When Seth Pinsky spent his first year at Columbia University in 1989, the school had to work a lot harder to persuade students that its Upper Manhattan location was a safe place.
“Their whole pitch was: We have a real campus, unlike other schools in New York. You can be safe here. We have control of our immediate neighborhood, so we make sure that nothing too scary happens in Morningside Heights,” the RXR Realty executive and adjunct senior research scholar at Columbia recalled.
Fast-forward nearly three decades, and the city is seeing plummeting crime rates and skyrocketing property values. And Columbia — now about halfway through its expansion plan spanning roughly 17 acres — is causing more concerns about gentrification than safety.
NYU is upping its real estate book as well, most notably with plans for a 735,000-square-foot building at 181 Mercer Street in Greenwich Village.
The higher-education giants took the top two spots in TRD’s analysis by notably wide margins. Columbia came in first with roughly 14.9 million square feet across 232 properties, and NYU followed with about 12.8 million square feet across 110 properties. (By comparison, the city’s largest commercial landlords, SL Green Realty and Vornado Realty Trust, reported at the end of last year that they had stakes in Manhattan buildings totaling 29.5 million and 23 million square feet, respectively.)
The two universities essentially bookend Manhattan, with Columbia’s stronghold Uptown in Morningside Heights, and now Harlem, and NYU’s Downtown in and around Greenwich Village. NYU also owns the Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center, among other real estate holdings in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
The numbers drop significantly after that.