TRD Pro: These universities have the largest NYC real estate footprints

NYU, Columbia in class of their own with 14M sf each

From left: Lenfest Center for the Arts at 615 West 129th Street; Jerome L. Greene Science Center at 3227 Broadway; 3 MetroTech Center in Brooklyn; and 2328 12th Avenue (Google Maps)
From left: Lenfest Center for the Arts at 615 West 129th Street; Jerome L. Greene Science Center at 3227 Broadway; 3 MetroTech Center in Brooklyn; and 2328 12th Avenue (Google Maps)

New York City is crammed with more than 100 degree-granting institutions, but in terms of real estate, a pair of long-established Manhattan universities sit firmly at the head of the class.

With approximately 14 million square feet across over 100 properties apiece, New York University and Columbia University own more city real estate by far than any other private colleges or universities.

The Real Deal analyzed city assessment data to determine the 15 private academic institutions with the largest real estate footprints across the five boroughs, ranked by the combined square footage of the buildings they own.

Leased properties were not included, nor were the City University of New York or State University of New York, as both are public institutions that primarily operate in city- and state-owned properties or rented space.

NYU took the top spot, with just over 14 million square feet across 115 buildings. The school’s real estate portfolio is concentrated around its main Washington Square campus in Greenwich Village, but it has a sizable and growing presence in Brooklyn too.

In September, NYU paid $122 million for 3 MetroTech Center, a 10-story office building in Downtown Brooklyn vacated by JPMorgan two years ago. It’s not yet known what the school plans to do with the property, but its Tandon School of Engineering is based out of other buildings owned by NYU in the MetroTech complex.

Elsewhere, NYU owns a cluster of buildings in Kips Bay, where NYU Langone Health and several graduate programs are located.

Columbia University placed second, with 13.95 million square feet across 216 buildings. Most of its buildings are on its 32-acre Morningside Heights campus, where the Ivy League university has been based since the late 19th century. Columbia also owns several buildings just to the north in Manhattanville, where it operates Columbia Business School and has been expanding for the last decade against opposition from community groups.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

By signing up, you agree to TheRealDeal Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Most recently, in January, the school bought an assemblage including the site of a shuttered Fairway Market at 2328 12th Avenue for $84 million, extending its Manhattanville campus from Broadway to the Hudson River. The site has the potential for 219,000 square feet of new development, which would be enough to push Columbia past NYU for the top spot on the list.

Leaflet map created by Adam Farence | Data by © OpenStreetMap, under ODbl.

Though more closely identified with Ithaca, Cornell University ranks a distant third among the largest academic landowners in the city, thanks primarily to its Weill Cornell Medicine campus on the Upper East Side and its growing Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Altogether, the Ivy League school owns 5.47 million square feet across 23 properties.

And its footprint is growing: Weill Cornell Medicine filed plans last November for a 128,000-square-foot, 221-unit student housing complex at 1393 York Avenue, a development site it bought for $68 million in 2019.

On Roosevelt Island, Cornell plans to develop a 12-acre campus that will serve 2,000 graduate technology, business and law students. The first, 5-acre phase was completed in 2017.

A pair of Catholic institutions, St. John’s University and Fordham University, round out the top five with 25 properties each. St. John’s has 5.1 million square feet, including its 105-acre main campus in Hillcrest, Queens, and its satellite campus on Staten Island, which it plans to close in 2024 due to declining enrollment.

Fordham’s 3.1 million-square-foot portfolio includes its 85-acre main campus in the Bronx, where it’s been located since its founding in 1841, and its Lincoln Center campus, which spans two blocks on Manhattan’s West Side.

Read more