181 Mercer named John A. Paulson Center after donation from hedge fund billionaire

NYU dedicated its flagship new development at 181 Mercer Street to alum John Paulson, who made a $100 million donation toward the building.

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Kevin Wu

NYU’s flagship development project, 181 Mercer Street, is scheduled to open in January. (Kevin Wu for WSN)

Abby Wilson and Arnav Binaykia

With one month remaining before NYU’s billion-dollar new academic facility is set to open, the university announced on Wednesday that it will name the building, previously known by its address at 181 Mercer Street, after alum John Paulson, a hedge fund billionaire who donated $100 million to the project.

The newly christened John A. Paulson Center is a 735,000-square-foot development that includes 58 new classrooms, a 350-seat auditorium, an orchestral rehearsal hall and practice rooms, common spaces for study and social activities, a residence hall with a capacity of 400 students, an athletic facility, and a dining hall.

Though its opening date has been set back multiple times due to supply chain disruptions, construction delays and labor shortages, the building is now slated to open in January, in time for the start of the spring 2023 semester.

“The Mercer site is a once-in-a-generation campus building, and its singleness is matched only by the uncommon generosity of John Paulson’s extraordinary gift,” NYU president Andrew Hamilton said at the dedication ceremony. “Great cities need great universities, and universities need space to fulfill their academic missions.”

Paulson, 67, graduated from the Stern School of Business in 1978 and previously served on NYU’s Board of Trustees. He founded Paulson & Co., multibillion investment management firm with offices in New York City, London and Dublin. At its peak, the company managed $36 billion in assets. Paulson made much of his fortune in the lead up to the 2008 financial recession, by betting against subprime housing loans, according to Forbes.

He is also a generous contributor to Republican political campaigns, having made a number of large donations to the Republican National Committee — including more than $230,000 in March of 2021. He also served as an economic advisor under former President Donald Trump, at one point hosting a fundraiser for him in his own home, for which tickets were sold for $500,000 per couple.

The John A. Paulson Center is part of NYU’s Core Plan, originally called NYU 2031, announced by former university president John Sexton in 2007. Alongside the new Paulson Center, the Core Plan promised the addition of roughly two million square feet of new space on NYU’s Washington Square campus, as well as an additional 1.5 million square feet across other areas of the city, including downtown Brooklyn and Governors Island. Paulson said that his gift to NYU had been in the works since before Sexton’s presidency ended in 2015.

Greenwich Village neighbors have expressed concerns about the university’s expansion plans — including the newly named Paulson Center. The construction of the building has threatened a Morton Williams supermarket on LaGuardia Place and Bleecker Street, which serves the local community. Although the university has promised to find a new home for the grocery store if its current location is repurposed, neighborhood activists have continued to advocate for it to stay in its current location, seeking Mayor Eric Adams’ support in putting pressure on NYU.

Contact Abby Wilson at [email protected] and Arnav Binaykia at [email protected]