PROJECT COST: $75.8 million

For more than 50 years, the School of Social Work (SSW) at CUNY’s Hunter College has promoted civic engagement and dedication to public services. Thanks in part to the largest donation in CUNY’s history and a unique public-private partnership, the school will soon be able to link its programs and services directly with some of the neighborhoods it serves through a new eight-story, 147,000-sq ft building under construction in East Harlem.

CUNY-Hunter College School of Social Work
Rendering Courtesy of City University of New York
CUNY-Hunter College School of Social Work

Located on Third Avenue between 118th and 119th Streets, the steel-framed SSW building stresses transparency with its extensive use of floor-to-ceiling glass mixed with brick cladding on the lower floors, and a mix of curtainwall and precast concrete panels on the upper levels. Second-floor spaces such as the student lounges and a 2,450 sq ft, 160-seat lecture hall are also “open” to the outside, fostering a sense of connection between the students and the City.

Bruce Davis, a partner with project architect Cooper, Robertson & Partners says the steel frame provided the flexibility to arrange the mixed interior uses without need for large spans and trusses.

After excavating more than 20 feet below grade for the basement-level library stacks and labs, an extensive wellpoint dewatering network was installed to prepare the site for the poured concrete foundation. Several adjacent 19th Century buildings also required extensive underpinning to ensure their structural integrity.

The irregularly shaped urban site is further constrained by construction of a $30 million, 100-bed housing facility for CUNY graduate students that began this spring. The two buildings will be connected by an inner courtyard. Approximately one-third of the SSW building will be occupied by CUNY’s new School of Public Health, which will also share the SSW’s library and other resources. Other features include a café, art exhibition space, and a second-floor patio.

Construction of the new building was made possible through a public/private partnership with CUNY, the Brodsky Organization, and the Lois and Samuel J. Silberman Fund, which owned the School’s current facility on East 79th Street. Brodsky is building the new building in exchange for development rights of the 79th Street site, which it purchased from the Silberman Fund.

Through the non-profit New York Community Trust, the Fund donated $30 million from the sale of toward completion of the new SSW, which will bear the name of its benefactors. The New York State Legislature provided an additional $80 million for land acquisition, design, and construction.

Key Players

Developer: The Brodsky Organization, New York
Owner: City University of New York-Hunter College, New York
Construction Manager/General Contractor: Turner Construction Company, New York
Architect: Cooper, Robertson & Partners, New York
Architect of Record: SLCE Architects, New York
Civil Engineer: Matthews Nielsen, New York, NY
Structural Engineer: Ysrael A. Seinuk, New York
MEP Engineer: WSP Flack + Kurtz, New York
LEED Consultant: Viridian Energy & Environmental, New York