Twenty-three NYU faculty members, among them such prominent professors as Zadie Smith, signed an email sent to President John Sexton and other top administrators yesterday to demand that the university be more up front with its plan to demolish Coles Gym as soon as next year.
Part of NYU’s ‘2031 plan,’ Coles is slated to be torn down as early as 2013 to make way for the new “zipper building,” named for the varying heights of its several proposed towers. The zipper building will have a new sports facility (as well as a university-run hotel and student housing), but it would not be completed until 2018, if all goes well. In the mean time, NYU included plans for a temporary gym facility to be built nearby, but little has been said about what that facility would provide.
According to the faculty behind this email [see full text below], the temporary gym would not fill in for Coles at all. It would have no exercise equipment, treadmills, weight room, squash courts or pool, and it would be used “exclusively by certain NCAA teams.” As the email points out, that means Palladium will be the only accessible gym for at least six years.
The crux of the email is the demand that NYU stop bringing guided admissions tours to Coles, calling that “thoroughly misleading” since, if NYU’s 2031 plan is approved, it won’t be available to them any time soon. “By making tacit promises that NYU will break, you are involved in a deception that could harm NYU’s reputation, and make for a disgruntled student body and unhappy faculty,” the email reads.
Apparently, students working at the front desk at the gym were equally unaware of the demolition plan when asked. The email concludes with a demand that NYU “publicize the truth” about Coles closure and much-diminished replacement.
Zadie Smith, Stephen Duncombe and Andrew Ross were among the email’s signers. In the “to” field was NYU Athletics Directors Christopher Bledsoe, Janice Quinn, Frank Sicignano and Gail Stentiford. CC’d to the email were John Sexton, NYU’s president, Lynne Brown, senior vice president, John Beckman, vice president for public affairs, and 15 other top faculty members.
[UPDATE] The university confirmed that the temporary replacement gym would be open only to NYU’s varsity teams.
Since Palladium does not meet NCAA standards, NYU’s varsity men’s and women’s basketball ball and volleyball teams could lose their Div. III standing in the Association for if it did not have access to proper facilities.
“Nobody’s going to mistake NYU for a NCAA Div I Big Ten sports powerhouse. But playing competitive intercollegiate varsity athletics is an important part of college life for many of our students,” said John Beckman, vice president for public affairs.
Beckman stressed that the temporary nature of the fix must be kept in mind despite the 6-year trajectory, and that NYU is trying to keep its size as modest as possible.
He also noted that regardless of the plans for the zipper building, Coles was due for a remodeling and would be facing the issue of construction closures regardless. “I don’t think anyone looking at Coles believes it was in a state to carry on in its current conditions for another generation,” Beckman said.
He added that NYU will look into “other plans” to give non-varsity members of the NYU community access to gym activities that they would have normally found at Coles.