BY IRIE SENTNER AND MICHAEL VONDRISKA
OCTOBER 20, 2021
Well-known Hollywood star David Geffen donated $ 75 million to help Columbia Business School move to its Manhattanville campus in January 2022. The school’s eight-story multi-purpose building, which is currently under construction, will be called David Geffen Hall. Geffen, who previously had no public affiliation with the university, also donated $ 150 million to the School of Drama at Yale and over $ 450 million to UCLA in 2021. Yale’s Drama School and UCLA School of Medicine have both adopted the name Geffen in light of these gifts.
Since University President Lee Bollinger announced the expansion of Manhattanville in 2003, funding for the multi-billion dollar project has been an ongoing issue. As part of the first phase of the expansion, the School of International and Public Affairs was due to relocate from its current location in the International Affairs Building to the Manhattanville campus by 2016, a deadline that was later postponed to 2020 when the school was relocated to accommodate the Progress delayed indefinitely. The business school’s move in January will bring an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 Columbia members to the Manhattanville campus.
Columbia’s early attempts to buy up the 17 acres of the future Manhattanville campus met with backlash from the local community. Campus development began in 2009 with the purchase of over 6.8 million square feet of land in West Harlem for research and teaching. For the past 12 years, the university has been criticized for using significant areas and displacing local residents. Over three dozen companies previously occupied the land that is now used for the Columbia campus in Manhattanville.
A local business owner, Anne Whitman, protested the enlargement for over two years, comparing her stalemate with Columbia to the Tiananmen protests. Though Whitman eventually reached an agreement with Columbia, the university took another exam after the state approved the use of a significant domain against two other Manhattanville real estate owners who refused to sell. A two-year legal battle ensued, which ultimately resulted in the New York State Court of Appeal upholding the use of the significant domain and the sale of the land to Columbia. The court’s decision was pending an assessment of the area as “tainted” by the Empire State Development Corporation, the same body that originally approved the use of a significant domain.
The strained relationship between the university and West Harlem has continued with the construction of the Manhattanville campus. Businesses close to the development have seen a 30 percent decline in sales after relocating from their previous locations to the 12th Avenue Corridor, an area devoid of street parking and residential units. The university also destroyed a McDonald’s on 125th Street, causing outrage from low-income residents who relied on the restaurant as an affordable dining option. The university also employed Mamais Contracting Corp. and Trident General Contracting as contractor for Manhattanville, faced with underpaid worker and racial discrimination lawsuits.
David Geffen Hall and its architectural counterpart Henry R. Kravis Hall are the final stages of the first phase of the Manhattanville expansion. Upon completion, the business school will vacate its previous locations in Uris Hall and Warren Hall and move to Manhattanville in January 2022.
The move will free up the Ursaal for the Faculty of Philosophy, which has been struggling with space shortages for years. According to Jean Howard, George Delacorte professor of humanities and co-chair of the now defunct Uris Vision Committee, Uris will offer the arts and sciences a number of new “common spaces shared by all” along with a renovated library. dedicated to digital teaching and learning and digital services. “
“This has been expected for a long time and I am very glad that the plan came out this way,” said Howard. “I think it will be a well-planned and well-used building that will make life better for students and faculty on the Morningside campus. We haven’t had new buildings in a long time, so this is really important to the quality of life for students and faculty. “
The move in January 2022 marks the completion and opening of Manhattanville’s fourth and fifth buildings in addition to the already opened Jerome L. Greene Science Center, Lenfest Center for the Arts and The Forum. A total of 14 new buildings and three existing buildings will form the Manhattanville campus. This means that the university has less than nine years to complete nine additional buildings and raise the funds to meet the 2030 target. Construction is currently underway on David Geffen Hall, Henry R. Kravis Hall and the exterior space between them. Basic work is also underway at 600 West 125th Street, a planned 34-story apartment building designed to house students and faculty members.
Previous plans for the new business school facilities set the fundraising goal at $ 400 million, which, prior to Geffen’s contribution, was met through approximately 500 individual donations. More than three-quarters of total funding came from just six of these donations, including a $ 125 million pledge in 2010 from Henry Kravis, Business ’69; a $ 25 million pledge in 2012 from Leon Cooperman, Business ’67; a $ 25 million commitment in 2013 from Arthur Samberg, Business ’67; a $ 15 million commitment in 2013 from Mario Gabelli, Business ’67; and a $ 100 million pledge in 2013 from Ronald Perelman.
All of these large donations came from business school alumni, with the exception of Geffen and Perelman. David Geffen Hall was originally to be named after Perelman, who is now the namesake of the permanent Perelman Scholarship Fund.
“Our move to Manhattanville would simply not have been possible without the support of every single philanthropic contribution from our generous community members,” Columbia Business School dean Costis Maglaras wrote in a statement to Spectator. “All funds raised for the business school’s move to Manhattanville have been used to pay for the construction of the two new buildings.”
According to a press release from Columbia Business School, the buildings will “double the school’s current square footage” and offer “natural, light-filled spaces that encourage learning and collaboration.” Modupe Akinola, associate professor of management and director of the faculty of the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School, said she was “very excited” about Geffen’s donation and the move to Manhattanville in the broader sense.
According to Akinola, the business school at its current location on the Morningside campus is limited by space, resulting in a lack of connection between students and the wider community. The Manhattanville campus aims to serve as a place where students, faculty, alumni, and neighborhood residents come together to gather and exchange ideas.
“As the operator of the center, it is very exciting to know that these huge lecture halls [will offer] the ability to actually attract the community – be it the Columbia community who [Columbia Business School] Church, Harlem Church, Manhattanville Church – all in one place. [It’s] will be really transformative, “said Akinola.
The David Geffen Foundation was not available for comment at the time of publication.
Assistant News Editor Irie Sentner can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @iriesentner.
Staff writer Michael VonDriska can be contacted at [email protected] Follow the viewer on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.
Dylan Andres and Adam Frommer contributed the reporting.
Founded in 1877, Columbia Daily Spectator is Columbia University’s independent student magazine serving thousands of readers in Morningside Heights, West Harlem, and beyond. Read more at columbiaspectator.com and donate here.