The Real Deal New York

Here are the 15 universities with the biggest NYC footprints

By Eddie Small | May 29, 2018 07:30AM

More than a decade after it was first proposed, Columbia University’s massive Manhattanville campus has started to take shape in earnest, with two of the biggest buildings now open: the 450,000-square-foot Jerome L. Greene Science Center at 3227 Broadway and the 60,000-square-foot Lenfest Center for the Arts at 615 West 129th Street.

Columbia President Lee Bollinger touted the local benefits of the expansion, which will include about 15 new buildings and an acre of public green space, last summer. He said the new campus would employ about 2,500 people over the next decade and that the school would commit $150 million in benefits to the West Harlem neighborhood, including $20 million for an affordable housing fund.

Despite those windfalls, the campus has faced ongoing community protests and a series of legal battles over the use of eminent domain. But the courts eventually ruled in Columbia’s favor, and the biggest hurdles for the Ivy League school now appear to be in the rearview.

David Carlos, a senior managing director at Savills Studley who specializes in working with nonprofits, described the new campus as a game changer for universities in New York City. “It was very complicated and a bit controversial, but given who they are, they were able to get it done,” he said, adding that Columbia’s new campus has redefined West Harlem and “will allow the university to grow and expand for the next 50 years.”

And that’s one of dozens of higher educational institutions in the city.

To find out just how much property New York’s biggest schools control in the five boroughs, The Real Dealranked the leading private colleges and universities by the total volume of their real estate holdings. The top 10 schools combined owned more than 45 million square feet across 549 buildings and lots as of Feb. 28, our analysis of data from the Department of City Planning and the city’s tax assessment roll shows.

Properties held by CUNY and SUNY were not counted since both are public institutions and occupy city- and state-owned properties — making the concept of ownership less meaningful. University-owned hospitals were also excluded since they operate as separate businesses from the schools.