What’s Happening at 181 Mercer?

Christine Lee
A mockup of what the 181 Mercer Street building would look like from Houston Street.

NYU’s 2031 expansion plan has progressed steadily since its approval in July 2012. One of the major components of the plan is a new multi-purpose facility located at 181 Mercer St.

Work on the Mercer Street location is still in its early phases and consists of excavation, below grade demolition and the installation of concrete footings for the foundation wall. Excavation, which includes the removal of existing foundation, rock and soil, is scheduled to continue through late fall 2017. Foundation work is scheduled to continue through late 2018.

The building’s primary purpose will be academics, with nearly 40 percent of the square footage directed to academic facilities. With 58 general-purpose classrooms, 181 Mercer will exceed the Silver Center for Arts and Science’s classroom total by 50 percent, enabling NYU to better match classes with appropriately-sized rooms.

181 Mercer will also provide students in NYU’s music and performing art programs with purpose-built space, including a 350-seat theater, new music instruction and practice rooms and NYU’s first orchestral ensemble room. The new building will also have faculty and student housing, approximately 7,500 square feet of space for a public atrium and community uses as well as a new athletic center.

Not everyone is enthused about all aspects of the Mercer Street plan. Peder Anker, Gallatin associate professor, expressed his concerns.

“I think NYU’s new building on Mercer Street is exciting, except the fact that climate and environmental issues have not been a factor in its design,” Anker said. “Indeed, our leadership seems indifferent to the environment in thinking about NYU’s footprint and environmental impact.”

Anker expressed concern that the facility will not do anything to address the persistent, increasingly consequential effects of climate change.

“It’s all business as usual while our city is getting warmer and warmer, our biodiversity gets hammered, and we all suffer from pollution,” he said. “I think President [Andrew] Hamilton and our board’s lack of environmental vision and leadership is a source of frustration among faculty and students alike.”

NYU spokesperson Matt Nagel spoke highly of the university’s plans and the progress thus far.

“181 Mercer  is a dynamic building that will increase NYU’s academic space significantly while addressing other important needs,” Nagel said. “The facility will have more classrooms than any other NYU building, plus instructional, rehearsal, and performance spaces for NYU’s drama and music programs, including NYU’s first professional-level proscenium, fly-loft theater for student productions.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, November 6 print edition. Email Christine Lee at [email protected]

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