limitations, the uncertainties of predicting academic needs, the problems of matching needs to donors to sites, and others, but we still have questions about procedures for soliciting and evaluating requests. Recommendation 1 below stems from the committee’s attention to these issues, which we have discussed with the Provost.


Midway through this semester, we began focusing on the possibilities of university involvement in the area north of 125th Street, known as Harlem Piers. Community Board 9 and local residents have often viewed university activity in this area with unease, about the dangers of displacement and gentrification. On the other hand, it is a large area, well located, with uses that in some cases are far under potential. It is also an area in which planning and development activities by the community might benefit from affirmative university interest. The community board, jointly with the West Harlem Environmental Action Coalition has just sponsored a charette, or informal planning and design workshop, in which more that 80 participants worked out alternative visions for the area. We believe the time is ripe for the university to begin developing (in a transparent and cooperative fashion) its thoughts for what its involvement might be in the area. Recommendation 2 below stems from the committee’s attention to this area. Emily Lloyd, vice president for administration and a member of our committee, has taken part in these discussions.



Recommendation 1: We offer the Provost our services in the on-going process of review of major requests for space by various units of the university, with a view to indicating our opinion of the academic priorities involved; we also ask for an initial compilation of these requests for preliminary overview.


Recommendation 2: We urge the university, upon receipt of the conclusions of the April 10 charette on the Harlem Piers area, to offer to provide the local community and its community board with a considered examination of university physical development needs that might be relevant to that area. If the community board welcomes this suggestion, we offer our services in a review of these needs in the context of the academic mission of the university.



We appreciate the helpful cooperation we have received this year not only from Emily Lloyd and Patricia Lancaster of Facilities Management, who are both members of our committee, but also from Irwin Lefkowitz, Bernhard Haeckel, and Geoffrey Wiener, who became regular guests, talking and arguing with us with welcome candor and humor. Thanks again, also, to Tom Mathewson of the Senate staff.


For the committee,



Peter Marcuse, chair