Hunter’s affordable dorms to be replaced by science hub


Jessie Daniels via Creatice Commons | Flickr

Emanuela Gallo, Editor-in-Chief

A new life sciences campus in Kips Bay will replace Hunter College’s Brookdale Campus Residence, causing some students to worry about access to affordable student housing.

Brookdale includes the School of Nursing and a residence hall that houses almost 700 students. It is the lowest-priced housing at Hunter, with a price range of $6,625 to $9,385 per year. Other options cost from $13,000 to $16,000.

“Hundreds of low-income, out of borough, out of state, and out of country students rely on the affordability of Brookdale dorms to pursue their college education,” the Hunter Undergraduate Student Government said. “CUNY prides itself on being a socioeconomic ladder for New Yorkers and others, all while deciding to do away with the only low-income and accessible housing that Hunter college students have access to.”

Located at East 25th Street and 1st Avenue, Brookdale is expected to remain open until 2024. Current residents will not be affected during the 2022-2023 academic year, according to a CUNY spokesperson.

“We are working to give students information as soon as possible so they can start planning once a time is set for any relocations,” the spokesperson told City & State. “CUNY has other dorm agreements in the city, and campuses, with CUNY support, contract with third party vendors to secure dorm space when needed. We are committed to doing everything we can to help students secure affordable housing.”

Construction for the Science Park and Research Campus will begin in 2026 and finish in 2031, according to an Oct. 13 press conference by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul.

SPARC will have 1.5 million square feet of state-of-the-art teaching, training and commercial facilities. The spaces will be used by CUNY, the New York City Department of Education, health and biotech companies and public health institutions.

“Thanks to this agreement with the city, SPARC Kips Bay will give New York’s life sciences sector a major boost, creating thousands of high-paying jobs, investing in education, and making New York the place where miracles are made,” Hochul said.

CUNY announced the project on Oct. 14 via Instagram. Pictures of the press conference showed Hunter student leaders in attendance, one of whom was Hunter USG President Ariana Ahmed.

She told City & State that she was “given the communication that it was about a new campus, a new science building for Hunter and BMCC,” but “nothing else.”

“While it was lovely meeting the Chancellor, I was not given the context behind the press conference I was asked to attend last minute (because I [live] at Brookdale, where the conference was), or plans of the new science building – which would come at the cost of demolishing Brookdale,” she commented underneath the post.

Ahmed argued the science hub’s creation shouldn’t necessitate reducing student housing.

“In a perfect world, I would pledge my support to both fixing up the dorms … and advocating for a brand new science and research building,” she wrote. “I want to see a reality where we don’t need to choose one group of students over others.”

The pictures with Ahmed were later edited out of the post, leaving only photos of Adams and Hochul alone.

CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez later released a statement via an email blast. After discussing SPARC’s benefit in creating health care workers, he said that “more information will be made available later” about the Brookdale dorms.

“The planning phase of SPARC Kips Bay will soon get underway in collaboration with all the partners on the project,” he wrote. “In the future, we will be providing additional information regarding a timetable for the start of the demolition, construction and any necessary relocations.”

However, an open letter by Hunter USG demanded more clarity regarding how CUNY plans to make up for the loss of housing.

“Where will these students go?” the Oct. 14 post said. “What other alternative and affordable solutions are there? When will dorms stop being available? Nothing has been clarified with the main stakeholders here: Hunter College students.”

Hunter USG rallied students to give testimony at the CUNY Board of Trustees borough hearing on Oct. 17 at the CUNY Graduate Center. Laiba Hussain, the president of Baruch College’s USG, was present and spoke out against the Brookdale dorm demolition.

“I fear that projects similar to this will cross over to other CUNY campuses, displacing our students in the process,” she said. “I kindly request that this decision be reconsidered, not only for the sake of Hunter’s community, but also in the interest of my fellow Baruch students and all CUNY students alike.”

Hunter’s School of Nursing was initially supposed to relocate to East 73rd Street and York Avenue in the Upper West Side. However, site work stopped for years. It cost CUNY $1 million a year to maintain the vacant site.

The school is now slated to be part of SPARC. While some of Hunter’s science programming will have space at the East 73rd Street site, the NYC Economic Development Corporation will take over the development.

“SPARC Kips Bay will help us attract students and high-quality faculty while saving CUNY millions annually,” Matos Rodríguez said.

Some members of Hunter leadership “felt CUNY threw out years of planning by Hunter for the Upper East Side nursing school,” according to a source in City & State.

“Hearing the news has brought me great sadness,” a current Brookdale residence assistant, Aysha Khan, told Hunter’s student newspaper, The Envoy. “I had some of my first college memories there and found solace there when my own home was not an ideal environment for success, and I didn’t have the funds to afford living elsewhere in NYC.”