By Anna Gustafson
Some City University of New York Law School officials are looking forward to moving into their new, larger and more environmentally friendly home in Long Island City that they are expected to close on in April, while faculty and the student government have raised eyebrows over the building’s $155 million price tag.
CUNY Law School Dean Michelle Anderson said the school had for nearly a decade wanted to move from its Flushing site, a former junior high school, to a bigger place more conveniently accessed by public transportation — no subways go near the current campus at 65-21 Main St.
The school officially announced last fall it would purchase six floors of Citigroup’s 2 Court Square in Long Island City for $596 per square foot — a number that some in the CUNY community have called too expensive.
“The social justice mission of CUNY Law School will be greatly enhanced by our new location at 2 Court Square,” Anderson said in an e-mailed statement. “The site is at the crossroads of more than a dozen subway and bus lines. Many students cannot attend CUNY Law because they cannot afford a car or the time associated with public transportation to and from the current site.”
Anderson went on to say they hope the new building which they are expected to close on by the end of April will provide students the opportunity to intern at a wider variety of places across the city currently off-limits to some because of the transportation challenges.
A CUNY Law spokeswoman said the school expects to begin offering classes in the new building by fall 2011.
“Our new location at Court Square will also enhance access for impoverished clients and partner community organizations from throughout the metropolitan area who depend on the school’s excellent legal clinics,” Anderson said.
Other school officials, however, have questioned whether the public university is paying too much for the Long Island City building at $155 million. Last fall, it was reported CUNY professor Dinesh Khosla sent out a memo to the school community questioning why the school would pay about $600 per square foot for the 225,000 square-foot building in Long Island City when Manhattan office space has been purchased for far less.
For example, Khosla said in his memo that a Times Square skyscraper at 1540 Broadway sold for a little less than $400 per square foot about a year ago, and Manhattan’s Worldwide Plaza was purchased for about $375 per square foot in July.
CUNY Law’s student government group passed a resolution in February calling for the CUNY administration to explain why it decided to pay around $600 per square foot for the new building, according to a recent report from The New York Times.
Anderson said the price is a good deal considering that the $696 per square foot includes fixtures, furnishings, wiring and equipment in a LEED gold-certified building — which will make the school one of the greenest law universities in the country, according to the dean.
“This price per square foot is consistent with the cost of building quality higher educational facilities in New York City,” Anderson said.
The dean pointed out the recently completed CUNY School of Social Work cost $131 million for 147,000 square feet, or about $900 per square foot — and that building is not LEED gold-certified.
“The alternative construction plan was spending $255 million to build a new building from scratch, an estimate developed by an independent architectural firm and confirmed by developers,” Anderson said.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.