Friday, May 9, 2014

Committee OKs Rockefeller University FDR Expansion Plan

Rockefeller University is one step closer to approval for its plan to construct two new buildings above FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan. The City Council’s Committee on Land Use gave the green light for the school’s $240 million plan to expand its 14-acre campus and raise a two-story research building and one-story conference center over the stretch of parkway from East 64th to East 68th streets.  

The 160,000-square-foot structure, housing two dozen labs and 440 scientists, would be built on a deck over the thoroughfare and span 927 feet. It would follow the platform the university built in 1989 over the thoroughfare for the Rockefeller Research Center.
The plan takes advantage of two, 1970s-era rulings that essentially gave Rockefeller University control of the airspace above the East Side traffic artery in order for it to expand, which it insists it desperately needs to do.

Such expansion is not unheard of—the university is sandwiched between highway platforms built by the United Nations and Weill Cornell Medical Center. However, the caveat has always been that the school would develop waterfront park space in exchange for the privilege.

Founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1901 to promote medical research, the school plans to construct three new buildings.As the university has done in the past, two of those buildings, a one-story conference center and a two-story research building boasting a green roof and rooftop pavilions, would be constructed atop a platform over FDR Drive.

Extending approximately four blocks from East 64th Street to East 68th Street, the new platform would join two other Rockefeller buildings straddling the highway, stretching from 62nd Street to 64th Street.

The third new building, an athletic center for students, would replace a faculty parking lot in the northwest corner of the existing campus.

"The new building is critical to maintaining the university's excellent standards for research and teaching, by allowing for the recruitment of new faculty to replace those lost by attrition, and for the renewal of laboratory space that is outdated and poorly suited to modern science," said a spokesperson.

“The low-rise buildings would not impede views of or from Manhattan, nor would they expand the university's size "in terms of personnel or activities."

This is thanks to an innovative design from local architect Rafael Viñoly, where the two-story building will actually be built into the platform, so that the roof is level with the rest of the campus. This will create a larger quad without taking up space on the expanded campus.

This is the not the first time the university has expanded over the busy highway below. In 1987, a dormitory building opened atop a platform over the southbound lanes of the FDR between 62nd and 63rd streets.

Five years later, a new research building was finished over both lanes of the highway at 64th Street. The new platform will extend from there all the way up to the northern edge of the campus.

The full Council is expected to approve the plan next week.

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